ASU looks to keep momentum after unlikely win against Michigan State

Sun Devil football aims to improve to 4-0 after shocking viewers in their upset of Michigan State

A sense of validation has washed over the ASU team that faced serious doubts heading into their matchup with the Michigan State Spartans last week. 

Entering the game as 15.5 point underdogs, the Sun Devils were picked to fall short in East Lansing, and yet, the team emerged victorious behind the strong play of the defense and a handful of clutch plays by freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels

Returning home this week with a 10-7 win over the then 18th ranked Spartans under the belt, the Sun Devils were rewarded with a spot in this week’s AP top 25 rankings, coming in at No. 24. 

Read more: ASU football enters top 25 after 3-0 start

With a matchup against the 2-1 Colorado Buffaloes looming on the horizon, ASU will look to maintain its hot start after a win. 

One coach in particular still can’t believe they pulled it off. 

“Yes, absolutely,” offensive coordinator Rob Likens said when asked if Saturday’s win was the biggest upset he’s ever been a part of.

"Watching the film, (everything that was) against us, the situation our offensive line was in," Likens said about the stacked odds. "We had a 17-year-old tackle going against the Big 10 Defensive Lineman of the Year. And going into that game, and then two others, probably high draft picks on the defensive line, with another freshman offensive lineman (Dohnovan West) and a quarterback playing in (their) first road games.”

The play of Daniels has been the dominant topic when rehashing the Sun Devils win, as there remains a sense of disbelief and astonishment that a player of his inexperience could orchestrate a final drive of that caliber. 

The 11 play, 75-yard drive that netted ASU its only touchdown of Saturday’s contest was instantly revered as the highlight of the season so far.

Whether it was Daniels' 40-yard throw to senior wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk to get the Sun Devils into the red zone, or Daniels' 15-yard run on 4th and 13 to keep the drive alive, the play of the true freshman still has some of his teammates in shock.

“He ain’t a freshman no more,” redshirt junior Frank Darby said. “He turned into a different savage at the end of the game. He was like, 'This is my moment.' Now that he did that, I hope that he showed them..., 'Let me be free. I’m going to show ya’ll that I’m not a freshman. I’m ready and I’m built for these type of situations.'”

Daniels was not the only freshman to impress Saturday, as both West and freshman LaDarius Henderson earned rave reviews from coaches on both sides of the ball. 

West especially played well, with Likens commending his advanced understanding of “blocking schemes” and “pad level” in his third career start. 

Henderson was also the recipient of praise with defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales mentioning that the 17 year old will be “really good.”

“They did a pretty good job, actually,” head coach Herm Edwards said when talking on the offensive line. “(West) played really good and (Henderson) did good for the most part."

The team’s performance becomes even more impressive when remembering the quality of their first two opponents. 

Transitioning from home games against Kent State and Sacramento State to Michigan State on the road is a jarring change of pace, and yet the Sun Devils handled the difference with aplomb as they remained undefeated on the season.

Recruiting director and assistant coach Antonio Pierce said that he couldn’t have asked for anything better from the team in an adverse environment.

“We were right there on their sideline. They had basketball guys barking at us, they had the recruits barking at us, old mothers barking at us, it was the best thing that we could’ve been a part of because we’re not going to get that in the Pac-12," Pierce said. "To get that kind of environment, and for those guys to thrive in it, to not blink, and sit there and play the way they played, ... it’s the biggest compliment because that was a hostile environment.”

As the Sun Devils prepare for its matchup this weekend with the Buffs, coaches have stressed the importance of avoiding the letdown that often accompanies a win of that emotional magnitude. 

For some players, as satisfying as the win was, they realize how little they have accomplished thus far, and just how much they hope to accomplish going forward. 

“It's just great to have 75,000 mad,” Darby said of the win at Michigan State. “We came in, got the job done and now we’re on to the next game.”

Reach the reporter at or follow @jacobrosenfarb on Twitter. 

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