5 Takeaways from Arizona State's Pac-12 opening loss to Utah
The Arizona State Sun Devils dropped to 1-3 with a 34-13 loss to Utah in their Pac-12 opener Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium.
ASU was never in this one, trailing 14-0 after the first quarter and 24-6 at the half. The game wasn't even as close as the final score as Utah substituted freely in the second half and a lot of ASU's yardage coming against backups.
It was the debut of Shaun Aguano as interim head coach after the departure of Herm Edwards last Sunday.
Our key takeaways from the contest.
1. Offensive line needs massive improvement
It all starts up front, whether it's blocking for the running backs or providing pass protection for the quarterback and the Sun Devils front has looked shaky. ASU struggled there last week and that was only against Eastern Michigan. Utah has always boasted a tenacious defensive front so that further exposed the Sun Devils' deficiency there. It hasn't helped that one of the veterans on whom ASU was counting, Iowa State transfer Joey Ramos, is out for the season with an ankle injury sustained in the opener. Quarterback Emory Jones was sacked five times (for a loss of 45 yards) two of those coming on ASU's first possession and resulting in the Sun Devils being pinned at their own 5. Jones had little time to actually set and throw and spent much of the game trying to escape the pressure.
2. Third-down offense still a problem
The Sun Devils came into the contest ranked 120th out of 131 FBS schools in third down conversions at 28.6% (10-for-35).
Saturday's showing did nothing to improve that as the Sun Devils capitalized on just three of 11 attempts. ASU's offense struggled much of the night and was in third-and-long more often than not but even on shorter tries they had issues. In the third quarter the Sun Devils had a third-and-2 at their own 33 and couldn't even pick that up. The play was a run by Jones and he lost a yard.
3. Issues are a mounting concern
No, injuries are not the reason ASU lost but the Sun Devils are very thin at a couple of positions, the defensive line and the secondary in particular.
ASU was down to its No. 3 at one corner spot with Ro Torrence out injured and Keon Markham not available for undisclosed reasons, as was his twin brother Kejuan who had been starting.
The void up front was in the absence of Omarr Norman-Lott who was injured on the first drive of last week's game and was also unavailable.
4. Daniyel Ngata needs more touches
Last year the speedster played behind Rachaad White and Chip Trayanum and it looked like he was destined for a bigger role this season with both those players having departed. But the Sun Devils got a top back from the portal in Xazavian Valladay.
Ngata does good things when he has been afforded the opportunity. He only got one carry out of the backfield but ASU was in passing situations since it trailed the entire game and was in long yardage situations.
D.J. Taylor has been ASU's return specialist but he was injured on his first attempt, which was only a fair catch. Ngata had three kickoff returns for a total of 108 yards, the longest going for 58 yards.
5. Sun Devils have to focus on improvement
This team needs a lot of work and it isn't necessarily going to show up right away. It doesn't help that the Sun Devils play their first three games against nationally ranked opponents, making it even more frustrating.
Everybody wants to win right away but that isn't likely in the cards. There is no quick fix. Players said after the game they are still united and there is no finger pointing, only the desire to get better. That will be a big key moving forward.