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ASU collapses in second half, falls to Utah for second loss of the season

Arizona State allowed 28 unanswered points in the second half en route to a 35-21 loss at the University of Utah

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ASU junior quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) sits on the field after a play against UCLA on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2021 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. ASU won 42-23. 

No. 18 ASU football lost to the University of Utah 35-21 in Salt Lake City, snapping a three-game win streak.

After leading 21-7 at halftime, ASU allowed 28 unanswered points. The Utes outgained the Sun Devils 285 yards to 97 yards.

It was the first time this season the Sun Devil defense allowed more than 10 points in the second half. Utah scored 14 points in its first two drives after halftime.

“We tried to load the box and they answered with play-action (passes) and bootlegs,” defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce said of the defense’s strategy to open the second half. “We were out-coached and out-played tonight.”

Coming into the game, the Sun Devils had allowed just 27 second-half points in six games combined. They allowed 28 on Saturday night alone.

“Before we left at halftime, I told them this is a second-half football team,” head coach Herm Edwards said. “We didn’t match it on either side of the ball. They continued to make first downs and continue substantial drives. They got some momentum and then they scored and scored again, and all of a sudden the game is tied and now you can feel the energy shift.”

On Saturday, ASU committed 13 penalties for 115 yards. Five of those penalties were offensive holding. It’s the third time this season they’ve had double-digit penalties in a game.

The team went into a silent count at the line of scrimmage at various points throughout the game. In Tuesday’s scrimmage portion of practice, the team had crowd noise blasting out of an overhead speaker, trying to replicate the crowd noise they were to expect at Utah. Throughout the week, players had discussed the mindset of playing in loud, hostile environments, but the preparations didn’t meet the result.

“We already got a taste of the noise in BYU so I’m pretty sure everyone made their adjustments to counter that,” redshirt freshman linebacker Will Shaffer said earlier in the week. “Going into Utah we know they have a loud crowd, so we’re going to be prepared."

As the Utah record-breaking crowd of 51,724 got louder, ASU got worse. 

The closest ASU got to a second-half score was a 10-play, 42-yard drive in the latter half of the third quarter. Junior quarterback Jayden Daniels completed a 32-yard third-down pass to graduate student tight end Curtis Hodges to get to the Utah 20-yard line.

On the next play, graduate student offensive lineman Kellen Diesch committed his third penalty of the game, moving them back even farther. The next three plays resulted in negative three yards. A 51-yard field goal by graduate student kicker Logan Tyler was blocked at the line of scrimmage. 

Utah got the ball at its own 33-yard line and ended the drive like every other second-half drive: with a touchdown. 

“It seemed like every single drive we had a penalty,” offensive coordinator Zak Hill said. “It’s tough to get into a rhythm. A couple of times we got down near the red zone and all of a sudden it’s first-and-20. In the first half, we were able to work through some of those mistakes and penalties, and in the second half, we just couldn’t.” 

With the loss, ASU falls to second place in the Pac-12 South. Utah, which came into the game 2-0 in conference games, now has the head-to-head tiebreaker.

“If we won this game, we could’ve controlled our destiny, but now we can’t,” Edwards said. “We can control winning and we have to find ways to win a game. We have control over how we respond to this game.”

Arizona State has a bye week next week. Their next game is Sat. Oct. 30, versus Washington State University at Sun Devil Stadium.

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Sean Lynch

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