Arizona State 37, Utah 7
Tempe, AZ – There is a turning point in every football game. A definitive moment that you can point to and say that is why they won or that is why they lost. Often this moment will occur late in the game.
In the Arizona State-Utah game Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium, it happened 2:59 into the first quarter. The Utes had the ball at the ASU 33 yard line, in that limbo area where they were too far for a field goal and too close for a punt, so they decided to go for it.
Senior quarterback Jon Hays took the snap from the shotgun and was immediately sacked by Will Sutton and Chris Young. 1:13 after the turnover on downs, ASU scored their first touchdown on a 38 yard pass from Taylor Kelly to Rashad Ross.
After that, the game was never even close. After a quick three-and-out, Utah punted, ASU got the ball, and drove down the field with ease for another touchdown, this time a 1-yard run by Cameron Marshall. The entire complexion of the game changed with that failed fourth down conversion early on. Had the Utes been able to extend the drive, who knows how this game would have gone.
But one thing is certain. In head coach Todd Graham’s words, quite simply, “we really dominated them.”
If there were ever a question as to who the starting quarterback is, redshirt sophomore Taylor Kelly answered with his finest game to date. He led the Sun Devils down the field all night and finished with a line of 19-26, 326 yards and 3 touchdown passes. He was able to connect on some key plays early in the game with senior wide receiver Rashad Ross. Ross, who entered the game with only two receptions and 66 yards, also had a career game, catching five passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.
Junior tight end Chris Coyle also continued his assault on opposing defenses, adding five receptions for 62 yards. All night Kelly looked dominant, which once again begs the question- how long will this two quarterback system continue to be utilized?
Coming into the game, Utah boasted a 9-0 record when senior running back John White rushed for 100 yards in a game, so containing him would be key. He averages 107.5 yards per game. ASU held him to 18 yards on 14 carries. In fact, White did not even lead his team in yards. Instead, junior Kelvin York shouldered the load, rushing 13 times for 86 yards
As has been the story all season, the Sun Devil defense continued to shine tonight. Brandon Magee led the team with 10 tackles, and Will Sutton continued to make his presence felt in the pocket, but the defensive star of the night was junior linebacker Chris Young.
Young led the team with a career high 1.5 sacks, and also added 6 tackles, 2.5 of which were behind the line of scrimmage, and even forced a fumble. As a collective unit, the defense recorded four sacks, 10 tackles for loss, and an interception.
When looking at this game, it needs to be kept in mind that Utah lost its starting quarterback Jordan Wynn two weeks ago against Utah State. Jon Hays started Saturday night. This is the fourth game out of four that ASU has played against a second string quarterback, and even lost to one, Corbin Berkstresser, last week at Missouri. That shouldn’t be held against the Devils as they were able to dominate three of their four opponents, but kept in mind.
“The bottom line is winning,” Graham said after the game addressing the media. “I don’t care about anything else but winning.”
After a disappointing loss to Missouri on the road, Arizona State returned home and marched onto the field with a vengeance. They improve to 3-1 on the season, 1-0 in Pac-12 play, which ties them for first in the Pac-12 South with Colorado (who, unbelievably, beat Washington State tonight IN Pullman).
Next week they travel to California, hoping to even up their road record. At home, they remain undefeated, improving to 3-0 with a decisive win Saturday night against Utah 37-7.