ASU 'embarrassed' after poor offensive showing in road loss to Utah

The Sun Devils struggled in Salt Lake City Saturday as they fell to 5-2

There was a wide range of emotions expressed by the 17th ranked ASU football team following its 21-3 loss to the 13th ranked Utah Utes. There was obvious disappointment, combined with some anger over missed opportunities and what appeared to be regret. 

Yet the emotion most poignantly displayed by the Sun Devils following their defeat was elaborated by the team’s head coach, Herm Edwards. 

“I’m embarrassed with our football team when it came to the fouls,” Edwards said. “We lost our composure and I don’t believe in doing that kind of stuff. I’ve never been involved in a game where a team had 12 fouls. For some reason we just lost our composure. That’s not the way we play.”

Edwards' embarrassment was so extreme that he felt the need to communicate it to Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham immediately following the conclusion of Saturday’s contest, greeting him at midfield to express his remorse. 

His regret is well understood, as ASU's 12 penalties are the most by a Sun Devil team since a 2011 matchup with the Missouri Tigers, according to azfamily 3TV CBS 5.

“Just look at the penalties,” freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels said. “That’s what killed us, the penalties. They are already a good team, so the free yards we gave them just kept adding up.”

The penalties only further hampered an ASU offense that struggled to find any consistent rhythm Saturday. Its 136 yards of total offense was the lowest figure of the season, as the unit looked especially hapless throwing the ball. 

Daniels' stat line of 25 yards on 4-of-18 passing looks like a particularly cruel misprint, but in reality, it is a shining testament to the damage Ute defenders were able to inflict on the Sun Devils.

“You have to give Utah a lot of credit, they put a lot of pressure on our quarterback,” Edwards said. “They found ways to get to him and he was under duress most of the day.”

Saturday unquestionably represented Daniels' worst game in maroon and gold. His struggles through the air were only heightened by the throwing of his second interception of the season. 

He rarely looked comfortable in the pocket, often being forced to take his eyes off his receivers to focus on the almost immediate onslaught of defenders. 

As Daniels looks to bounce back from his season’s lowest point, offensive coordinator Rob Likens is confident the quarterback will come back stronger than ever. 

“One thing that I love about our quarterback is he learns at a high level,” Likens said. “He’s going to learn from this, and I fully expect for us to be a lot better last week.”

Daniels was not the only freshman to struggle Saturday, as both right guard Dohnovan West and left tackle LaDarius Henderson were benched for parts of Saturday’s contest. 

They were part of an offensive line group that faced immense pressure for all four quarters, rarely holding up long enough to maintain a clean pocket. 

“Our youth on both sides of the ball showed up today," Edwards said. “We’ve been waiting for that to happen, we were hoping it wouldn’t happen, but I’m not naive enough to think that it’s not going to.”

And yet, despite all the shortcomings, the Sun Devils never truly felt out of the game. Their double-digit deficit appeared daunting, but not insurmountable. 

Time after time, the defense provided opportunities for a comeback. Whether it was the three forced fumbles, or the juggling Chase Lucas interception, ASU’s four takeaways were enough to keep hope alive until a late fourth quarter fumble on a punt return and subsequent Utah touchdown sealed their fate. 

“Because the defense was playing so good, they always gave us a chance,” Likens said. “I was thinking ok, we’re going to have one of those comebacks. I never lost sight of that or felt like we were ever out of it.”

As ASU flies back to Tempe, the team remains hopeful that big things still lie on the horizon. While it knows the path to a Pac-12 championship just got significantly murkier, one coach in particular realizes the importance of playing in games of this magnitude. 

“This was a big football game,” Edwards said. “You want to be in these moments because you find out a lot about your football team. Hopefully we can get in more positions like this the rest of the season.”


Reach the reporter at Jrosenfa@asu.edu or follow @jacobrosenfarb on Twitter. 

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