ASU’s comeback falls short despite shutting out Wisconsin in 2nd half

Dec 30, 2021, 11:12 PM | Updated: Dec 31, 2021, 8:19 am
Arizona State running back Daniyel Ngata (4) scores a touchdown against Wisconsin during the second...

Arizona State running back Daniyel Ngata (4) scores a touchdown against Wisconsin during the second 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)

Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels and wide receiver Ricky Pearsall gave the Sun Devils a much-needed jolt on their first drive of the third quarter of the Las Vegas Bowl vs. Wisconsin.

But the Sun Devils’ comeback ultimately fell short on Thursday night, falling 20-13 despite shutting the Badgers out in the 2nd half.

“Disappointing outcome for us. We got off to a bad start I thought,” ASU head coach Herm Edwards told reporters postgame. “We fell behind and you don’t want to fall behind to a team like this who can chew a lot of clock off due to their running game. I thought the first half our gap responsibilities versus the run weren’t as sound as they were in the second half.

“I thought we were the better team in the second half. We made some adjustments, had a lot of combinations of players playing as well. But I thought the second half we really got going, had some energy and got going offensively. Fell a little short a couple times and kicked a some field goals. … I thought our players the second half played well. I think the defense did a pretty nice job. When you can shut them out and give yourself a chance, that’s all you can ask for.”

Trailing 20-6 at halftime, the Sun Devils forced a punt to get the ball back to start the half. Three plays into the ensuing drive, Daniels found Pearsall in one-on-one coverage deep downfield for 38 yards to put ASU on the 10-yard-line.

The series was capped off with an Arizona State three-yard touchdown run by RB Daniyel Ngata, cutting the lead to 20-13 midway through the third quarter.

The Ngata score would be the only one of the half, however, as Wisconsin ran out the final eight minutes of the fourth quarter en route to victory formation.

“They’re scary because when you watch them on tape that’s what they can do, they can chew some drives — they can chew up a lot of time,” Edwards said. “I kept looking up at that clock, trust me. And every time they got a first down I kept looking up at the clock thinking we’re running out of time.

“Toward the end there, we were actually going to let them score. But they knew … and took a knee because we were running out of time. … They did the right thing.”

Ngata saw an increase in playing time because ASU’s top two running backs Rachaad White (opted out) and DeaMonte Trayanum (transferred) were both unavailable to play.

Safety Evan Fields did not return for the Sun Devils at halftime, totaling 10 key players out on both sides of the football.

Walk-on freshman B.J. Green added two much-needed sacks for the Sun Devils’ defense.

“A walk-on and really has grown up as the season has progressed. He’s done a nice job, he really has,” Edwards said of Green. “He is very, very active when you get him on stunts in games, when he gets the edges of things. He’s starting to learn how to do that better and he’s a good rusher for us. He’s a good football player.”

Arizona State and Edwards finish the 2021 season with an 8-5 record.

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