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ASU Football: No. 17 Sun Devils outlast New Mexico

It wasn't easy, but Arizona State came out on top of the New Mexico Lobos on Saturday, leaving UNM with a 58-23 victory.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into Saturday's road opener at New Mexico, No. 17 Arizona State (2-0) was expected to run away with an easy victory, as the Lobos officially ruled out both their starting quarterback and starting running back due to injuries sustained in their Week 1 loss to UTEP. However, New Mexico's triple-option offense proved dangerous against a young Sun Devil defense, and what started out as a 22-0 lead evaporated into a 29-21 lead for Arizona State. Showing their resiliency, the Sun Devils bounced back in the second half, scoring two early touchdowns to put the game out of reach, eventually winning 58-23.

New Mexico (0-2) started the game with Clayton Mitchum filling in at quarterback for the injured Cole Gautsche, and he struggled mightily. The redshirt senior never attempted a pass, and lost 13 yards on his five rushing attempts, prompting New Mexico head coach Bob Davie to yank him and insert redshirt freshman Lamar Jordan.

Meanwhile, the Sun Devils ran roughshod on the Lobos in the first quarter. Taylor Kelly scampered 52 yards on a scramble that put Arizona State in the red zone, and Deantre Lewis closed the Sun Devils' opening drive with a short-yardage touchdown. Rather than kick the extra point, the Sun Devils pulled off an impressive two-point conversion, as De'Marieya Nelson found placekicker Zane Gonzalez in the end zone for the conversion.

New Mexico shot itself in the foot all too often as they failed to execute the basics of their triple-option offense, fumbling away two straight possessions. Mitchum lost the first one after Lewis' touchdown, and Marcus Hardison recovered the loose ball at the Lobos' 32-yard-line. After a 20-yard run from DJ Foster, Kelly scrambled up the middle and dove into the endzone for a 12-yard score, upping the Sun Devil lead to 15-0.

Jordan didn't fare much better than Mitchum when he came into the game, fumbling on his first possession and giving Arizona State great field position again, this time at the New Mexico 24-yard-line. Three plays later Arizona State found themselves in the end zone again, as Kalen Ballage rumbled for a one-yard score, and a blowout seemed in order as the Sun Devils led 22-0.

But Jordan improved as the game went on, leading the Lobos on an eight-play drive that spanned 75 yards. He operated the triple-option effectively, eventually pitching the ball to Jhurrell Presley for an eight-yard touchdown. The Sun Devils and Lobos traded punts, and Arizona State improved on their lead, as Ballage scored his second touchdown of the day on a three-yard rush.

Jordan immediately responded however, finding Teriyon Gipson for a 35-yard score on Jordan's second pass of the game. Following a Sun Devil punt, New Mexico pulled within one possession of Arizona State as Crusoe Gongbay scored on a five-yard rush to bring the Lobos within eight points at 29-21. A Zane Gonzalez field goal ended the half on a good note for Todd Graham's Sun Devils, but what was initially seen as a blowout was suddenly a competitive game as Arizona State held a slim 32-21 lead at halftime.

Whatever Graham said to his team in the locker room worked, and in the second half Arizona State reasserted the dominance that paced them to the early 21-0 lead. On their first play from scrimmage in the second half, D.J. Foster broke open a 49-yard run down the left sideline, setting up a Jaelen Strong 24-yard touchdown over two New Mexico defenders, increasing Arizona State's lead to 38-21.

After forcing another Jordan fumble, Kelly wasted no time in finding the end zone again, this time connecting with Cameron Smith for a 41-yard touchdown strike. Arizona State carried the 45-21 lead through the rest of the third quarter, and Foster put the game out of reach early in the fourth. Foster broke a pair of tackles and rumbled for a 42-yard gain, and three plays later he punched in a touchdown from the one-yard line. Gonzalez's extra-point was blocked and returned for a two-point score, but the Sun Devils had the game well in control at 51-23.

With the game in hand, Graham put in his second-stringers, but the scoring didn't stop when the backups came in. Demario Richard scored his first collegiate touchdown, breaking through the middle of the New Mexico defense on a zone-read handoff from Mike Bercovici and skated 46 yards to the end zone, capping the scoring at 58-23.

Having broken a seven year streak of losing their first road game, the Sun Devils will embark on another road test next weekend, traveling up to Boulder to take on the Colorado Buffaloes. The Buffs finished dead last in the Pac-12 South in 2013 but are fresh off a 41-38 victory over UMass. Arizona State's first conference matchup doesn't look dangerous but after the Buffaloes and a bye week, the Sun Devils welcome UCLA to Tempe for a rematch of the game in which Arizona State clinched the Pac-12 South title last year.