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Manny Wilkins, ASU have the deep ball going vs. NMSU

Arizona State Manny Wilkins warms up before the team's NCAA college football game against New Mexico State, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz.. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Arizona State’s running backs weren’t finding holes, and the defense appeared to be a work-in-progress — ASU had a 249-217 yard disadvantage at the half — as a 14-0 Sun Devil lead after the first quarter evaporated.

But two big downfield plays kept the Sun Devils out in front Thursday before they pulled away for good in a 37-31 season-opening win against New Mexico State.

Wilkins finished 22-of-27 for 300 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

More than a third of those yards came off two downfield plays.

First, it was Wilkins finding receiver Jalen Harvey for a 53-yard score that took advantage of a defenseless middle of the field. The score midway through the first quarter gave ASU its two-touchdown lead.

After the Aggies pulled within 14-13 at halftime, and after ASU kicker Brandon Ruiz hit a 52-yard field goal to give his team a four-point edge, Wilkins again struck with the deep ball, hitting receiver John Humphrey for a 60-yard pass that put Arizona State ahead 24-13 in the third quarter.

Coach Todd Graham’s team would add a Kalen Ballage rushing touchdown — his second of the night — before the end of the third quarter to score 16 straight points and build a 30-13 lead heading to the fourth.

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