ASU was the underdog in its game versus Michigan State, but the Sun Devils forced a hard-fought 16-13 victory in the final seconds of the game.
“All the mistakes that we made, all the throws that I missed, the interception-at the end of the day, we came in at halftime and made the adjustments that we needed to make and we won the game,” redshirt senior quarterback Manny Wilkins said. “That’s all that matters at the end of the day.”
Before these adjustments in the second half, the game was riddled with mistakes from both ASU and Michigan State. However, it wasn’t filled with a lot of offense.
There was no score at the end of the first quarter and Michigan State was the only team to put any points on the board before halftime, as a field goal by sophomore kicker Matt Coghlin split the uprights.
“When things didn’t go well, we didn’t panic,” head coach Herm Edwards said. “We just kept fighting and playing football.”
Nonetheless, before halftime was when ASU started to steal the momentum as Michigan State was starting to build. Redshirt senior defensive back Dasmond Tautalatasi intercepted a ball in the Sun Devils’ end zone before it could become a touchdown for Michigan State.
“Anytime defense gets a takeaway, we’ve got to go do our job and go get seven,” Wilkins said. “That’s what we have to do. Like I said, the defense did a hell of a job, holding that opponent to 13 points is very impressive.”
Michigan State got another field goal from Coghlin in the second half to go up 6-0, but this is when other wide receivers started to step up.
Edwards said last week that he wanted the offense to be more spread out with drives from junior wide receivers Kyle Williams, Ryan Newsome and Brandon Aiyuk, as well as senior wide receiver Ryan Jenkins —with those receivers put into the limelight, they stepped up.
“That’s something I’ve been stressing since the preseason,” junior wide receiver N’Keal Harry said of his counterparts. “We had so many guys step up tonight and make plays, and it ended up being key at the end of the game."
In the third quarter, sophomore kicker Brandon Ruiz nailed a 49-yard field goal to make the score 6-3.
To follow that, Michigan State’s junior quarterback Brian Lewerke threw a 31-yard pass to sophomore running back Cody White to make the score 13-3 at the end of the third.
With ASU down 10, the Sun Devils knew they had ground to make up, but that 10 points wasn’t such a big deficit that it couldn’t be covered in the fourth quarter.
“Points are always the critical part of football,” Edwards said. “At the end of the day…If they can’t score, they can’t win. You keep the points down, you’re going to be in the football game.”
Soon, the score was 13-6 after another field goal from Ruiz.
To tie the game up, Wilkins had another touchdown pass with a 27-yard strike to Harry, and he caught it in the end zone while bing swarmed by a Michigan State defender.
“You can cover him for a while, but he’s going to make a play,” Edwards said. “In games like this, the magnitude of games like this, big players want to make a play…This was an old-time pro football game. This wasn’t a college game…it was comfortable for me. I’m used to being in games like this.”
The Sun Devils waited until they got the ball back and did their best to stall out the remaining time on the clock. With only a few seconds left, Ruiz hit another field goal to make the score 16-13 in favor of the Devils as the clock ran out, thus sealing a statement win for ASU.
ASU is undefeated this season and has two wins under its belt as the team moves into preparing for its first away game next week at San Diego State. However, there is still a lot of preparation to get through before then.
“Still struggling putting drives together on offense,” Edwards said. “Defensively, and Danny (Gonzales) would say this, not very good on third downs…Penalties were a little bit better, but we’ve got to get more consistent. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We really do. We’re nowhere near my expectations...It’s fun when you win because that helps you. It helps you put another brick on the pile of bricks and knowing that we’re trying to build something. It takes a lot of hard work and to these players’ credit…they’ve done a pretty good."
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