Tempe (Arizona) The Sun Devils 30-7 win over Kent State on Thursday night showcased the talented, true freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels at the helm.
But when the Sun Devils watch the tape in film study, they will have to give all the credit on the defense side. Arizona attacked the ball throughout the game and shut down all running lanes against the Golden Eagles.
Daniels completed 15 of 24 passes for 284 yards including a 77-yard catch and run from senior wide out Brandon Aiyuk. He also did it with his feet rushing for 13 yards on multiple scrambles to avoid the blitzing pressure. It was the most by a Sun Devil freshman in a first career game since 1996 — and two touchdowns despite being regularly forced out of the pocket.
The four-star recruit from Cajon High School seemed to keep the game under control. He often used his arm to go deep and his feet to avoid the pass rush. But when he could neither throw nor run away, he took sacks instead of throwing ill-advised passes. Daniels played like a fifth year senior against Kent State.
“He did not have any foolish turnovers. I thought he did very well securing the football; sometimes taking the sack, and he threw a couple of them away.” Offensive Coordinator Rob Likens said.
Daniels was also not afraid to occasionally test the defense, throwing a few high balls and sometimes throwing into tight coverages. While most of those passes fell incomplete or short, Likens would like to utilize Daniels’ arm more just to keep the defensive backs honest.
The greatest ability Daniels showed was the ability to secure the football. Taking sacks instead of giving the ball away will limit the chances for the opposition to score while putting them in worse field position when they do receive the ball.
I can’t be too content with the win. Myself, the receivers, running backs, the whole offense has to improve upon a lot of things.” ASU Quarterback Jayden Daniels said.
Sophomore punter Michael Turk, who sat out last season after transferring from Lafayette College, also impressed in his debut by recording punts of 64, 62, 65 yards and 75 yards, which helped ASU retain favorable field position throughout the contest.
The offensive line struggled in the first half, ASU coordinator Rob Likens made some adjustments with their packages in the second half which produced 91 rushing yards and limits of what’s to come in the season. But it came in a game in which ASU allowed five sacks, nearly one-third of its total a season ago.
“You always try to be positive and all that, but when you have two guys next to each other starting their first game as freshmen, that’s just going to be tough and it’s going to be hard,” Likens said. “But I bet they played really hard. They’ll learn from this.
The Sun Devils are working to incorporate more players on the field than just the 25-plus freshmen who saw action on Thursday. Junior cornerback Jack Jones who began practicing with the team on Aug. 15, forced a fumble while rotating in for junior Chase Lucas who missed practice Tuesday due to illness. They’ll get junior college wide receiver transfer Brandon Pierce next week after he had to sit out the opener per the NCAA.
“There’s a lot of kids that hadn’t played here and true freshman played, a lot of them that were dressed,” Edwards said. “Our redshirt freshmen played as well. We had nobody else to play. It’s not like, you know, these are the guys. It’s like you gotta go play now and I think it gave them confidence because they played in a football game and they won. It always helps you when you win.”