LAS VEGAS — Quarterback Jayden Daniels and linebacker Kyle Soelle were the chosen two Arizona State Sun Devils that got the task of meeting the media moments after a 20-13 loss to Wisconsin Thursday night in Las Vegas Bowl action at Allegiant Stadium.
Ten minutes or so later, head coach Herm Edwards joined them at the podium. He put an arm around Soelle, in a gesture of consolation. As the players got up to leave, the coach embraced his quarterback.
It wasn’t the outcome they wanted, but the undermanned Sun Devils gave a valiant effort, down nine starters against the No. 1 defense in the country. Among those missing were starting corners Jack Jones and Chase Lucas, linebacker Darien Butler and nose tackle D.J. Davidson, and that was just the depleted personnel on defense.
ASU trailed 20-6 at the half, the only points coming on field goals of 36 and 38 yards from Cristian Zendejas but got within striking distance when Daniyel Ngata scored on a 3-yard run with 8:52 left in the third quarter that made it 20-13.
Neither team scored again.
Wisconsin got the ball back with 9:57 left in the contest and never gave up the ball, running off 18 plays and moving 90 yards, eventually running out the clock, taking a knee twice at the end.
“We fell behind, you don’t want to fall behind to a team like this that can chew a lot of time off the clock,” Edwards said. “Their running game the first half, our gap responsibilities versus the run were not as sound as they were the second half. We made some adjustments, had a lot of different combinations of players in there. The second half I thought we had some energy.”
Wisconsin (9-4) totaled 294 yards offense, 217 of that in the first half. The Badgers managed 157 net yards on the ground with freshman phenom running back Braelon Allen racking up 159 yards to earn game MVP honors.
Sophomore quarterback Graham Mertz threw for 137.
Daniels was the workhorse for the Sun Devils (8-5), running for 40 yards on 19 carries but that included negative yardage on four sacks. He completed 11 of 21 passes for 159 yards. Ricky Pearsall was his top receiver with four catches for 65 yards.
ASU also went into the game without two starting linemen and its top two running backs which was made the going tough on the ground. The Badgers came in giving up an average of 65.2 yards on the ground. ASU was held five yards under that.
“I give credit to the Wisconsin defense,” Daniels said. “Everybody in this room knew what they were capable of. They weren’t the No. 1 defense in the country for no reason. They’re very disciplined. We knew coming in this game would be own up front at the line of scrimmage and I feel like we could have done a little better job run blocking, getting the run going but it’s something we have to learn from,” Daniels said. “I gave credit to guys that came in and had to play. They stepped up.”
It may have been just a moral victory but ASU kept Wisconsin off the scoreboard in the second half.
“I feel like all year we’ve been a good adjustment team at halftime We came out, knew what they wanted to do. I thought we did what we were supposed to do in that second half but we came up short in the first half and that affected us in the long term,” Soelle said.
Timarcus Davis, playing in place of Lucas, had a team-high nine tackles and an interception. Omarr Norman-Lott had eight tackles while Merlin Robertson registered seven. Freshman walk-on B.J. Green had two sacks.
Punter Eddie Czaplick helped off
Now even the punter is hurt.
The Sun Devils’ Eddie Czaplicki was back to punt with ASU facing a fourth-and 13 at its own 48. He was run into by Wisconsin’s Daryl Peters but since it was running into and not roughing, it was not an automatic first down.
Czaplicki grabbed his right leg and was helped off the field.
Logan Tyler, who has been only handling kickoffs, came in to punt and got off a 44-yarder that was downed at the 3 where Wisconsin has a first down.
End of 3, ASU still trailing
The third quarter ended with Wisconsin leading ASU 20-13. The fourth quarter will start with Wisconsin facing a third-and-3 at its own 22.
The Badgers are led by Braelon Williams with 114 yards on 18 carries but he managed just 13 yards in the third quarter.
Wisconsin has 209 yards offense while ASU has 185. Jayden Daniels has thrown for 121 and rushed for 45. Ricky Pearsall has four catches for 65 yards with a long of 38 yards.
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