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Behind the Numbers: ASU football unable to get one more stop, comeback falls short

The Texas Tech Red Raiders passing attack overwhelmed the Sun Devils secondary

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ASU senior linebacker Koron Crump (4) looks to the sideline for direction between plays on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. The Sun Devils went on to beat the Aggies 37-31.

The Sun Devils fell short, 52-45, on their first trip to Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas, to face the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

The worst thing a team can do on the road is fall behind early, but that is exactly what head coach Todd Graham's team did. ASU grabbed an early 3-0 lead, but Texas Tech struck quickly before anybody could blink — the Red Raiders were up 21-3 and had out gained ASU in total yards, 178-69. 

But, the Sun Devils outscored Texas Tech 21-10 in the third quarter, and a fourth straight touchdown drive tied the game up at 45 in the final quarter. 

The Sun Devils had momentum and could easily have won the game. So, what ultimately caused ASU to come up short? 


The Sun Devils surrendered 543 passing yards and six passing touchdowns against the Red Raiders. If the Sun Devils did not face the San Diego State Aztecs in week two, ASU might find themselves dead last in passing defense again. 

ASU finished the last two seasons with the worst pass defense in the country. After three games this season, the Sun Devils are 124th out of 129 FBS teams in pass yards allowed (1,014). That includes the game against the Aztecs, in which 279 of their 352 yards came on the ground. 


The Red Raiders averaged 15.5 yards per attempt when they threw the football on third down. Additionally, Texas Tech needed more yards on average to pick up a first down, but were two of three on third down with nine-plus yards to gain. 

The Sun Devils struggled to get off the field on third down in week two against San Diego State. Graham talked about finding a way to tackle in space on third down, especially on third and long and extra long. 

The numbers show first-year coordinator Phil Bennett's defense still has room for improvement in that area. 


Texas Tech may have a new quarterback, but the Red Raiders have not missed a beat. Senior Nic Shimonek took over and has impressed. He completed 37 of his 50 passes for 543 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions, a 74 percent completion rate. 

The Sun Devils defense sacked Shimonek three times and generated four tackles for a loss, but it was not enough to make him uncomfortable in the pocket. 


The Sun Devils defense only forced one turnover Saturday. 

Graham talked last Monday about the need to come up with takeaways against the Red Raiders' dynamic offense.

Tautalatasi fell on a fumble, but ASU did not force an interception. Even though time of possession slightly favored the Sun Devils, they simply could not do enough to get the Red Raiders' offense off the field. 


The Sun Devils ran the ball for 168 yards, more than the first two weeks combined. 

More than anything, ASU has to be encouraged by this. When seniors Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard both play in the same game, they have an impact. ASU certainly missed Richard in the first two weeks. 

Ballage ran for 56 yards and a touchdown on 16 attempts. Richard contributed 53 yards and a touchdown on 15 attempts. 


Redshirt junior quarterback Manny Wilkins currently ranks 18th in the country in passing yards and 21st in the nation in pass efficiency.

In Lubbock, Wilkins was 27 of 41 for 326 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. 

The 6-foot 3-inches, 200-pound Wilkins connected crisply with sophomore wide receiver N'Keal Harry and sophomore Kyle Williams on short and long passes. Both receivers finished the game with over 100 yards. 

Wilkins has implemented first-year offensive coordinator Billy Napier's run-pass option offense almost to a tee.The senior has completed 68.3 percent of his passes so far this season with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. 

Wilkins ability to accurately throw the deep ball has made ASU's vertical passing game effective. 

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