Utes Stymie ASU Offense: Five Things We Learned

SALT LAKE CITY, UT — Arizona State’s quest for their first road win over a top five team in program history ended with a 34-18 loss to Utah on a cold, rainy late fall night in front of 46,192 at Rice-Eccles Stadium. With the win the Utes improve to 6-0, 3-0 in Pac-12 play. The Sun Devils fall to 4-3, 2-2.

Here are five things we learned.

1. No Dirty Dozen…Saturday’s loss snapped an 11-game ASU win streak over the Utes dating back to November of 1976, including four-straight since Utah joined the Pac-12. Head coach Kyle Whittingham was open all week about how much this game meant to the program, especially after last year’s heart-breaking 19-16 overtime loss in Tempe. The Utes’ signature defense sacked Mike Bercovici five times and harassed him numerous others.  The Sun Devil offense produced just 15 rushing yards and 257 overall. They converted just five of 18 third downs.

2. Travis Stands Tall …6’7″ senior quarterback Travis Wilson has had a rollercoaster career in SLC but stood tall facing endless blitz packages from Todd Graham’s defense. Like Bercovici, Wilson was sacked five times but picked apart man coverage completing 26-36 for 296 yards and two touchdowns. The southern California native wasn’t intercepted and finished with a 159.9 passer rating.

“What kind of hurt us a little bit is that we left a couple of guys uncovered and we had some guys come off their men a little bit,” Graham said.  “Just eight or nine plays that we don’t make, because we needed to shut them down the way the game was going.”

3. Missing Demario…Sophomore starting running back Demario Richard, who suffered a minor knee injury last week, dressed but did not play after going through pre-game warm ups. His loss was evident early as the Sun Devil offense lacked balance and looked lost against the Utes’ stout front. Kalen Ballage netted 49 yards on the ground but averaged just 2.7 per attempt. D.J. Foster was again nearly non-existent carrying just once for -5. The senior from Scottsdale was also a non-factor in the passing game (three catches, nine yards).

4. White Out…Last week Tim White broke out as a receiver reeling in seven passes for 144 and two scores in a win over Colorado. At Rice-Eccles Stadium he silenced the sellout crowd taking back a first quarter kickoff 100 yards for a score. He entered the game leading the Pac-12 in kickoff return average. He and “Gump” Hayes helped keep ASU close after Mike Norvell’s offense managed just 91 first half total yards.

5. Giving it Away…On a night which started with so much special teams’ promise, it ended with a thud thanks to a trio of ill-timed late-game gaffes. First, Hayes fair caught a punt inside the ASU five which would have likely went into the end zone. Moments later Matt Haack’s 20-yard shank set up Devontae Booker’s 25-yard score. Finally, Dasmond Tautalatasi’s fair catch interference moved the Utes’ deep in Sun Devil territory after the 15-yard mark off. The mistakes led to 10 Utah points and created the early fourth-quarter separation the Utes would never relinquish.

“That was the difference in the game.  You look at the game, they wouldn’t run the ball and we couldn’t either.  It boiled down to passing the football and that’s about what happened,” Graham said.

ASU now enters their bye week before returning for a Thursday night showdown against Oregon on October 29th.

 

Mixing his passions for sports and storytelling, Jordan comes to Sports360az as a multimedia reporter/producer looking to share the best stories Arizona has to offer. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @JordyHamm