ALBUQUERQUE, NM-Arizona State took to the road for the first time this weekend and notched their first victory away from Sun Devil Stadium starting fast and finishing strong putting away pesky New Mexico 58-23 before an announced crowd of 25,742 at University Stadium.
Win the win the Devils improve to 2-0, while the Lobos fall to 0-2. ASU opens Pac-12 play next weekend at Colorado (1-1).
Here are five things we learned in the win.
1. TeleGraham Delivered…the Sun Devils were nursing an 11-point lead at intermission as New Mexico’s tricky triple option offense rolled up 225 first-half yards on Todd Graham’s young defense. All last week in preparation he preached discipline and challenged his players to take their practice habits to another level. “All I said at halftime was, ‘do what you were coached to do.’ That was it. Probably said a little differently than that,” Graham said with a sheepish grin. However he said it, it worked. Taylor Kelly and the offense scored a pair of quick third quarter touchdowns essentially putting the game away. The defense did their part, not allowing a single point in the second half.
2. Going Bananas, Foster…Saturday night junior D.J. Foster did something no ASU running back has done since 2001 (Delvon Flowers against Oregon State) rushing for more than 200 yards (216) on just 19 carries (11.4 yards per carry). Further, he stabilized ASU’s offense catching four passes for 54 yards. After the game he did what all excellent backs do after a big game. “The [offensive] line…they played their butts off,” Foster explained. “We had great communication tonight…great vibes out there.” Unless, of course, you were a member of the Lobos’ defense who frequently saw more of the back of Foster’s uniform than the front.
3. Lobo Lock Down…while ASU’s defense didn’t have their best outing, the offensive line was dominant allowing Foster, Kelly, Demario Richard and others to roll up 423 rushing yards. It’s the highest total since the 1996 Rose Bowl team dropped 450 on the University of Arizona in Tucson. As a team ASU nearly averaged 10 yards per rushing attempt (9.4). Granted, it’s Weber State and New Mexico but Mike Norvell’s offense has amassed nearly 1200 total yards (1,191) in two games.
4. Six for Six…last week it was Gary Chambers who stepped up at wide receiver Saturday it was #6 Cameron Smith who led ASU in receptions (four), yards (71) and scored his first-career touchdown, a 41-yard rope from Kelly in the third quarter. “Man, I’ve been telling Mike [Norvell] for two weeks, ‘I just want him to hit a home run,'” Graham said of the sophomore Smith. “He’s really, really fast. As his confidence gains he can be a really big threat.” Saturday against UNM likely helped in said category.
5. Lessons Learned…nobody is going to archive this win among the best in Graham’s era but being able to take a relatively young team on the road and face adversity is an important part of the maturation process, especially playing in similar conditions (climate, crowd, altitude) as they’ll see when they open Pac-12 play next Saturday in Boulder.