RAN OUT OF GAS
ASU’s furious rally falls short, Red Raiders win shootout
LUBBOCK, Texas - As the fourthdown pass flew through the West Texas rain, coach Todd Graham followed the flight of the ball. Once it landed incomplete, he took off his headset, holding it in his left hand.
For the first time this season, Arizona State showed something Saturday night. It wasn’t enough to get them a win. Not on the road. Not against a high-powered offense, but it was something. Perhaps enough to provide hope.
Saturday’s 52-45 loss here sank the Sun Devils to 1-2. That’s their worst start since Bruce Snyder’s 1999 team started with the same record. That team finished with six wins. Even with Saturday’s strong finish, this group appears miles from such a number, especially with a difficult Pac-12 stretch about to kick in.
Apause for context: The season is still young. The Pac-12 will feature twists and turns nobody expects.
For this team, fans only can hope that the small steps lead to bigger leaps down the road.
Graham coached Saturday about 350 miles from where he grew up in Mesquite. In some ways, this is his backyard. Not long after his arrival in the winter of 2011, Graham pledged to play more games in his home state, a plan to help boost recruiting. It hasn’t gone great. In 2015, a season that began with much
hype, Texas A&M beat ASU in Houston. Last year the Sun Devils had to rally to beat Texas-San Antonio.
This one didn’t start off so well. First a thunderstorm delayed kickoff for an hour. Then Texas Tech rained down on ASU. The Red Raiders bolted to a 21-3 first-quarter lead. After the Sun Devils pulled within 21-17, the Red Raiders scored the last 14 of the half, entering the locker room up 35-17.
The last touchdown was a gift, coming after ASU lined up in an odd formation on a punt. Ja’Deion High burst through the line and blocked Michael Sleep-Dalton’s punt, giving Texas Tech a short field and leaving Graham looking at the video board for answers. Or at least an explanation.
But as the half closed, Graham clapped his hands, encouraging his players as they ran up a stadium ramp to the visitors’ locker room. In the second half, ASU came out a different team. In the first half, the Sun Devils forced Texas Tech to punt just a single time. The Red Raiders had averaged nearly 10 yards a play most of the way.
In the second, ASU held them to just 10 points in five possessions. On the other end, they found their offensive rhythm for the first time this season. With Texas Tech leading 42-24, Wilkins threw a short pass to Frank Darby. The redshirt-freshman receiver picked up a nice block from Ryan Jenkins, motoring 21 yards for a touchdown.
After holding Texas Tech to a field goal – a minor victory at that point – junior quarterback Manny Wilkins led the Sun Devils 70 yards in nine plays. His 9yard touchdown pass to sophomore Kyle Williams brought ASU to within 45-38, silencing the white-out Texas Tech crowd of 58,547.
Then, a rarity: The Sun Devils held. And they took advantage.
Senior running back Demario Richard – returning from a right left injury – provided solid running through the middle. Wilkins hit sophomore N’Keal Harry on a key fourth-down pickup. Two plays later, Wilkins hit Harry across the middle for 21yards, knotting the contest 45-45 with 9:52 to go.
After both teams posted stops, Texas Tech broke through. With 6:26 to go, quarterback Nic Shimonek engineered a 12-play drive that covered 90 yards. Dylan Cantrell’s 3-yard run gave Texas Tech the lead 52-45 with 1:55 to go.
ASU had one last shot to tie. After a first-down completion, Wilkins threw incomplete twice and then slipped on the wet turf. His final incomplete pass ended ASU’s comeback.
Wilkins finished 27 of 41 for 326 yards and three touchdowns. Harry had 13 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown.
Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins (right) carries the ball during the first half of Saturday’s 52-45 loss to Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas.
Arizona State’s Demario Richard finds the end zone for a touchdown during the first half against Texas Tech on Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas.
Texas Tech’s Cameron Batson (13) gets in the end zone for the touchdown during the first half against Arizona State on Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas.