LAS VEGAS — The undermanned Arizona State Sun Devils hung with the Mountain West champions for three quarters -- but No. 21 Fresno State proved too much even for the resilient Devils to overcome.
Fresno State defeated ASU 31-20 in the Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday. The loss ended the Devils' season with a 7-6 record in Herm Edwards' first year at the helm, while the Bulldogs won a school-record 12th game.
ASU was without arguably its best player on offense (wide receiver N'Keal Harry) and its best player on defense (Merlin Robertson) on Saturday. The 11-point loss was the biggest for ASU this season; the Devils hadn't lost a game by more than seven points before Saturday.
Here are three big takeaways from the game.
1. Eno's big day not enough
Despite the loss, Sun Devil fans can be thrilled that they get Eno Benjamin back for at least one more season, and maybe two. On Saturday, the sophomore running back put his team on his shoulders, rushing for 118 yards and a touchdown against a stingy Fresno State defense. Benjamin broke the previous school record of 1,565 rushing yards by Woody Green in 1972.
#MMLVBowl Highlight ...— Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl (@LasVegasBowl) December 15, 2018
-Here's 📽️ of @ASUFootball's Eno Benjamin breaks the school's single-season rushing mark with this 13-yard run up the middle moments before his 17-yard TD gives the Sun Devils the lead! pic.twitter.com/O76YryDoid
2. Too many mistakes
The Sun Devils simply couldn't overcome their miscues Saturday. Senior quarterback Manny Wilkins, who had only thrown four interceptions all season, threw a pair of picks vs. Fresno State, including one that was returned 70 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. His second INT in the fourth quarter sealed the Bulldogs' win.
Wilkins, however, did an outstanding job of leading the Devils as their starting QB for three seasons, and he's represented his school with nothing but class both on and off the field. Despite Saturday's defeat, he'll be remembered in Tempe as a winner.
3. What now?
Despite the loss, the future seems very bright for Edwards and the Sun Devils. They're assembling an outstanding recruiting class, highlighted by three top-tier quarterbacks, including four-star stud Jayden Daniels.
A 7-6 record might not seem like much to brag about, but the Devils outperformed expectations this season -- and more importantly, Edwards silenced a mountain of skeptics who sneered at the hire by ASU athletic director Ray Anderson.
The only bad news? Expectations will be much higher next season, and the Sun Devils will have to continue to improve in order to reach Anderson's expectation of ASU becoming a perennial top-15 football program.