ARIZONA STATE FOOTBALL

Arizona State musters 6 rushing yards, outmatched in loss to No. 13 Utah

Sep 25, 2022, 12:34 AM | Updated: Sep 26, 2022, 7:55 pm

TEMPE — The Arizona State Sun Devils were completely outmatched in a 34-13 loss to the No. 13 Utah Utes to open up Pac-12 Conference play.

Saturday night saw ASU (1-3; 0-1 Pac-12) put up 267 yards of total offense against Utah (3-1; 1-0) in interim head coach Shaun Aguano’s first game at the helm. However, the Sun Devils only mustered six rushing yards on the night — the fewest in a single game in school history.

That metric largely has to do with the number of sacks Arizona State surrendered (five for 45 yards), which statistically goes against a team’s rushing yardage total in college football. The Utes defense added two more QB hits to bring ASU quarterback Emory Jones to the ground at least seven times on pass plays, the most vicious of which featured a reviewed targeting no-call.

“It’s tough when you get put behind the sticks with some sacks and I kind of got antsy in the pocket at times and started looking at the rush a little bit,” Jones said postgame. “But that’s something that I have to get better at. The offensive line has to protect better, the running backs have to protect better. We’re all in this together.”

ASU’s three-man rushing attack featured running backs Xazavian Valladay (30 yards on eight rushes) and Daniyel Ngata (two yards on one carry), as well as Jones (-26 yards on 11 attempts).

But the Sun Devils weren’t that much better through the air, either, as Jones finished the game 21-for-36 (58%) for 261 yards with one passing touchdown and two interceptions — his first two INTs of the season. The lone TD on the night came in garbage time on an 11-yard pass to tight end Messiah Swinson.

Jones had inaccuracy issues on a plethora of balls throughout the night which led to missed touchdowns and his two picks, both of which were caught by Utah safety Cole Bishop.

“I think we came out trying to throw the ball a little more. I took some sacks, we have to protect better,” Jones said. “We got behind the chains a little bit and it’s kind of tough to run the ball behind the sticks. I didn’t play my best ball today. That’s something I have to lock into this week and make sure I give my guys the best chance to win.”

In fact, it took the Sun Devils offense until the fourth quarter to cross midfield without the defense or special teams setting it up with great field position. And despite a 58-yard kick return by Daniyel Ngata, a 47-yard kick return by Javen Jacobs and an interception by Timarcus Davis, Arizona State only cashed those three ensuing drives in for six points.

“Utah’s defense was able to pin their ears back and come at us and that provides a lot of heartache for us because then they are bringing four, five and six,” Aguano said postgame. “I liked Emory’s poise in the pocket.

“There’s a lot of duress and there’s bullets flying at him and then he couldn’t get his feet set and couldn’t make those throws. That is something we do have to work on because we played behind the chains all night. That’s something I will address with my offensive staff.”

Defensively, ASU could not stop Utah QB Cam Rising and Co., which didn’t feature starting RB Tavion Thomas until the fourth quarter. The Utes put up a whopping 465 yards of total offense, which they split pretty evenly with 260 from Rising and 205 on the ground.

And despite only going 5-for-15 on third down (33%), Utah went 3-for-4 on fourth down, the second of which was a fantastic grab by Utes TE Dalton Kincaid over Davis. Arizona State’s lone stop on fourth down came late in the third quarter with the Sun Devils trailing 31-6.

“Ultimately I think it was just execution,” safety Khoury Bethley said postgame. “We preach getting off the field on third down and we didn’t do that today and it came back to bite us. All we can do is is learn from it and tighten up our coverage but at the end of the day, we just have to execute and get off the field on third down.”

EXTRA POINTS

– ASU was without key defensive players in DBs Ro Torrence, Keon Markham, Kejuan Markham and DT Omarr Norman-Lott, who were all listed as gametime decisions.

– CB Ed Woods and WR Zeke Freeman also did not play, but were listed as injured going into the contest.

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