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Six Rushing Touchdowns Fuels 41-14 Opening Game Win

Sep 2, 2021

The No. 25 Sun Devil football program opened the 2021 season on Thursday night at Sun Devil Stadium in dominant fashion with a 41-14 victory over Southern Utah in front of a packed student section.

A quick start, a dominant second quarter and a strong defensive effort all game guided the Sun Devils to the victory. Coming off a dominant 2020 campaign where he led the nation at 10 yards per rush, Rachaad White led the charge, rushing for 58 yards and two touchdowns on just seven carries. DeaMonte Trayanum, who was the highest-graded running back in the Pac-12 last season by PFF, also contributed a solid 52 yards and two touchdowns.

"I think the run game going into this had two very talented runners, and we ran the ball pretty well," head coach Herm Edwards said. "When you look at the numbers, we ran 40 times for 220 yards and we got all our backs in there, but I thought we ran the ball and we took care of line of scrimmage."

ASU rushed for six touchdowns in the game, upping its tally to 19 rushing touchdowns over its last three games dating back to last season - tied for the second-most in the FBS since at least 1996 for most rushing touchdowns over a three-game stretch (Nebraska had 22 over three games in 1997). 

It took the Sun Devils only 24 seconds to score their first points of the season. After an interception by DeAndre Pierce gave ASU the ball at the three-yard line, it took ASU only one play, a handoff to Trayanum, to score the first touchdown of the season and give the Sun Devils a 6-0 lead after the extra point was blocked. 


On the very next drive by the Thunderbirds, the Sun Devil defense was able to force their second turnover of the night as Jack Jones forced a fumble and D.J. Davidson recovered it to put the Sun Devils back on the drive.


Three complete passes for 73 yards by Jayden Daniels, and a 15-yard rush by Rachaad White later, the Sun Devils had a fourth and one on the 26-yard line. White received the handoff and broke through the middle to score the Sun Devil's second touchdown of the night.

Southern Utah answered on the next drive. A targeting and facemask call on the Sun Devils plus a 20-yard complete pass found the Thunderbirds on the 10-yard line. Two plays later, Judd Cockett jumped into the end zone on a seven-yard rush to put the Thunderbirds on the board.

From there, the ASU defense shut the Thunderbirds down for the rest of the half causing two more turnovers and several more stops. Darien Butler had two of the interceptions.


"It was a blast, I'm grateful to be in this position," Butler said of being back in Sun Devil Stadium with fans. "I'm grateful to be talking to you guys, I never thought this would happen."

With the four turnovers the defense forced in the first half, ASU has now forced 31 turnovers in its last 11 games dating back to 2019, good for the most in the nation over an 11-game stretch. It has multiple takeaways in nine of those (and three or more in five of them).

In the second quarter, ASU added two more touchdowns. White scored his second of the night on a one-yard run to complete a four play 34-yard drive with 11:09 left. On the Sun Devils' next drive, Trayanum rushed for a total of 43 yards including a 20-yard touchdown to give the Sun Devils the 21 point lead.

The Sun Devils went into the locker room with a 28-7 lead, in large part because of a stout defensive effort that forced four turnovers and the dynamic rushing threat of both White and Trayanum who combined for 96 yards and all four touchdowns of the half.

ASU converted on its first drive of the second half after three rushes by Daniels and three by White for a combined 40 yards put the Sun Devils on the 26-yard line. A double reverse play handed to Ricky Pearsall gave him a lane down the right side of the field as he tiptoed the sideline and into the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown run with 11:03 left in the third. 

Both ASU and Southern Utah would score once more by the end of the game. Daniyel Ngata had the sixth and final rushing touchdown of the night for the Sun Devils with 8:11 left in the game to make the final score 41-14.

This was the 25th time ASU had scored 40 or more points on opening day, as ASU outgained Southern Utah 421-224 in total yards and almost tripled the Thunderbirds rushing yards at 222-78.

One area the Sun Devils hope to improve upon in coming games is the amount of penalties, after finishing the game with 13 penalties for 135 yards.

"Going forward we can't be the team with this many penalties," Jayden Daniels said. "So we just got to clean up the little things, but it was the first game, we got the win under our belts so we're just moving on to next week."

The Sun Devils are back in action Saturday, Sept. 11 with another home game against UNLV. The game will be on ESPN2 and will kickoff at 7:30 p.m.