Eagles fall to Cougars in NAIA Semi-Finals

Eagles Dream Ends in Semis

No 15 Utah Topples Arizona State

Big plays. That was the narrative as Utah handed ASU its fourth loss in a row 49-26.

It was senior night at Sun Devil Stadium and the Sun Devils had nearly two weeks to prepare for the match-up against the number 15 ranked Utes.

Coming off a much needed bye week, ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins was finally healthy enough to return to the starting lineup after battling ankle and shoulder injuries. The sophomore QB has a much better grasp of Coach Todd Graham’s system than does Freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole.

The Sun Devils controlled what was an ugly 1st quarter for both teams. They jumped out to an early 13-0 lead and had the 48,000 “blacked out” Sun Devil faithful rocking in the stands.

However, after the sluggish start, Utah quarterback Troy Williams found his groove. And despite ASU having one of the most aggressive defenses in the PAC-12, the Utah offense started to impose its will in the second quarter.

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham dialed up the big plays early in the period and Williams connected with Raelon Singleton for a 64-yard touchdown to cut into the Arizona State lead. After ASU regained the advantage, Williams would also guide an 82-yard scoring drive putting his team up 21-20 at halftime.

Coach Graham’s defensive unit played well at times, but had fundamental lapses that led to long sustained drives for the Utes throughout the game.
Defensively, the Utes took advantage ASU’s depleted offensive line, recording 11 sacks, and 22 tackles for a loss.

To cap things off, Utah’s Joe Williams scored late in the fourth quarter on a 40 yard rushing play to push the lead to 49-26.
Coach Graham was obviously emotional after the defeat. “I am just really disappointed, especially for our seniors,” he said. “It was their last game here, and we just self-destructed.”

ASU had dominated this series at home. The win was the first since the mid 1970’s for the squad from Salt Lake City.