RAN OUT OF GAS

ASU’s fu­ri­ous rally falls short, Red Raiders win shootout

The Arizona Republic - - SPORTS - DOUG HALLER

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.

All true.

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.

JOHN WEAST/GETTY IMAGES

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.

JOHN WEAST / GETTY IMAGES

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.

JOHN WEAST/GETTY IMAGES

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.

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