Behind the Numbers: ASU football suffers first loss of season against San Diego State

The Sun Devils could not run the ball for the second straight week

ASU football escaped week one with a 37-31 win over New Mexico State, but could not overcome glaring issues against San Diego State Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium. 

The Sun Devils (1-1) dropped a 30-20 decision to the Aztecs (2-0) at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. ASU had no answers for SDSU running back Rashaad Penny, and the offense struggled to establish a run game of their own.

On top of that, the kickoff coverage unit allowed a 99-yard return, and sophomore punter Michael Sleep-Dalton shanked a punt which led to a Aztecs' field goal.

Their struggles against Sun Belt and Mountain West conference opponents does not bode well for a brutal upcoming schedule. After a trip to Lubbock, Texas and a date with the pass-happy Texas Tech Red Raiders, the Sun Devils welcome the Oregon Ducks to Tempe before a challenging four game stretch against Stanford, Washington, Utah and USC. 

ASU has struggled to find their identity on offense. After the game, head coach Todd Graham said they are supposed to be a run, play action pass team. But the Sun Devils did not establish a consistent running game on early downs and as a result, had to convert long third downs. 

Graham pointed out that senior Demario Richard was unavailable, and fellow senior Kalen Ballage got "dinged up" during the game. Now in his sixth-season at the helm, Graham said the offensive line has to run block better.

So what went wrong for the Sun Devils? Here is a look at the numbers that allowed the Aztecs to leave Tempe with a victory. 


That is the difference in net rushing yards between SDSU (279) and ASU (44). The Aztecs ran 43 run plays compared to the Sun Devils' 31. Penny received 18 of those carries and averaged 12 yards per carry. 


One of the bright spots for ASU was redshirt junior quarterback Manny Wilkins and the pass game. Following an impressive week one performance, Wilkins completed 20 of 33 attempts for two touchdowns and no interceptions. 

Wilkins did lose a fumble but completed several deep balls, so it's hard to blame the Sun Devils performance on Wilkins. Wide open receivers failed to haul in catches and after getting down early, ASU's offense became one dimensional. When that happens, it is hard to get in rhythm. 


Penny totaled 353 all purpose yards. ASU knew the senior running back would be the focus of the Aztecs' game plan but had no answer for him. In addition to his impact on the ground, Penny caught a 38-yard pass for a touchdown and returned a kickoff for 99-yards. 


After being sacked seven times against New Mexico State, Wilkins was dropped five more times. The Sun Devils allowed a Pac-12 high 41 sacks last season and already have given up 12 in two games this season, the most in the Pac-12. 



Ballage's one-yard touchdown run from the Sparky formation in the first quarter was the 24th touchdown of his Sun Devil career. 

The senior needs four more scores to tie Art Malone for fifth on the Sun Devils' all-time rushing touchdown list. 

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