It was a rough start for the young guns of Arizona State Saturday and their play never really smoothed out but the result would not have been in ASU’s favor if the newcomers had not shown another step in the maturity process late in the Sun Devils’ 38-34 shootout win over Washington State.
Here is the full newcomer report:
True freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels had an at-times shaky performance but it may have played his best football of the season which is saying a lot after leading his team to an upset win over then No. 15 Cal just over two weeks ago.
Daniels began the game on a horrible footing, looking inexperienced holding onto the ball too long. He was sacked three times, losing 18 yards, on ASU’s first two drives. Normally, the Sun Devil offense line would have been to blame for Daniels being sacked but it looked as though he was apprehensive in throwing the ball downfield early.
The rest of the first half though was up and down for the young quarterback.
Daniels would look solid on the Sun Devils’ third drive when he was able to gain some yards back rushing the ball before throwing a 40-yard touchdown pass with a beautiful touch on it to his favorite target Brandon Aiyuk.
Daniels regressed on the next drive, overthrowing wide receiver Frank Darby twice on throws that could have been long gains into Cougar territory.
Daniels and the offense would look great on their second to last drive of the half as Daniels found Aiyuk again on a quick slant that turned into an 86-yard run after the catch touchdown. The play was Daniels’ longest pass completion of his career and the longest offensive play for ASU this season.
In the second half, Daniels showed how advanced he is as a quarterback in his true freshman season. He threw another 33-yard touchdown pass to Aiyuk and later escaped from a potential safety to gain positive yards.
Daniels’ true standout moment was the final drive of the game when he marched his team downfield looking as though he was a 10-year NFL veteran and not a true freshman playing college football. He dinked and dunked his way down the gridiron, finding Eno Benjamin multiple times for positive gains. He showed poise not trying to take any risks through the air, being able to recognize when something was not there over the top. The most notable moment of this was when he was swarmed by Washington State defenders but was able to shovel it forward to Benjamin for a positive gain. He would again be smart on the final play of the drive, not forcing a throw to the end zone. Instead, he used his speed to scramble for the game-winning 17-yard touchdown, absorbing a big hit from a combination of Cougar defenders to spiral airward and into the endzone for the score.
“I trust the guy, I trust him,” ASU coach Herm Edwards said.
Daniels’ final statistical numbers were 26-36 for a career-high 363 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for 23 yards including the late score.
Other than Daniels, it was not much of a newcomer show on Saturday for the offense with a few of the young receivers being involved sparingly. The most notable performance by a newcomer receiver was by true freshman Ricky Pearsall, whose lone reception of 25 yards led to the game-tying field goal at the end of the first half. Redshirt-freshman Geordon Porter (two catches, 11 yards) and true freshman Jordan Kerley (one catch, four yards) also saw time at wide receiver in the game.
Another freshman who came on for a few offensive plays but did not do much was backup running back A.J. Carter. Carter only rushed three times for nine yards in the game but did have a nice eight-yard run in the second half.
The defensive performance for the Sun Devils was as to be expected against the Mike Leach coached Cougars with ASU giving up 498 yards of total offense.
The newcomers were a part of this poor defensive effort but did have some key plays to help ASU prevail.
The fresh faces making the most noise either positively or negatively were redshirt-freshman safety, Cam Phillips and transfer cornerback from USC, Jack Jones.
Phillips, who started in the game after missing the team's last game with a dislocated elbow, began his day by failing to communicate with teammate Aashari Crosswell leading to a 35-yard Travell Harris touchdown catch.
Phillips would then make a great play in the end zone to save a touchdown later in the first half but Tillman safety Evan Fields would be called for roughing the passer, negating Phillips’ effort.
Jones would make some big plays but had a relatively poor performance against the Cougars.
His day off well when he nearly picked off an Anthony Gordon ass on WSU’s second drive of the game to hold the Cougars to a field goal. He then hit the quarterback on the Cougars' third drive. Things would then turn for the worst for Jones.
Jones allowed a 29-yard completion to Dezmon Paton late in the second quarter and from there it seemed as though he was unable to keep his man in check. He was in coverage on a 22-yard play on WSU’s first drive of the second half, as well as the Cougars’ first touchdown of the second half. Additionally, he was called for a questionable pass interference penalty, missed a tackle allowing an 18-yard gain and allowed a 29-yard pass completion to give WSU a chance for a shot at the end zone on its final drive of the game.
However, to Jones’ credit, he did recover to make a breakup to perhaps save the game for ASU on the final drive.
Moreover, Sun Devil defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales said the safeties missing their assignments made Jones’ performance look worse than it actually was.
On special teams, the story as far as newcomers go might have been punter Michael Turk. Turk, who has been outstanding this season, had a mostly good game but set up WSU in great field position at ASU’s 36 yard-line with a 29-yard punt with 5:35 to play in the fourth quarter. WSU would tack on a field goal and take the lead, forcing ASU to go on the two-minute drill to win the game. He pinned the Cougars inside their 20 on his other three punts in the game.
Kicker Christian Zendejas had a good game as well in his first game knowing he will be the starter for good after Brandon Ruiz announced his plans to enter the transfer portal earlier this week. Zendejas’ distance was not tested but he converted all of his extra-point attempts and the 31-yard field goal as time expired in the second half.
Other fresh faces seeing time were defensive end Roe Wilkins (left with cramping but returned), safety Willie Harts (three solo tackles), running back Demetrious Flowers, kick-off specialist Josh Plaster, true freshman captain Ethan Long, junior college transfer defensive tackle T.J. Pesefea, wide-receiver Brandon Pierce, linebacker Elijah Juarez, linebacker Case Hatch (one tackle), offensive lineman Spencer Lovell, offensive lineman Ralph Frias and defensive end Michael Matus.
True freshmen who played in all 6 games
QB Jayden Daniels
OL Dohnovan West
WR Jordan Kerley
WR Ricky Pearsall
LB Case Hatch
LB Elijah Juarez
ATH Ethan Long
S Willie Harts
Freshmen who played their fifth game yesterday and thus cannot redshirt this year
K Josh Plaster
TE Nolan Matthews
Players who played in less than 6 games but are more than likely to not redshirt
OL LaDarius Henderson (played in 4 games)
S Kejuan Markham (played in 5 games)
Freshmen who played in less than 6 games but are expected to redshirt
RB Demetrious Flowers played in 2 games
DL Stephon Wright Played in one game
DL Amiri Johnson Played in one game
LB Fritzny Niclasse Played in one game
S Connor Soelle Played in one game
CB Jordan Clark Played in one game (recovering from sport hernia injury)
Freshmen who have yet to play this year
QB Joey Yellen (decent chance he will play in a game or two this year)
WR Andre Johnson
OL Ben Scott (decent chance he will play in a game or two this year)
OL Roman DeWys
OL Alijah Bates
DL Anthonie Cooper
CB Keon Markham
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