TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)Arizona State forced a turnover on its opening defensive series and scored a touchdown on the next play.
The offensive linemen, who were supposed to stay on the field for the extra point, began trotting toward the sideline amid the excitement. A defensive player started running onto the field.
Another player, not realizing he was supposed to be on special teams, sprinted out at the last second, causing the ball to be snapped just before the play clock expired.
The kick was blocked.
The 25th-ranked Sun Devils went on to win the game by 27 points, but the chaotic first extra-point attempt turned out to be a harbinger of things to come in a sloppy season opener.
”There’s this fine line between being passionate and emotional,” Arizona State coach Herm Edwards said on Monday. ”You can’t get emotional because you’ll make errors.”
Arizona State’s opener against Southern Utah was filled with plenty of breakdowns, particularly in the first half.
The Sun Devils had numerous mistakes on special teams, starting with the opening kick sailing out of bounds, and had 11 penalties for 120 yards in the first half.
Arizona State opened the second half with a penalty, but settled down after that, rolling to a 31-14 victory.
The film after showed some good things, like a powerful running game, good protection by the offensive line and blanket coverage by the defensive secondary. It also showed there’s plenty to clean up before Saturday’s game against UNLV.
”We’ve always talked about a standard of how we want to play. We didn’t do a good enough job of that,” Edwards said. ”It’s kind of interesting when you watch football, period. You have all these thoughts in your mind and what it’s going to look like. As coach, I’ve done enough of them and played in enough of them, you really don’t know what it’s going to look like. You just sit there and you watch it. You go, OK, how can I help fix it?”
Special teams will certainly be a point of emphasis in the week of preparation for UNLV. In addition to opening kickoff and the botched extra point, Arizona State had a roughing penalty on a punt, allowed Southern Utah to recover a pooch kickoff and missed another extra point.
The Sun Devils also had some breakdowns against the run on defense, including a 21-yard touchdown run by the Thunderbirds.
Tightening that up will certainly be a priority against UNLV.
Senior Charles Williams is one of the best running backs in the West, a shifty runner who has racked up yards and touchdowns during six years in the desert. Barring an injury, he will likely become UNLV’s all-time leading rusher and opened the season with 172 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a double-overtime loss to to Eastern Washington.
”We’ll find out how well we tackle this week because of that running back,” Edwards said. ”He’s a good football player.”
The good news for the Sun Devils is that they’ll have the experience of playing in front of fans again.
The home opener always brings out emotions and this year’s had the added juice of playing in front of fans for the first time in nearly two years due to the pandemic. The Sun Devils seemed a little too amped by the experience, which Edwards hopes won’t again be a factor now that they’ve been through it once before.
”This stuff’s hard, it really is, and you think you’re ready to do it until you play a game and there’s fans. That makes a difference,” Edwards said. ”That’s why guys love to play in a stadium with fans because it makes a difference. When you haven’t felt that in almost two years, it’s a wonderful feeling.”
So is winning. The Sun Devils have a few kinks to work out if they’re going to have that feeling again this week.
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