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Offense Starts Fast, Defense Closes 28-10 Win Over Stanford

Oct 8, 2021

TEMPE -- Just when they needed it most, the best offense for the No. 22 Sun Devils ended up being a stout, relentless defense in a 28-10 win Friday night against the Stanford Cardinal.

The Sun Devils' first three offensive drives were as pretty as they were efficient, scoring three touchdowns on a total of 22 plays. Everything offensive coordinator Zak Hill dialed up seemed to puzzle the Cardinal, and the Sun Devils helped themselves to a quick 21-7 start.

But when the offense stalled a bit, turning in five consecutive scoreless possessions that allowed the Cardinal to creep back into the game, it was the Sun Devil defense that supplied the scoring.

In a 21-10 game with the Cardinal driving, Jack Jones jumped the route of wide receiver John Humphreys to intercept Tanner McKee's throw. Before being wrestled to the ground, Jones had the wherewithal to lateral the ball to a nearby DeAndre Pierce, who scampered home for a 27-yard touchdown to complete the pick-flick-six that caused Sun Devil Stadium to erupt.

"Pitching the ball is something the DBs have been talking about for a while, probably since fall camp," Jones said, "but we just never had the opportunity to do it."

"Luckily," he smiled, "he caught the ball."

The Sun Devils' third straight win pushes them to 3-0 in Pac-12 play for the first time since 2012 while also matching their best six-game record to begin a season under Herm Edwards.

Jayden Daniels was smooth and elusive for much of the night, completing 14 of 23 passes for 175 yards and running for 76. He opened the scoring in the first quarter with a 51-yard touchdown run, the second-longest dash of his career.

The Cardinal evened the scoring minutes later, when McKee lofted a 6-yard touchdown pass to Elijah Higgins. But the Stanford offense -- one week removed from an upset win over No. 5 Oregon -- could hardly solve the Sun Devil defense the rest of the way.

The Cardinal offense had nine possessions that followed the first quarter touchdown. Just one resulted in points -- a 32-yard, third quarter field goal by Ryan Sanborn -- but otherwise saw three punts, three interceptions and twice turning it over on downs. The Cardinal only managed to rush for nine yards on 20 carries and converted on five of 14 third downs.

"Defense did a hell of a job of holding them and putting us in a better position to go out there and score," Daniels said. "I give all props to them and I give props to just the team, just the will and the want to finish."

The Sun Devil defense continued to bully the Cardinal, sacking McKee five times while forcing three turnovers and five pass breakups.

Once a 7-7 ballgame, the Sun Devils would embark on a 21-3 scoring run, thanks to rushing touchdowns by Rachaad White and Elijah Badger and bookended by Pierce's defensive score.

With White's five-yard touchdown in the first, one that gave the Sun Devils a 14-7 edge, he tied Oregon State's B.J. Baylor for the most rushing touchdowns (9) in the Pac-12. He paced the rushing attack with 96 yards on 13 carries.

Badger found the end zone on a 22-yard end-around in the second quarter to stretch the lead to 21-7. The redshirt freshman now has two career touchdowns on just three offensive touches.

The Sun Devil offense rolled to 430 total yards, with 255 of them coming on the ground. It pushes their streak of consecutive games with 150-plus rushing yards to 11.

It also marked Edwards' first win over Stanford and just the program's second since October 18, 2014.

The Sun Devils are on the road again next week at Utah, with kick-off scheduled for 7 p.m. PT/8 p.m. MT.