Fresno State vs. Arizona State preview: Can the Sun Devils learn to play a 60-minute game?

Sep 15, 2023, 2:28 PM

Arizona State head coach Kenny Dillingham (Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)...

Arizona State head coach Kenny Dillingham (Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

(Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

There are plenty of questions facing Arizona State as it prepares to face Fresno State on Saturday night at Mountain America Stadium in Tempe.

Inconsistent performances have plagued the Sun Devils early on as they’ve started 1-1 on their non-conference slate, while injuries have begun to hamstring them.

And now, the biggest wild card of all is the improving health of Drew Pyne, creating a potential quarterback controversy for head coach Kenny Dillingham.

Meanwhile, their opponents, the Bulldogs, are 2-0 on the season with wins over Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind., and Eastern Washington at home. They’re holders of the second-longest winning streak in the FBS at 11 games, second only to the other bulldogs, the two-time-defending national champion Georgia Bulldogs.

They’re led by redshirt sophomore quarterback Mikey Keene, who has thrown for 599 yards this season. The Chandler High School alumnus has also thrown six touchdowns in the team’s two wins.

Here’s a look at this week’s matchup:

Riding the Pyne?

Dillingham is saying one of his quarterbacks, Pyne, is available to play on Saturday for the Sun Devils.

“Drew’s healthy,” Dillingham said Friday on Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta. “Drew’s 100% or as close to 100% as you could be if not 100%.”

The Notre Dame transfer entered Camp Tontozona going head-to-head with freshman Jaden Rashada for the starting gig.

However, his chances were derailed when he suffered a hamstring injury. That led to Rashada being named the starter for the opening game against Southern Utah. He also started the Oklahoma State loss, but had poor second halves in both outings.

Before coming to the Valley, Pyne had a successful 2022 with the Fighting Irish: He went 8-2 with 22 touchdowns.

The million-dollar question still lingers, though: Will Dillingham go to his redshirt sophomore at some point against the Bulldogs?

Injury issues

Injuries are starting to mount for Dillingham’s crew.

The announcement came on Thursday that redshirt juniors Jalin Conyers and DeCarlos Brooks will both miss Saturday’s game. The injuries were first reported by Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro.

Conyers has six catches on the season for 68 yards while Brooks has 90 yards rushing.

Conyers and Brooks join Emmit Bohle, who suffered a season-ending leg injury on Saturday against the Cowboys, along with defensive linemen Kyran Bourda and Anthonie Cooper, wide receiver Jordyn Tyson and defensive back Montana Warren, all of whom are out.

Second-half woes

The Sun Devils have struggled in the second half of their two games this season.

They have combined to score just three points against Southern Utah and Oklahoma State. It turns out those three points were incredibly important as the field goal against the Thunderbirds prevented overtime and lifted them to the 24-21 Week 1 win.

Have the issues in the second half been entirely Arizona State’s fault? It’s hard to say.

Against Southern Utah, they were delayed more than 2:30 coming out for the third quarter due to a haboob striking Mountain America Stadium. Meanwhile, against Oklahoma State, it was one of the hottest games in school history at kickoff. That could’ve led to fatigue by the time the third quarter rolled around.

How to watch, listen to Fresno State vs. Arizona State


Listen: Arizona Sports app, ESPN 620 AM, 98.7 HD-2

Arizona State kicks off vs. Fresno State at 7:30 p.m.

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