ASU Rallies to Beat Golden Bears

ASU kicked off its PAC 12 schedule with a 51-41 comeback win over the California Golden Bears in Tempe on Saturday. It’s not often that post game accolades go to the defensive unit of the Sun Devils, but it was the defense, and not the offense, that played a key role in the comeback.
Coming into the game, both teams were riding waves of momentum. The Golden Bears were fresh off a thrilling upset victory over then-No. 11 ranked Texas Longhorns, while the Sun Devils entered the game undefeated at 3-0.

It was no surprise that both teams put up huge offensive numbers in the game. They’re mirror images of each other as Cal was ranked No. 2 in the nation in passing offense, and 10th in scoring offense. Similarly, the Sun Devils came in averaging 48.0 points per game. Each had been effective throwing the ball, and each had surrendered big yardage on defense.
Coach Todd Graham’s squad was facing another high powered offense led by an experienced quarterback. At the helm for the Golden Bears was SR Quarterback Davis Webb.

Cal lived up to expectations in the first half by torching the Arizona State defense on the ground, and through the air.
Webb had a solid statistical effort going 32-of-56 for 478 yards, throwing five touchdowns and two interceptions.

It seemed to take ASU quarterback Mammy Wilkins a whole half to get going. After the slow start, he completed 16 of 20 for 228 yards in the second half.
With the score tied 34-34, the Sun Devils’ defense stepped up. Webb had thrown only two interceptions in the first three games, but he was picked off twice in the final minutes of the second half by the Devils. Then, with 48 seconds left to play, D.J. Calhoun scored on a botched onside kick attempt by Cal to essentially put the game away.

When asked if ASU did anything differently in the second half, Golden Bears’ head coach Sonny Dykes said, “No, they just kept playing. They did a great job in the first half scheming us up and they kept doing it. They did a good job taking away the run a little bit in the second half.”

Todd Graham had plenty of post-game praise for his young group of Sun Devils. The sometimes fiery coach was noticeably pleased. “What a game. That was a heck of a football game,” he said. “Really proud of our guys. Just proud of the heart that they showed and figured out a way to get it done. This team has a lot of heart.”

Photo Gallery: all photos by Kevin C Cox/ Core360 Sports

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Arizona State’s Kalen Ballage hosted his own coming out party on Saturday night against Texas Tech. The 6’3” junior RB tied an NCAA record by scoring eight touchdowns in a 68-55 win for the Sun Devils. It was the first meeting between the two schools since a 37-23 victory by Texas Tech in the 2013 Holiday Bowl.

Entering the game, much was made of Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes and the high powered Red Raiders’ offense. Last week he lit up Stephen F. Austin for 483 passing yards.

The match-up between Mahomes and a young core of defensive backs presented the greatest concern for ASU head coach Todd Graham and his staff.

Earlier in the week, ASU defensive coordinator Keith Patterson made it clear he was well aware of Patrick Mahomes’ ability.
“He kind of plays football like Magic Johnson played point guard,” defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. “He’ll run up in there, and all of a sudden, you have guys converging on him and whoever you left, he’ll just dump it right over your head to him.”

Although the defense gave up its share of big plays in the game on Saturday night, the Sun Devils offense, led by Ballage, had plenty of fight in them. They opened up the playbook and showed a few wrinkles that were unseen against NAU last week. Ballage was extremely effective running a “Wildcat” style offensive set.
Lost in the headlines of Ballage’s record setting night, was the performance of quarterback Manny Wilkins. The red shirt sophomore seemed to have found his groove as well. In his second start at the helm of the Sun Devils’ offense, Wilkins completed 28 of 37 passes for 351 yards and rushing 10 times for 55 yards.
Next week  ASU hits the road for the first time in 2016. They travel to San Antonio, TX to face the Roadrunners of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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