College football is BACK! The 2023 Arizona State Sun Devils started their first season under new head coach Kenny Dillingham this past Thursday night, August 31st, with a home opening win vs Southern Utah in a nail biter 24-21. Although the final score was close there were definitely some outside factors that played a part.
For starters, the Sun Devils gave the starting nod to Freshman Jaden Rashada at quarterback, thought to be either red shirted or 3rd string when spring camp finished. Rashada shined in fall camp, beating out incumbent Senior Trenton Bourguet and Sophomore transfer from Notre Dame Drew Pyne, who suffered a hamstring injury late in camp. Jaden has the talent and ability to lead this team, however, during his first game in a Sun Devil uniform there were some awareness issues and situational decisions that could have been handled better, that being said, he is a Freshman and has plenty of time to develop.
Next lets take a look at the weather, ASU went up 21-7 right before half after 2 impressive throws by Rashada, the first on a 4th and 8 around the S. Utah 43 yard line for a touchdown and the other on a fade route with 5 seconds left in the first half for a touchdown. Arizona State was set to receive the ball to start the second half then the unthinkable, a 2 hour and 36 minute weather delay! I know both teams have to play after, but the Sun Devils came out flat. Other than a crazy kickoff return from one of the Sun Devils star players Elijah Badger, Arizona State looked awful. Unforced errors, penalties started to stack up, especially on the offensive side of the ball, the Sun Devils weren’t ready to play that second half, it showed the inexperience of this team playing as a unit.
On the flip side, the Arizona State defense looked good. A good mix of pressure packages and outstanding coverage, as well as snuffing out the run early and often. There were a couple of lapses here and there but, definitely more good than bad takeaways from that side of the ball.
The Sun Devils next test is this Saturday in Tempe, currently slated for a 10:30 pm EST kickoff on FS1, vs Oklahoma State (1-0).