A Win Is A Win. Sun Devils Slug Out Victory Over UNLV

Story by Zach Alvira

Arizona State redshirt senior Chase Lucas pounded his fist against the table inside the media room when he heard his defense had given up 155 yards of offense to UNLV Saturday night.

“Five off,” the Chandler High School product said with a smile. “(Associate head coach Antonio Pierce) tells us we have to hold them to 150 every game.”

While it wasn’t to Lucas’ liking, it could have been a whole lot worse for the No. 23 ranked Sun Devils. Especially if the Rebels had been able to keep the same momentum they began with in the first quarter of the game.

But as was the case in the first game of the season, the Arizona State defense began to dominate in the Sun Devils’ 37-10 win over the Rebels. It just took longer than most, including coach Herm Edwards, would have liked.

“They’re a college football team, they’re not a high school football team,” Edwards said. “They have scholarships, too. When you play a Power Five team, a Pac-12 team, it doesn’t take much to motivate your team. I’ve been around a long time, it’s a funny game.”

Arizona State’s opening drive stalled on the UNLV 11-yard line after junior quarterback Jayden Daniels was picked off in the end zone by Nohl Williams. The Rebels, led by redshirt freshman quarterback Doug Brumfield, then went on to convert on three third-and-long plays on the ensuing drive.

All three conversions came from the legs of Brumfield, who managed to escape pressure and find holes at the second level to reach the first-down marker. Arizona State managed to hold UNLV to a field goal despite being on its heels most of the drive.
Daniels then moved the offense down the field with ease. He capped off the 11-play, 71-yard drive with a three-yard pass to Johnny Wilson.

The two teams went on to trade touchdowns in the second quarter, with Arizona State’s coming on a 13-yard rush from freshman Daniyel Ngata. But in total, each offense had just four possessions through the first two quarters.

“It was kind of a slow, methodically football game to be completely honest,” Edwards said. “I think it was just the way the game was played. Their quarterback, I think, did a really nice job getting some first downs with his legs.”

It took time for Arizona State’s defense to get its bearings against a potent rushing attack from the Rebels. UNLV had 136 total yards of offense in the first half, 76 of those came on the ground. Through the first quarter-and-a-half of play, Arizona State’s pass rush was nonexistent. Even when Brumfield was pressured, he was able to escape to pick up yards.

Finally, just minutes before the half, Arizona State forced its first three-and-out. From there, the Sun Devils had a field day.

UNLV had 10 first downs in the opening two quarters, but just one in the throughout the rest of the game. Including the Rebels’ final offensive drive of the second quarter, UNLV was forced to punt on eight straight possessions. The Sun Devil defensive line sacked Brumfield five times and had seven tackles for loss. They didn’t have any takeaways, but Lucas was pleased with their
ability to get the ball in the hands of Daniels and the offense.

“UNLV’s quarterback was finding lanes to scramble, but after halftime we talked to one another and said we were going to set up a spy on the quarterback, which worked in our favor to get the pressure that we needed to give our offense the ball,” Lucas said. “We did a great job in the end, but we have to start better defensively. We got sacks and the pressure we need and got (Daniels) the ball.”

Much like the defense, it took time for the Sun Devil offense to come along against UNLV. Arizona State’s passing game was overshadowed by its run-game, led mostly by Daniels in the first half while escaping pressure and finding room up the middle.
On several occasions Daniels extended Arizona State drives with his legs. He rushed 13 total times on the night for 125 yards, a new career-high and just 14 shy of the tying the all-time rush record in a single game by a Sun Devil quarterback.

Redshirt senior Rachaad White carried the ball 22 times for 90 yards and had two touchdowns, part of the onslaught of points put on by Arizona State in the second half. Ngata, who played an extended role due to the absence of sophomore Deamonte Trayanum, had 64 yards on the ground and one touchdown in the first half.

After passing for 87 yards in the first half, Daniels found a rhythm to finish 20 of 29 overall for 175 yards and two touchdowns, the second score a 33-yard pass to LV Bunkley-Shelton in the fourth quarter.

“They played us really well in the first half in the passing game, especially down the field. That’s why I used my legs to hurt them,” Daniels said. “The game plan is never for me to rush around every yard, it’s to run the ball, action pass, get the receivers going, get the running backs going … As long as we can stay on the field and as long as I can help the team win, I’m going to do whatever it takes.”

While it wasn’t the type of performance Arizona State – or its fans – would have liked to see initially, the Sun Devils eventually showed what they were capable of. But with a matchup against BYU in Provo next week, they know a slow start could be detrimental. Especially against a team that for the second week in a row knocked off a Pac-12 opponent.

“We know next week is going to be tough, BYU is a tough opponent,” Daniels said. “They’re athletic and make big plays downfield. It’s a tougher job for us. But overall, as an offense, I feel like we played a lot cleaner than last week.”