Fri, 22 Sep 2023

New-look Arizona State has tough task vs. No. 13 Utah

Field Level Media
21 Sep 2022, 05:55 GMT+10

The first game for Arizona State following the firing of Herm Edwards as head coach will take place Saturday when the Sun Devils host No. 13 Utah in the Pac-12 opener for both schools.

Shaun Aguano, Arizona State's running backs coach, was named the interim head coach Sunday after Edwards was terminated with the Sun Devils 1-2 following last week's 30-21 loss at home against Eastern Michigan.

It was the first win by a Mid-American Conference team over a Pac-12 team in a regular-season game.

"Our kids and our coaches have been through a lot in the last 24 hours," Aguano said Monday. "My focus now is the next nine games. How do I inspire these guys to play fast, physical football? That's my No. 1. Making sure I take care of the kids, that's the most important thing for me."

Aguano, a former high school coach in the Phoenix area, added that the Sun Devils had a player-led meeting "that went very well and they're all in."

Edwards went 26-20 at Arizona State after he was hired in 2018.

His eventual permanent replacement will be the Sun Devils' fifth head coach since Kyle Whittingham was hired at Utah in 2005.

Whittingham does not expect significant strategy changes from Arizona State with Aguano taking over.

"Herm put a lot of faith in his coordinators to do their thing and I don't think we'll see a lot of change based on the head coach as far as schematics in one week," Whittingham said. "Now if they had a bye week maybe you'd see more of that, but just going from Saturday to Saturday there isn't a whole lot you can change in that period of time."

Utah (2-1) enters conference play leading the Pac-12 in passing yards allowed per game (90.0), team passing efficiency defense (80.85) and total defense (236.3).

The Utes also are the conference's top rushing team at 216.7 yards a game led by Tavion Thomas' 232 yards on 50 carries with four touchdowns.

LSU transfer Chris Curry had a season-ending foot injury in the 35-7 win over visiting San Diego State on Saturday. Curry had 81 yards on 12 carries with a touchdown this season.

"It is too bad about Chris. He is a great teammate, a great kid," Whittingham said. "The silver lining is he will be back next year. Oddly enough, I guess he had that same injury in high school. We expect a full return to health and 100 percent ready to play football again."

Arizona State's defense allowed Eastern Michigan's Samson Evans to gain a career-high 258 yards on 36 carries with a touchdown.

Utah has shown balance on offense with quarterback Cameron Rising tied for No. 16 in the FBS and second in the Pac-12 in touchdown passes with eight. He ranks fourth in the conference in passing efficiency (164.3) and total offense (261.0) and fifth in completion percentage (.671).

Arizona State quarterback Emory Jones, a transfer from Florida, has yet to throw an interception this season in 74 attempts. He has completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 557 yards and two touchdowns.

Wyoming transfer Xazavian Valladay has rushed for 361 yards on 52 carries with four touchdowns. He has rushed for at least 100 yards in his first three games with the Sun Devils.

--Field Level Media

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