Second Half Struggles Drop Sun Devils at Utah, 35-21
SALT LAKE CITY – Sun Devil Football gave up 28 unanswered second-half points to drop its Pac-12 South duel against the Utah Utes on Saturday night in Salt Lake City.
The Utes overcame a 14-point halftime deficit to hand ASU its first loss in Pac-12 play, dropping the Sun Devils to 3-1 in league play and 5-2 overall.
Jayden Daniels threw for 237 yards on 20-of-31 passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions but he and the offense couldn't get anything going in the second half with the defense struggling to get off the field. Curtis Hodges had arguably his best game as a Sun Devil with four catches for 74 yards and a touchdown.
Tyler Johnson had two tackles for loss but ASU struggled to make plays in the backfield, recording no sacks and just three tackles for loss in the game.
ASU will enter its bye week before hosting back-to-back homes games against Washington State and USC on Oct. 30 and Nov. 6.
The entire second half went against the Sun Devils, who had less than 10 minutes of possession time and only 75 yards in the half by the time Utah scored its fourth straight touchdown with 2:39 remaining in the fourth quarter. ASU, which had only given up 27 second-half points all season, gave up 28 and was outgained 285-97 in the second half.
With the game tied at 21-21, ASU got the ball to the Utah 20 but a pivotal holding call and a sack put ASU on fringe field goal position, missing a 51-yarder that was tipped at the line. Utah would take it 67 yards on its next drive for the go-ahead score and ASU was unable to find an answer from there.
HOW IT GOT THERE
The Sun Devils drove down the field at will on the opening drive of the game, shaking off a pair of holding calls before Daniels found Jalin Conyers for his first career touchdown on a seven-yard strike capping off a drive where ASU accounted for 95 yards of offense on 11 plays over 5:21. Early third down conversions have hurt the Sun Devils in recent weeks and it was the same story on the following drive with Utah converting two third-and-longs en route to a 75-yard scoring drive of their own to even things at 7-7 with 4:29 remaining in the frame. The team's exchanged three-and-outs to keep it all square through a quarter.
The two teams exchanged a pair of turnovers to open up the second quarter with Utah collected a fumble recovery before Darien Butler picked off Rising a couple plays later. The Sun Devils turned it into points with a five-play, 69-yard drive keyed by a 59-yard reception from LV Bunkley-Shelton that put Daniels over 5,000 passing yards for his career. Daniels did the rest on a two-yard scamper to make it 14-7. The Sun Devils would make it a two-score game later in the half with a six-play, 63-yard drive that saw Daniels find Curtis Hodges for a 15-yard diving snag in the end zone to go up 21-7 with under a minute left. Kejuan Markham recorded his first career interception about 30 seconds later to staunch a Utah scoring threat and send ASU in the locker rooms up by 14.
It was an inauspicious start to the second half as Utah promptly drove 75 yards in the first five minutes to get back within a touchdown. Utah capitalized another a quick ASU three-and-out for another score at the 6:20 mark to even the score at 21-21 midway through the third.
Utah made it three unanswered touchdown drives with another score to open up the fourth quarter to take its first lead of the game at 28-21. The Utes sealed the deal with a big-boy drive, going 82 yards on 12 plays and taking 6:58 off the clock to score its final touchdown with 2:39 remaining in the game.