There’s a lot to digest from ASU’s second win of the season, so let’s dive right in to what we learned during Arizona State’s 37-35 victory over the Ducks:
- The running game has slightly improved
The Sun Devils’ running game — and offensive line play — had often greatly hindered ASU’s ability to have a cohesive attack on offense during the team’s 1-2 start. The Devils’ line consistently failed to generate any push up front and the running backs suffered, combining for over 100 yards just once against one of the worst defenses in the country in Texas Tech.
But ASU got a huge boost from the return of senior tailback Demario Richard, who gave the Devils a tough, between the tackles element to the running game that it was desperately missing. Richard carried the ball 21 times for 64 yards and found the end zone once against the Ducks. Senior Kalen Ballage also found success on the ground, managing 47 yards on 12 carries during the Devils victory.
The run game is nowhere near where it needs to be for ASU to be able to hurt the rest of the Pac-12 South on the ground consistently, but Saturday night there was a visible improvement.
- The Sun Devils four, possibly five legitimate weapons at wide receiver
Through the first four games of the 2017-18 campaign, the Arizona State offense has produced five wide receivers that have at least 100 yards receiving in a game.
Sophomore wideout N’Keal Harry is just under 300 yards from surpassing his 2016-17 total, redshirt junior receiver Jalen Harvey is just 50 yards from surpassing his, and Kyle Wiliams and Frank Darby have each had their share of the spotlight so far.
Last season, it was often either Tim White or Harry doing the bulk of the receiving for the Devils, with a pretty large gap between them and Fred Gammage and Harvey. This season, however, Wilkins has a bevy of weapons to throw to and the diversity is paying dividends for Arizona State’s passing game.
- Todd Graham’s hot seat continued to cool down
After last week’s near-comeback against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, Josiah Destin of House of Sparky prophesied that ASU head coach Todd Graham’s hot seat had cooled down a bit due to ASU’s effort in the second half that had them a couple plays away from a victory in Lubbock.
His seat just got a bit cooler.
Graham still needs a few key victories and possibly a bowl berth to remain in Tempe come next season, but this was a huge victory for his job security. In front of the home crowd, in the conference opener against a ranked opponent, the sixth-year head coach managed to pull it off.
There’s still a long way to go this season for Graham and Arizona State, but starting off Pac-12 play with an upset victory over a program it hadn’t beat in over 10 years should give the program a huge confidence boost that was desperately needed after a 1-2 start.