Arizona State won the first game of the Kenny Dillingham era, defeating Southern Utah 24-21 on Thursday night at Tempe, Ariz., in a season opener that was delayed 2 hours, 36 minutes after halftime due to lightning in the area.
Dillingham, the youngest head coach in the nation at 33, is guiding a team that has 78 new players since last season, 40 of them transfers.
The lengthy delay caused the game to end at 1:01 a.m. local time.
The Sun Devils led 21-7 at halftime, and the first five possessions of the second half (three of them for Arizona State) resulted in punts before Southern Utah produced a 70-yard scoring drive.
The Thunderbirds, propelled by a 52-yard pass from Justin Miller to Isaiah Wooden, cut the deficit to seven with 49 seconds left in the third quarter on a 17-yard pass from Miller to Zach Mitchell.
Arizona State responded with Dario Longhetto’s 38-yard field goal with 13:41 remaining.
Southern Utah’s George Ramirez returned a blocked punt 47 yards for a score with 7:50 left, pulling the visitors within 24-21.
Arizona State ran out the clock in its last possession that started with 5:19 left at its 13 and ended at the Southern Utah 31.
The Sun Devils jumped in front in the first half behind the play of freshman quarterback Jaden Rashada, who completed 12 of 16 pass attempts for 182 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in the half.
He finished with 236 yards on 18-of-31 passing.
Rashada engineered a scoring drive in the Sun Devils’ first possession that culminated with Cameron Skattebo’s 6-yard run with 9:00 left in the first quarter.
Southern Utah tied the game when Targhee Lambson ended an 11-play, 62-yard drive with a 1-yard scoring run with 11:05 remaining before halftime.
Rashada’s touchdown passes to Xavier Guillory and Troy Omeire occurred on Arizona State’s last two possessions of the first half.
Guillory’s 47-yard score came on a fourth-and-8 play with 5:32 left.
Omeire’s 3-yard touchdown catch happened with two seconds showing on the clock after Southern Utah called timeout with five seconds remaining to get its defense set.
Guillory ended the night with five catches for 73 yards. Skattebo gained 71 yards on 17 carries, and teammate DeCarlos Brooks ran for 63 yards on 12 attempts.
Miller wound up 8 of 17 for 123 yards and one touchdown. Braedon Wissler paced the Thunderbirds’ ground game with 45 yards on 15 carries.
–Field Level Media