TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Samson Evans had never run for 100 yards in a game at Eastern Michigan. He went way beyond that Saturday night.
“Two years ago, if you had told me I’d have a game like this I don’t know if I would have believed you,” Evans said after carrying 35 times for 257 yards to lift the Eagles past Arizona State 30-21.
“The O-line blocked phenomenally, there was a play where the receivers were blocking really well, the quarterback, everybody doing their job and I just capitalized on it.”
Evans had 96 yards by halftime — as the Eagles (2-1) never trailed in posting the Mid-American Conference’s first victory over a Pac-12 team.
“Samson’s the real deal, he runs really hard. We really believe in him,” Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton said. “We didn’t run the ball particularly well in the first couple weeks and I think our guys wanted to prove that we can.”
Eastern Michigan scored on four of its five first-half possessions, with only an interception stopping the Eastern offense. Arizona State (1-2), meanwhile, didn’t get a first down until late in the first quarter, when they were already behind 10-0.
Xazavian Valladay’s 44-yard touchdown run with 10:48 to play cut Eastern Michigan’s lead to 27-21 early in the fourth quarter. But Evans ran 32 yards on third-and-1 to give the Eagles a first down at the ASU 34. Evans carried on seven consecutive plays on the drive, which led to Jesus Gomez’s third field goal, a 20-yarder to make it 30-21 with 4:24 to go. A fumble on ASU’s next drive finished it off.
Taylor Powell started at quarterback for the Eagles and completed 10 of 14 before being replaced by Austin Smith in the second quarter.
The Eagles scored on their opening drive on Gomez’s 27-yard field goal. Jaylon Jackson’s 4-yard touchdown run capped an 11-play, 80-yard drive. Meanwhile, the Sun Devils went three-and-out in their first two series.
The Sun Devils defense stepped in to help. Kejuan Markham intercepted Powell’s pass at midfield and returned it to the Eagles’ 22.
A personal foul on the first play gave ASU its initial first down of the game at the EMU 7 as time ran down in the first quarter. The Sun Devils scored on the first play of the second period when Emory Jones connected with Andre Johnson for a 3-yard touchdown.
But the Eagles went on another long drive, capped by Smith’s 6-yard TD pass to Hassan Beydoun. ASU responded with its best drive of the half, going 75 yards in 11 play and Jones, finding no one open, scrambled 3 yards for the score to make it 17-14.
Smith stayed in at QB, completing a third-down pass for 42 yards to Tanner Knue. That set up Evans’ 3-yard TD run.
The Eagles ran for 154 yards and threw for 153 before halftime and had 47 plays to Arizona State’s 23. They converted nine times in 10 third-down chances in the first half — 10 of 15 for the game — and did not punt until early in the fourth quarter.
Sun Devils coach Herm Edwards was as usual direct after the game.
“It boiled down to one thing — we couldn’t stop them from running the football,” Edwards said. “They physically got after us, on both sides of the ball.
“We gotta find a way to fix it.”
Saturday’s win is EMU’s fourth over a Power 5 conference team under Creighton. The Eagles beat Rutgers in 2017, Purdue in 2018 and Illinois in 2019.
Eastern Michigan: Smith, the backup QB, ran for 60 yards and threw for 60 in the first half, proving to be a solid alternative for Powell, who was bothered by a shoulder injury and didn’t return after the second quarter. Creighton said he didn’t expect to be out long.
Arizona State: After a slow start, Valladay ran for 127 yards — his third straight game over 100. He was held to 16 yards in the first half.
Eastern Michigan: Hosts Buffalo in the Eagles’ MAC opener on Saturday.
Arizona State: Opens Pac-12 play against Utah Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium.
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