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ASU Football: Takeaways from loss at Texas Tech

Here’s what we drew up after Arizona State’s loss.

Arizona State v Texas Tech Photo by John Weast/Getty Images

The Arizona State Sun Devils (1-2) fell in an incredibly close, but somewhat out of hand, 52-45 loss to the Texas Tech Red Raiders (2-0) on Saturday night. With 97 total points, 1,109 yards of offense and 10 combined penalties, there’s tons to takeaway from Saturday night’s shootout.

The offensive line is limiting offensive production

After allowing 12 sacks in two games, a stat that was second-to-worst in the nation through week two, Arizona State’s offensive line gave up season-low three sacks in Lubbock, but still managed to create a negative impact. Cohl Cabral made his first start of the season at center, pushing regular center AJ McCollum to the sideline. Down 14-3 in the first quarter, Cabral snapped the ball into the ground, causing a fumble that resulted in a 21-3 Red Raiders lead. McCollum then came back into the game and hiked the ball over Manny Wilkins’s head, which ended in a loss of yardage. Zach Robertson, who had his first start of the season, was penalized twice for offsides. And on 3rd-and-15 with 1:55 left and ASU down 52-45, the O-Line let up a 15-yard sack that forced Wilkins to end the game on 4th-and-30 from his own 17-yard line.

Sun Devils secondary may be as bad, if not worse than last year

Back-to-back-to-back worst passing defense in the nation may have seemed improbable before the season’s start, but through three games it’s getting realistic. Having allowed 1,104 yards in the air this season, ASU already ranks 125th out of 128 teams in passing defense this season. If it weren’t for San Diego State who used 80 percent of its yardage on the ground, the Sun Devils could see themselves at dead last again. On Saturday night, Nic Shimonek totaled 543 passing yards, zero interceptions and six touchdowns. He had 428 yards midway through the third quarter. In Arizona State’s 68-55 win over TTU last season, Patrick Mahomes had 540 passing yards with five touchdowns, but threw two interceptions. It seems the only way this secondary will be able to stop a spread offense is with turnovers. The Sun Devils totaled two interceptions against New Mexico State. If not for those two picks, ASU may be 0-3.

The receiving core is playing as advertised

The Sun Devils have ignited something that seemed absent from Arizona State’s offense last season: a sound passing game. It’s obvious Wilkins has improved from last season, as he has averaged just over 308 passing yards per game, compared to last season’s 233-yard average, but his talented wide receiving core has surely helped. N’Keal Harry had a career-high night in catches and yards with 13 and 148 with one touchdown. After just five catches last season, Kyle Williams totaled a career night of his own, scoring two touchdowns on 111 yards and seven catches. John Humphrey, who led the team through week two with 124 yards on seven catches, is temporarily sidelined, but Frank Darby, Jalen Harvey, Ryan Jenkins and newly healthy Ryan Newsome each have superstar ability.

Graham’s seat may have cooled off — just a tad

After Arizona State’s 30-20 loss to San Diego State, Graham’s seat boiled because it was a home loss on Frank Kush night to a team who just earned its first ever road win over a Pac-12 team. As a 2.5 favorite, ASU wasn’t the underdog. Against Texas Tech; however, the Sun Devils actually beat the spread (+7.5), and came back to tie it up at 45-45 after trailing 21-3, 35-17 and 42-24. Graham addressed social media criticism could be prevented following a good performance after the SDSU loss. While Twitter and Facebook have still been anything but nice to Graham, his team’s heart, effort and nearly mega comeback win should bring attention elsewhere.