SALT LAKE CITY — The Arizona State Sun Devils started Saturday’s game against Utah with swagger, but left Rice-Eccles Stadium in silence.
The Utes erased a 14-point halftime deficit, held ASU’s offense scoreless in the second half, and cruised to a 35-21 win in a key Pac-12 South matchup between the top two teams in the division entering the contest.
Clearly Herm Edwards’ halftime message to his team didn’t emanate in the locker room.
“I told them, the ASU head coach said in his post-game press conference. “‘This a second half football team’ and we didn’t match it. They ran it and made some critical third downs. You have to tip your hat to them.”
This looked promising early for the visitors. ASU (5-2, 3-1) took the opening drive and immediately gashed the Utah defense for a number of chunk plays, moving the ball deep into Utes’ territory. After overcoming a pair of holding penalties, Jayden Daniels connected with Jalin Conyers for a 7-yard touchdown and the Devils jumped out toad 7-0 lead.
The Utes’ offense had a response, also hitting pay dirt on their first possession. Junior quarterback Cam Rising capped the drive with 9-yard scoring run, eluding two defenders and scampering into the front corner of the end zone. After the the successful point after, it was 7-7 midway through the first quarter.
ASU had a potential scoring drive thwarted early in the second quarter when tight end Curtis Hodges fumbled inside Utah territory and the Utes recovered.
The hosts returned the turnover favor when Darien Butler picked off Rising’s pass at the ASU 31.
On the ensuing ASU drive, Daniels hooked up with LV Bunkley-Shelton who slipped a tackle and sprinted to the Utah 2 yard-line for a 59-yard gain. One play later, Daniels kept it on the naked bootleg and the Devils jumped back in front 14-7 with just over eight minutes to play until halftime.
The Devils’ offense came alive again late in the second quarter, starting the drive at their own 37 and capping it with a beautiful 15-yard touchdown pass down the seam from Daniels to Hodges. The six-play drive, 63-yard drive took just 2:28.
Tight Ends going crazy tonight.
Curtis and Jalin combining for 5 catches, 55 yards and 2 touchdowns in the 1st Half. 🔱📈 pic.twitter.com/IUjkaGC9VL
— Sun Devil Football (@ASUFootball) October 17, 2021
Tillman safety Kejuan Markham ended a late Utes’ threat picking off a pass at the ASU five with 17 seconds to play before halftime.
Daniels, who was recruited heavily by Utah before picking the Devils, finished the half 11-17 for 157 yards and three total touchdowns. The Devils out-gained the Utes 288-170 and had 15 first downs.
Utah started the second half like they did the first, effortlessly moving the ball on the Devils’ defense and scoring a touchdown. Tavion Thomas scooted into the end zone from seven yards out stamping an impressive nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive cutting ASU’s lead to 21-14.
After a quick three-and-out by ASU, the Utah offense picked up right where they left off behind a number of chunk runs by Thomas and a 20-yard touchdown pass to Brant Kuithe. The Utes 14-unanswered points tied the game at 21.
“They brought the punch to us,” Defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce said. “Out-coached. Outplayed. We didn’t play well. We didn’t play well in the second half.”
A promising ASU drive stalled after Daniels was sacked for a nine-yard loss on second and long. Logan Tyler’s 50-yard field goal was short and wide left as the Rice-Eccles Stadium crowd roared their approval on the crisp Saturday night.
The ASU free fall continued after Rising hit Kuithe again, who was wide open in the flat, and the Utes had their first lead of the game at 28-21.
Utah tacked on another late touchdown and then ended the game sacking Daniels on three-consecutive plays as the clock expired and Utah players and coaches streamed onto the field.
Kyle Whittingham being hoisted on the shoulders of our guys is the content we’re all here for. And how about the length of the video 👀#UBoyz pic.twitter.com/oTvWcLXxfq
— Utah Football (@Utah_Football) October 17, 2021
The Devils, much like their earlier trip to the state of Utah (a loss to BYU), were handcuffed by a number of penalties – 13 to be exact for 115 yards.
“It just came down to executing,” Daniels said. “We shot ourselves in the foot. We thought we were past that. It’s very frustrating.”
ASU now enters the bye week before returning to action, hosting Washington State on October 30th.