Depleted ASU struggles to keep up vs. Wisconsin in Las Vegas Bowl

Dec 30, 2021, 10:11 PM | Updated: Dec 31, 2021, 3:01 am
Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) avoids a tackle by Wisconsin linebacker Nick Herbig (1...

Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) avoids a tackle by Wisconsin linebacker Nick Herbig (19) during the first half of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/L.E. Baskow)

(AP Photo/L.E. Baskow)

It was no surprise that the Arizona State Sun Devils, falling 20-13 in the final game of the season, were going to be without many of their normal starters for Thursday’s Las Vegas Bowl matchup vs. Wisconsin.

The Sun Devils were missing nine key players on offense and defense for various reasons, two of whom were running backs Rachaad White (opted out) and DeaMonte “Chip” Trayanum (transferred).

Wisconsin was without its starting center Joe Tippmann and starting right tackle Logan Bruss, plus running back Chez Mellusi (leg).

“It’s tough and everybody is dealing with it,” ASU offensive coordinator Zak Hill told reporters postgame. “So many teams are going to these bowl weeks and now you’ve got transfers going on.

“You got all kinds of stuff going on, guys are working for the draft. Everybody has some sort of missing a guy here, missing a guy there. That’s what the depth is about, that’s what the opportunity is about. … I thought our guys had good energy, I thought our guys played hard. We just didn’t make enough plays.”

Arizona State could not find an answer for Wisconsin in the first half — especially 17-year-old true freshman running back Braelon Allen — who had over 100 yards in the opening 30 minutes.

“They are who they are and why wouldn’t you be with the success they’ve had?” Sun Devils head coach Herm Edwards told reporters postgame. “You’re not going to change all of a sudden because you’re in a bowl game.”

“They ran the ball like we anticipated. They cut us out of some gaps at times and made some big runs. (Allen) is a fabulous runner, there’s no doubt about that. The quarterback did a nice job, made a couple throws that he needed to make.”

Allen finished the game with 159 rushing yards (5.5 yards per carry), while Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz threw for 137 yards on 11 of 15 passing (73.3%) for one touchdown and one interception.

The Badgers averaged 9.1 yards per pass and had 294 yards of total offense after the Sun Devils defense shut them out in the second half.

“We came out and knew what they wanted to do and we did what we were supposed to do in the second half but unfortunately we came up short in that first half and I think that affected us in the long-term,” ASU linebacker Kyle Soelle told reporters postgame.

However, ASU’s offense only managed to muster 7.6 yards per pass and 219 yards of offense on the night.

The Sun Devils scored via two field goals by kicker Cristian Zendejas and a Daniyel Ngata rushing touchdown.

Jayden Daniels finished the game with 159 passing yards, 40 rushing yards and one interception while also getting sacked four times.

“I give all credit to Wisconsin’s defense,” Daniels said. “Everybody knew what they were capable of. I mean they’re not a top-ranked defense in the nation for no reason. They’re very disciplined.

“We knew coming into the game that the game would be won up front at the line of scrimmage. … My hat’s off to the O-line. Not everybody was playing, guys stepped up, receivers made plays. At the end of the day like Kyle said, we just came up short.”

ASU also only committed six penalties for 27 yards in the game, an improvement from many of their performances away from home this season.

The Sun Devils finish the season 8-5.

“We fell a little short. I always say we ran out of time,” Edwards said. “We ran out of time, that’s kinda the way I look at this game — we just ran out of time. Give Wisconsin a lot of credit, they did a nice job tonight.”

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