Shaun Aguano wins first game as ASU coach

Aguano was greeted by Arizona State President Michael Crow and Athletic Director Ray Anderson following the Sun Devils’ win over Washington. The two handed him the game ball to celebrate his first win as interim head coach. (Andy Silvas/Arizonan Contributor)

Shaun Aguano watched eagerly as a Hail Mary from Washington quarterback Michael Penex sailed toward the end zone as time expired.

Once he and the crowd saw the ball fall to the ground, chaos ensued. Aguano jumped in the air and turned to see the Arizona State fans celebrating the Sun Devils 45-38 upset victory over the No. 21 Huskies Saturday afternoon in Tempe.

He was then mauled by coaches and players to celebrate his first win as the interim coach.

“When I saw the ball hit the ground I turned around and I just wanted to look and see the fans’ reaction,” Aguano said. “I remember the same fans a couple games before who were booing and weren’t happy, and they should, we weren’t doing well. But I wanted to take a quick look – 10 seconds – and see their happiness.

“We made a lot of people smile in Arizona. That’s huge for me because I consider myself an Arizonan. We made a lot of people happy tonight and tomorrow. That makes me feel good.”

Aguano’s first win leading the Sun Devil football program came nearly three weeks after he was announced as the interim head coach. After a loss to Eastern Michigan at home, former coach Herm Edwards relinquished his position as head coach with the team.

That opened the door for Aguano to take over, but it came during a three week stretch that, on paper, was brutal for the Sun Devils.

Arizona State started the Aguano era with a lopsided loss to Utah. The Sun Devils then went on the road and lost to USC.

That set the stage for Washington at home. The Huskies were coming off a beatdown from UCLA and Arizona State’s defense stepped up while the offense got into a groove behind backup quarterback and Arizona native Trenton Bourguet.

“Absolute trust,” Aguano said of Bourguet. “That’s at every position. The kids know I will never skip a beat in putting the next person in because I trust all the guys on our team.”

Arizona State starting quarterback Emory Jones left the game in the second quarter with a head injury after he was targeted by a Washington defender. Bourguet entered the game and looked poised and confident in the pocket.

The former Marana High School star led the Sun Devils up and down the field against Washington, as he threw three total touchdown passes and completed 15 of his 21 pass attempts for 182 yards. It was an opportunity that he had waited patiently for, and for it to come with a former Arizona high school football coach leading the way made it more special.

“I’ve prepared the last four years as if I’m the starter,” Bourguet said. “You’re always a play away and I’ve always been told that. I prepared like the starter all week and at the end of the day you come out victorious against a really good Washington team. It was a lot of fun.”

One of Aguano’s promises when he took over as interim head coach was to recruit Arizona high school athletes. He grew to love the state and talent that comes out of it every year from his 20 years at Chandler High School, where he was head coach for eight and led the Wolves to three state titles and an overall record of 88-19.

Aguano, who at times became emotional in his postgame press conference Saturday, doubled down on his promise to recruit the state.

He spent the first two weeks of his tenure out at local Friday night games. And he made sure to remind media Bourguet and former Red Mountain star and current Sun Devil left guard Ben Bray, who came in for one of Arizona State’s injured starters, were both local recruits.

“He’s an Arizona kid that has come in and won one of our biggest games,” Aguano said. “We can win with Arizona kids. I want to keep Arizona kids here. (Bourguet) just amplified that for us.”

The win for Arizona State sets a new tone for the program entering its bye week. Players have bought in to Aguano’s “Ohana” culture, which extends from his Hawaiian background. Now, fans are starting to buy in, too.

Many were pleased on social media following the Sun Devils’ upset win. The Arizona Football Coaches Association, made up of several high school coaches across the state, expressed their support to have Aguano in the driver’s seat moving forward.

“Coach Aguano is a man of high character we feel will do an outstanding job representing Arizona in a number of ways,” wrote Jason Jewell, the president of the AFCA and head coach at Brophy. “One, in particular, is fostering genuine relationships with high school coaches across the state of Arizona. That has been absent for many years from previous head coaches at ASU.

“Obviously, it is up to you to decide if Coach Aguano is the man that will ultimately lead ASU in the future, but please know that he has the backing of every single football coach in the state of Arizona.”

Aguano, in his postgame press conference, thanks fans, his players, coaches and the media for their support during a difficult time.

The win was a culmination of the effort put in by everyone involved after a difficult three weeks.

“I look back and ask if this is one of the greatest days in my coaching career and I say, ‘Absolutely,’” said Aguano, who was given the game ball by President Michael Crow and Athletic Director Ray Anderson. “I feel like I’m the richest man in the world right now … just because of the wealth of love these kids have given me.

“This is a huge win for this program.”

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.