Sun Devils can’t hang with No. 13 Utah late, suffer 4th straight loss
TEMPE, Ariz. — Utah was concerned about Arizona State’s attacking defense. Turns out the Utes can bring a little pressure, too.
Joe Williams had another big game in his post-retirement tour and No. 13 Utah had 11 sacks among its 22 tackles for loss, leading the Utes to a 49-26 win over Arizona State Thursday night.
"We just kept plugging away and the flood gates just opened up near the end of the game," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.
Utah (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12, No. 15 CFP) overcame a slow start with a series of spectacular plays against the FBS’ worst passing defense to end an eight-game losing streak in Tempe.
Williams ran for 181 yards and a pair of scores, giving him 844 yards and five touchdowns in four games since returning from a four-week retirement.
Troy Williams threw for 296 yards and three of his four touchdown passes to Raelon Singleton, who had 116 yards on four catches to help the Utes stay within reach of No. 16 Colorado in the Pac-12 South.
Utah’s defense found a new level of pressure.
The Utes harassed Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins all night, most of it coming from Hunter Dimick. The senior defensive end entered the game with seven sacks and nearly doubled his total against Wilkins, pulling him down five times to break the school record.
Utah had six sacks in the fourth quarter and now has the two highest single-game sack totals in FBS this season after getting 10 against San Jose State on Sept. 17.
"We probably missed him a much as we got him," Dimick said. "That dude was a freak athlete, but toward the end we fortunately were able to get him bottled up."
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Wilkins was adept at avoiding some tackles with some how-did-he-do-that moves in his return from injury, but also made some key mistakes.
He threw an interception in the end zone in the first quarter and Chase Hansen put the game put the game out of reach by returning an interception 43 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Wilkins finished with 309 yards and a touchdown on 19-of-31 passing.
"Those are completely mental errors on my part, errors I can’t make," Wilkins said.
Arizona State (5-5, 2-5) had plenty of mistakes in its defensive secondary again.
The Sun Devils held Utah to 27 total yards in the first quarter, but once the Utes got one big play, they kept ’em coming.
Singleton got the first one, shedding a tackling along the sideline on a 64-yard touchdown . It was the 13th touchdown of 50 yards or more allowed by Arizona State this season.
Utah’s next touchdown wasn’t over 50 yards, but it was spectacular: Siaosi Wilson laying out for a 27-yard catch just inside the pylon, held up by official review.
The Sun Devils went back to their defensive lapsing at the end of the second quarter, inexplicably leaving Singleton open — no one was within 15 yards of him — in the end zone for a 17-yard score.
Williams had the 14th scoring play of 50-plus yards against Arizona State to open the third quarter, breaking a couple tackles on an 82-yard touchdown run.
"They had a great game plan and stuck to it," Arizona State safety Marcus Ball said. "They did some things and schemes, but down the stretch we had some self-inflicted wounds that cost us."
Arizona State had a pair of spectacular touchdown of its own.
N’Keal Harry had one in the second quarter, covering about 50 yards while dodging numerous tacklers on a botched fake play turned into a 31-yard scoring run.
Tim White added another in the third quarter, somehow getting a foot down at the edge of the end zone for a 12-yard score.
Utah’s defense was at its harassing best and its offense had a nice balance, setting the Utes up nicely for the season’s final two games.
Arizona State got a spark from Wilkins’ return, but couldn’t protect him or stop giving up big plays on defense. The Sun Devils need to win one of their final two games to become bowl eligible.
Utah hosts Oregon next Saturday before playing at No. 16 Colorado in a potential showdown for the Pac-12 South title.
Arizona State hosts No. 4 Washington next Saturday before playing at rival Arizona in its regular-season finale.
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- Hunter Dimick
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