PK: Utah’s Win Over Arizona State Shows Programs Going In Opposite Directions
TEMPE, Ariz. – Excuse Kyle Whittingham for not wasting a lot of time learning the name of the latest Arizona State football coach.
Why bother? Here today, gone any year now.
Like many programs in the Pac-12, ASU changes coaches every few years in a futile attempt to shake up a program that has been mired in mediocrity for the better part of three decades. Since Utah began Pac-12 play in 2011, ASU is on its fourth head coach and again going nowhere in the standings.
Herm Edwards is the latest ASU casualty, stepping aside three games into his fifth season as the head coach. The pro-style approach the administration touted flopped amid a pending NCAA investigation for allegedly recruiting during the COVID-induced dead period.
The latest sacrificial Sun Devil is Shaun Aguano, four years removed from coaching at a local high school powerhouse about 20 minutes away in Chandler. Aguano was given nine games to prove himself worthy of removing the interim tag that is attached to his name.
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His first audition, as expected, fell flat during an intimate gathering Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium. Heavily favored Utah drilled the outmanned Sun Devils 34-13 in what promises to be a difficult stretch for Aguano, whose team faces nationally ranked USC and Washington in the next two games, respectively.
In time, Aguano probably will join the likes of Dennis Erickson, Todd Graham and Edwards in the Pac-12 era in failing to win consistently enough to save a floundering program. Going back to when John Cooper left for Ohio State the year after ASU won its only Rose Bowl during the 1986 season, the next six head coaches were fired.
Only Bruce Snyder, who coached from 1992-2000, lasted more than six seasons. Next man up usually refers to a reserve replacing an injured starter, but for the Sun Devils the tag applies to the next head coach.
Meanwhile, Whittingham and his Utes keep plugging along, rarely straying from the foundation he instituted since being promoted from defensive coordinator in 2005. Only the names change as the years roll by.
Think back to where the program was during the early years in the new conference. Transitioning from the Mountain West, the Utes could not match the overall athletic ability of a middling team like ASU.
That first season in 2011, the Sun Devils came into Rice-Eccles Stadium and mauled Utah 35-14. The rematch in the desert was even worse, with ASU winning 37-7.
It took the Utes five seasons to finally break through against ASU. Now look at the difference between the two programs, which obviously are going in drastically opposite directions.
This season’s version of the Utes, all things considered, might be Whittingham’s most complete team since entering the Pac-12. Always a program stout on defense, Cam Rising appears to have more weapons at his disposal than previous Utah quarterbacks.
The versatility on offense was on display against the Sun Devils, who fell to 1-3 on the season. With star tight end Brant Kuithe suffering an injury early in the game, Rising had no problem spreading the ball around to his other receivers.
No surprise to see Dalton Kincaid, a proven commodity in his own right, step up in Kuithe’s absence. Before the game turned into downright boring, Kincaid had two scintillating touchdown pass receptions in the first half.
But anybody really expect big things from Thomas Yassmin? Maybe if you’re a diehard.
The former rugby player from Australia ripped off a 72-yard pass reception late in the third quarter, dazzling through several would-be tacklers along the way. Buried on the depth chart behind two potential NFL tight ends next season, Yassmin probably would start for the Sun Devils.
Better to bide time and play for a winner, something Utah has been the last several seasons.
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