Arizona State dominated Texas-San Antonio 49-7 on Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium in Herm Edwards’ coaching debut. With their 20th consecutive home-opening victory, the Sun Devils are off to a 1-0 start.
1. Edwards insists that games are not about him and lived up to that in various ways. He and his staff entered the field under the ropes on the side instead of through the band tunnel with the players. He was mostly low-key on the sideline, letting his assistants do their job. Afterward, he shook hands with President Michael Crow and Vice President for Athletics Ray Anderson on his way into the locker room while players sang and celebrated in the north end zone. Perhaps most notable, his first comments afterward were critical of ASU’s 11 penalties, a road he does not want to start down.
2. The offensive line gave up no sacks. The defense recorded nine sacks and gave up two yards rushing. It was a performance up front on both sides of the ball that, at minimum, creates hope as ASU tries to navigate a schedule crammed with nationally ranked opponents. The O-line, now with Casey Tucker at left tackle and Cohl Cabral at center, seems cohesive already. And the D-line appears deeper than expected with coordinator Danny Gonzales willing to sub liberally as he looks to confuse and keep guys fresh.
3. We knew the cupboard wasn’t bare on offense, and it felt like offensive coordinator Rob Likens just scratched the surface on what is possible, particularly with the wide receivers. “We were pretty vanilla to say the least,” Edwards said, referring to both sides of the ball, adding that Gonzales has a lot left in his toolbox. If that’s really true and the Sun Devils can execute what they held back, then at least staying in contention for a bowl game seems reasonable.
azcentral sports reporters Greg Moore and Jeff Metcalfe break down ASU’s first win of the Herm Edwards era.
Kynan Marlin, azcentral sports
No one expected QB Manny Wilkins to backslide at the outset of his senior season and his 237-yard, four-touchdown showing was more than acceptable. He ran some, once for 13 yards, and once again tried to hurdle, but also threw on the run and had some pocket presence. His fourth-and-3 pass conversion to Frank Darby in the third quarter was the beginning of the end for UTSA. … Eno Benjamin “does not look like a first-time starting running back,” Wilkins said, both in running (16 carries, 131 yards and a TD), receiving (two catches, 15 yards and a TD) and pass protection. You can’t say we haven’t been telling you about RB Isaiah Floyd, who averaged 8.8 yards (nine carries and 79 yards), even a tad higher than Benjamin. … WR N’Keal Harry seems capable of doing just about whatever he wants in his junior season as attested to by turning a short route to the left into a 31-yard touchdown on the opposite side of the field with defenders left grasping at air in his wake. “You can see why there’s a first-round NFL grade on this guy,” Fox analyst James Laurinaitis, former Ohio State and NFL linebacker, raved. … Can’t wait to see more of WRs Kyle Williams, Brandon Aiyuk among others. … ASU was 7-of-18 on third-down conversions and 2-of-3 on fourth down. … Edwards said he wants to see more sustained drives and less reliance on big plays, the reverse of former coach Todd Graham’s philosophy. UTSA had a 77-60 edge in total plays, a margin that Edwards wants to reverse.
Stepping into the unknown can be frightening or exhilarating. ASU made it the latter, coming within half a quarter of recording the school’s first shutout since 2010. … DE Shannon Forman, a bit of a surprise starter, made it 14-0 with a 25-yard pick six in the first two minutes that set the tone for a defense with six players starting for the first time and none with more than 13 starts. … True freshmen Merlin Robertsonand Darien Butler got starts at linebacker, and both had a tackle for loss (Butler recorded four total tackles). … Edwards gave CB Chase Lucas a lecture in the third quarter for throwing down on a wide receiver and showing off a bit, and S Jalen Harvey, in his first game on defense, was ejected for a targeting penalty in the second quarter so there were ample things for Gonzales to critique and build upon. “I think our ball skills are terrible,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do on that. We weren’t good enough on third down. We didn’t make very many plays in the secondary.” … Still, the Sun Devils led 3-0 in takeaways, producing 14 points, and seem more capable tackling in space than since 2014.
ASU committed four penalties, three for false starts, on punts, which did not go over well with Edwards. “Nerves and young guys,” he said. “… That drives me crazy.” … Nothing especially good came from the return game, where Aiyuk made some receiving mistakes in his first game out of junior college. … K Brandon Ruiz was a touchback machine but did not get a field-goal opportunity. … P Michael Sleep-Dalton looked improved, averaging 47.4 yards including a career-long 62-yarder (53 yards was his best in 2017). “I told him if he didn’t punt it good with those green shoes on, it would be the last time he would ever wear those things,” Edwards said.
Senior LB Jay Jay Wilson did not play because of an indefinite suspension due to a team-rules violation. It’s unknown if that will be lifted for next week’s game. Sophomore RB Trelon Smith also was out due to a coach’s decision and could be back against Michigan State. … There did not appear to be any major injuries as ASU substituted liberally in the fourth quarter including using Dillon Sterling-Cole ahead of walk-on Kurt Walding at quarterback. Sterling-Cole, a redshirt sophomore, ran twice for 22 yards and did not attempt a pass.
ASU hosts No. 12 Michigan State at 7:45 p.m. Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium. The Spartans (1-0) opened with a 38-31 home win over Utah State.