Bourguet leads ASU’s 45-38 win over No. 21 Washington
The Arizona native spurs ASU’s upset win with 3 TDs
TEMPE (3TV/CBS 5) -- Amid the chaotic sea of people on the field, Arizona State defensive tackle Nesta Jade Silvera scanned the area. He couldn’t see it. Where was it? It’s supposed to be here.
“I want to ring it!” he yelled. “Where the (expletive) is the bell?!”
Silvera was referring to ASU’s Victory Bell, which is traditionally rung by the players after a home win. On Saturday, immediately in the wake of the Sun Devils’ 45-38 win over No. 21 Washington, it was nowhere to be found. The fans had stormed the field, asking for autographs and posing for selfies with players. The ringing would have to wait.
But his frustrations were fleeting. Minutes later, as he sat down in the media room for the press conference, he exclaimed, “Don’t it feel good to be a winner?!”
ASU entered the game as 14-point underdogs, and their prospects of an upset seemingly took a hit when starting quarterback Emory Jones was knocked out of the game in the second quarter. But backup quarterback and Tucson native Trenton Bourguet was undaunted, throwing three touchdown passes to key the victory.
The win moves the Sun Devil to 2-4 on the season and snap’s ASU’s four-game losing streak and gives interim head coach Shaun Aguano his first victory at the collegiate level. For a program that has dealt with considerable adversity, much of it self-inflicted, over the last month, a win over a Top 25 team provided a statement that this team still has fight in them.
“Once you get smacked in the mouth so many times, you’re going to get up and throw the first and the last punch,” said ASU running back X Valladay, who rushed for 111 yards. “Start it off and finish it. Our team did this.”
“I feel like I’m the richest man in the world right now.” - Shaun Aguano
Saturday afternoon’s game marked the third consecutive game against a ranked opponent for the Sun Devils. In doing so, Aguano, who took over after Herm Edwards was out as head coach following ASU’s shocking loss to Eastern Michigan, became just the fifth FBS head coach since 1996 to begin his tenure facing three straight Top 25 opponents.
Washington looked every bit the part of the two-touchdown favorite to open the game, driving methodically down the field for an eventual one-yard sneak for a touchdown by Michael Penix to go up 7-0.
In reply, ASU was able to replicate their fast offensive start in last week’s loss to No. 6 USC. Emory Jones marched the Sun Devils down the field with measured passes and strong runs by Valladay. The drive sputtered when what appeared to be a successful fourth-down pickup was called back due to an illegal formation penalty. Thankfully for ASU, freshman kicker Carter Brown connected on a 53-yard field goal to close the gap to 7-3.
Washington would then answer back with a field goal of their own, as ASU’s defense bent but did not break to end the Huskies’ 14-play drive.
Jones and wide receiver Gio Sanders connected on a pair of passes to spark ASU’s next drive into Washington territory. Facing a third-and-6, Jones scrambled to get the first down and slid, where he was struck by diving Huskey safety Asa Turner. The blow earned Turner an ejection for targeting, but it also knocked Jones out of the game. With the upset bid in the balanace, ASU turned to Bourguet for his first meaningful action as a Sun Devil.
Beginning his career as a walk-on before earning a scholarship, what the redshirt junior lacked in measurables, he made up for with a high football IQ, command of the offense, and respect of his teammates. Those traits were on full display Saturday.
“I’ve prepared the last four years like I’m the starter,” Bourguet said. “You’re always a play away, and I’ve always been told that.”
“He knows the offense better than damn near anyone,” ASU center Ben Scott said. “He’s cool as a cucumber.”
After the penalty, ASU was at Washington’s 11-yard line. Valladay took the handoff on the next play into the endzone to tie the game and ease a bit of the burden off of ASU’s new quarterback.
“It really got my confidence going,” Bourguet said.
ASU’s defense got their first stop on the next drive, forcing a Husky punt, and Bourguet showed off why he’s so well regarded in the program. He twice moved the chains with third-down completions, and facing an unblocked defender at the Huksy 14-yard line, he stood firm and made a throw to Valladay who hauled it in and ran into the endzone to put ASU up 17-10.
“That was my hot read,” Bourguet said of Valladay. “Number seven came off the edge. X came wide open, and I just stood in the pocket and made the throw.”
After three weeks of struggles, momentum was finally back on the Sun Devils’ side, and they’d add to it moments later. Penix fired a pass that struck the back of his left guard’s helmet, deflected into the air, and was intercepted by ASU safety Jordan Clark, who raced 38 yards for a touchdown.
“We just needed a little bit of moment on defense,” Clark said of the play. “I think that gave us some swagger and some of the energy we lost back.”
Now up 24-10, ASU’s defense had a chance to close out the half on a high note. Instead, Penix rallied his team for a 75-yard drive that was capped by a Wayne Taulapapa touchdown run to close the deficit at the half to 24-17.
ASU was unable to add to their lead to open up the second half, but a fourth down stop by Khoury Bethley and Merlin Robertson gave the Sun Devils the ball right back at the Husky 29-yard line. Five plays later, Bourguet connected with wide receiver Elijhah Badger for a 10-yard touchdown and a 31-17 lead.
“You know, he’s not the tallest, he’s not the fastest, he doesn’t have the strongest arm,” said Aguano of Bourguet. “But, he has the traits of a great quarterback because he knows how to anticipate, he knows how to rally around his guys and his guys rally around him.”
The second half track meet was officially on.
Washington answered back with a six-play touchdown drive of their own, with Cam Davis running for a four-yard score. Bourguet then went back to work, finding Charles Hall IV for a 17-yard strike just before floating a well-placed deep ball to Bryan Thompson for 38 yards to the UW one-yard line. Daniyel Ngata scored on the next play.
“What he did today wasn’t a surprise to any of us,” Thompson said of Bourguet. “He prepares the right way and does everything right. For him to come in, we had full trust in him.”
Penix and the Huskies kept pace after a 12-play, 75-yard drive that ended with another Davis rushing score to close Washington’s deficit to 38-31 to end the third quarter.
On the second play of the fourth quarter, Bourguet’s hot streak ended, as he was intercepted by Davon Banks. Five plays later, Davis scored again and the game was tied.
“I can’t force the ball like that,” Bourguet admitted.
With momentum now swung in the Huskies’ favor, Bourguet and the Sun Devils responded. Valladay ran for 18 yards on the first play. Bourguet found tight end Jalin Conyers for 14 yards. Later, it was Thompson again for 32. A Valladay 13-yard run got ASU to the one. Two plays later, Bourguet found Badger again for the score to retake the lead.
“It’s tough to get in rhythm coming in late, but I think the wide receivers did a good job catching contested balls,” said Bourguet. “The line gave me pretty decent time, and the running backs made it easy.”
“Trent is a baller,” Valladay said.
With time dwindling, Washington drove to midfield but turned the ball over on downs with 3:51 left. The Sun Devils were unable to run out the clock, and Washington had one last chance, taking over at their 13 with 2:47 left and no timeouts. A sack on the first play by Travez Moore pushed the Huskies back to their three. Facing a fourth-and-11 from their 12, Penix found Rome Odunze for 12 yards, and 15 more were added on due to a targeting penalty.
A few play later, Washington was at the ASU 31 with under 30 seconds left. But a fumble and the ensuing chase pushed the Huskies back 30 yards to set up a do-or-die fourth-and 35 from their own 44. Penix’s Hail Mary pass was knocked down.
As the ball fell harmlessly to the turf, Bourguet and his brother Coben, a walk-on wide receiver, embraced and shared a prayer. Aguano turned to the crowd. He thought about the boos the team heard earlier in the season during the loss to EMU.
So on Saturday, he soaked up the cheers.
“We’ve made a lot of people smile in Arizona.”
The Critical Moment
OK, ASU got a lead. Surely, the heavy favorites will some take it back soon. Here it comes...
Jordan Clark said not so fast.
Just three plays after an ASU touchdown, Penix’s throw deflected off his lineman’s helmet and into the Tempe air.
“I didn’t even know it was in the air until I heard the screaming,” Silvera said.
Jordan Clark knew it, though. He saw the ball, and his eyes opened wide.
“Oh my god,” Clark said. “I just couldn’t believe it. I was just trying to secure the catch, and once I caught it in stride, I knew nobody was going to catch me.”
No one did, and ASU had a two-score lead.
“I saw JC sprint as hard as he could to go get it,” said ASU cornerback Isaiah Johnson. “I said, ‘He’s going to the crib.’”
It was hard to draw up an inspiring comeback story any better for ASU faithful. With the starter out of the game, the undersized local kid gets thrown into the action...and thrives.
Bourguet showed command of the offense and poise in the pocket. He completed 15 of his 21 throws for 182 yards and three touchdowns and the lone interception, but perhaps most impressive was the leadership he displayed through a tough game.
“I’ve seen that leadership in him, and I always said once you have an opportunity, make sure you take advantage of it,” Aguano said. “And he has today.”
“I thought Trent did a really good job taking what the defense was giving him,” Scott said. “He had the offense marching.”
Bourguet didn’t force the issue, making smart reads and delivering well-placed passes.
“It was taking what the defense gives me,” Bourguet said. “It was nice to be able to rely on the run game. We had some pretty nice runs and the protection held up pretty well.”
Bourguet’s play was so good it will inevitably lead to speculation on whether ASU could make a quarterback change once Jones is medically cleared. For now, Aguano is just embracing the iron-sharpens-iron aspect of competition.
“I think in the quarterback room, it’ll be competition and competition makes everybody better,” said Aguano. “And so, when I say battle, I’m not saying that he’s going to be the starter, but it’s going to be a good battle from a competition standpoint. They’ll make each other better.”
For the second straight week, Thompson was a playmaker down the field. He led the team with 78 yards on three catches. Badger led in receptions with seven for 53 yards, including his pair of scores. Out of the backfield, Valladay caught four passes for 22 yards and a touchdown.
Bourguet was helped by a strong ground game led by Valladay on the ground, with his 111 yards marking the fourth time he reached the century mark this season.
“I saw yards,” said Valladay. “A whole lotta yards. And I wanted to get them. "
Ngata added 39 and one touchdown on his four carries as ASU totaled 156 yards on the ground.
Last week, ASU put forth a promising offensive showing before being shutdown in the second half. This week, even with a backup quarterback, they were potent throughout. The Sun Devils gained 397 yards and averaged 6.4 yards per play. While Washington doesn’t have the caliber of defense they’ve had in recent years, it could be another sign of a more sustained turnaround.
“It feels like the start of something,” Scott said. “I feel like we were having a drought out here. Everyone’s heads were down trying to get that first win to bounce us back. I feel like we have to take off from here.”
“It was big for all of us,” Valladay said. “The adversity that we all went through these last couple of weeks, we definitely really wanted it.”
Washington came to Tempe with the nation’s No. 3 passing offense and the No. 12 scoring attack. ASU’s defense—missing key pieces along the line—struggled to slow down the Huskies, allowing 38 points and 458 yards.
But they made key plays in key moments that helped spur the win.
“The key word for today was trust,” Johnson said. “Trust the guy beside you, in front of you, behind you.”
The box score may be ugly, but the trust can be seen if you look closely: Three fourth-down stops, an interception returned for a touchdown, and most importantly, a win.
“I still feel like we haven’t played the full game that we wanted to, but when when you come out with a W, you gotta be happy,” said senior linebacker Kyle Soelle, who led the team with 12 tackles.
The Sun Devils again allowed an opponent to sustain drives with repeated third down conversions, although Washington’s 7-for-14 was less effective than USC’s 8-for-9 a week ago. The lack of a consistent pass rush remains an issue, although they did make Penix uncomfortable in spots.
In addition to his pick-6, Clark had nine solo tackles and a tackle for loss. Silvera added eight, while Robertson also had eight, assisted on the first fourth down stop, and added a quarterback hurry.
ASU’s defense remains a significant work in progress, but with some positive momentum and the hopeful return of some players from injury, improvement is possible. The talent in there, but will the execution catch up?
“We really feel like we can play with anyone,” said senior linebacker Kyle Soelle. “We just had to put a full four quarters into a game, and we finally got it done today.”
The Question: Quarterback controversy?
That will be the one point discussed ad naseum over the bye week, but no, there’s no controversy. At least, not for now. ASU will await word on Jones’ condition, but seeing Bourguet perform at that level gives the staff and fans that the offense can perform if he must miss time. However, if Jones struggles upon his return, it could get interesting.
The real question coming off Saturday’s win will be how much improvement ASU can make over the bye week. We have seen incremental gains on both sides of the ball since Aguano took over, but those were during game weeks. With more time before the next game thanks to the bye week, greater strides are possible.
“With Coach Aguano coming in and setting a whole new approach, a new approach with game days, off days, everything,” Johnson said. “Just to see it all pay off, it shows that it’s making a difference.”
Through the first two weeks and two multiple-score losses, Aguano has put in hard work to turn around the team’s fortunes on and off the field. Getting a key win over a ranked opponent serves as critical tangible proof-of-concept.
“You ask so much of them to work harder every day, and enhance the day-by-day, and taking it step-by-step, and stacking days, and all of that,” Aguano said. “At some point, they’re like, ‘Coach, it’s been 12 days, and I had nothing.’ The affirmation of the win makes everything sweet. The affirmation of all their hard work and them putting what they put on the field just says a lot about their character, their fight to win and then our coaches’ fight to win.”
For the players, it helped relive the strain of the now-snapped losing streak.
“We brought it home for the ASU community,” Badger said. “We needed it.”
Some promising gains and now a big win show Aguano’s relentless approach is working. But is it working fast enough to get ASU’s season back on track and into bowl contention, let alone a chance at him to retain the job? We’ll see.
“They know that I’m coming for them,” said Aguano. “They know that I’ll never give up on them. They know our coaches will never give up. So that relentlessness is now what you see on our kids because they relentlessly want to win. And so, we want to stack this win now with Stanford in two weeks.
The Next Step
With the season at the midway point, the Sun Devils head into their bye week. They will open the second half of their schedule with a road trip to face Stanford on Oct. 22.
The Extra Point
- The last time an ASU kicker made a field goal from 50 or longer before Brown was Brandon Ruiz against Washington on Oct. 14, 2017.
- In the first half, Valladay entered the top 200 of college football’s all-time leading rushers, passing Florida State’s Greg Allen (3,769) and Ohio State’s Eddie George (3,768).
- Since his targeting penalty came in the second half, ASU defensive tackle B.J. Green will miss the first half of ASU’s next game against Stanford.
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