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ASU Football: Sun Devils look to finish drives, keep fast-paced tempo against Oregon State

ASU ran almost 100 plays against UCLA.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Arizona State Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

It’s November. Flip through a variety of TV channels this Saturday and you’ll come across a variety of sports at different speeds. Basketball, likely dominating behind football is the fastest.

Fast-paced, dribbling up and down the court, you might miss an entire possession or two just glancing out the window.

“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go,” Manny Wilkins said of commanding his offense.

The Arizona State Sun Devils aren’t basketball players, but you might miss a play or two if you aren’t watching close enough.

The Sun Devils ran a season-most 98 plays in their 44-37 loss to the UCLA Bruins on Saturday. It was second-most plays ran in week 11 behind Syracuse (99) and the fifth-most plays ASU has ran since 2000.

Since the start ASU head coach Todd Graham’s tenure, the Sun Devils have ran a fast-paced, tempo offense. They took it to another level on Saturday.

“You run 98 plays, you should score more than 30 points. And I know we scored 37,” Graham said. “I think the formula for us winning is snaps and time of possession and controlling the ball and minimizing how many snaps we have to play on defense.”

ASU followed it’s formula precisely against the Bruins. The Sun Devils sat on the ball 12 minutes more and ran 20 more plays than UCLA, forcing the Bruins to spend just 23 minutes of offense in a 60-minute game.

The difference; however, was efficiency.

In the first quarter, ASU ran into the end zone twice, scoring two touchdowns on two tries. Then after, the Sun Devils scored two more offensive touchdowns and kicked three field goals. In total, UCLA scored five touchdowns and made three field goals.

“You get down there and there’s a lot of situations where you’re going fast,” Wilkins said. “There’s the case were you get first and goal and you get seven. Okay, let’s go fast again. They stem to a certain look and you’re running basically the same play or whatever, then you get hit. Lose a yard or two and then in those cases you’ve just got to go to your best guys.”

In that case, Wilkins’ best options are wide receivers N’Keal Harry and Kyle Williams.

“I’ve just got to do a better job at just playing football and throwing the ball up to N’Keal and letting him make a play or throwing quick routes to Kyle or just something... It’s just sandlot football at that point. Go to the thing that’s open,” Wilkins said.

Then, there’s the conditioning component.

“After that second drive when we scored and went up 14, I turned to Billy [Napier] and I said ‘now, that is tempo.’ He said ‘I got you coach.’ And our guys were like about to fall over. We were rolling,” Graham said.

The Sun Devils were quick to take an early lead against the Bruins, but couldn’t hold it. A detrimental interception allowed UCLA to come back, then eventually take a lead going into halftime.

“Our legs were kind of dead,” Demario Richard said. “We had 52 [plays] at halftime. I mean that’s crazy though that’s what we preach. Tempo, tempo. Obviously it was hurting the defense. It kind of got the best of us too in the second half.”

Against Oregon State, the Sun Devils may not need to run 98 plays. Both the Beavers’ starting corners will be sidelined due to injury. One corner, Kyle White, had to convert from being a running back.

Rather than ramping up offensive speed with runs, screens and short passes, ASU may have an opportunity to throw some deep passes.

“I think sometimes you can get suckered into that (tempo offense) and you don’t get your shots,” Graham said. “I think we had three. We had three vertical shots last game. We should no come out of the game with less than 10.”

With a win on Saturday, the Sun Devils would be bowl eligible for the first time since 2015. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. MT.