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Fork Report: Sun Devils unable to stop SDSU’s Rashaad Penny in home loss

San Diego State's Rashaad Penny (20) runs with the ball as Arizona State's J'Marcus Rhodes, left, and Alani Latu, right, move in to make the tackle as San Diego State's David Wells (88) tries to block Rhodes during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

TEMPE, Ariz. — On the night they honored their legendary head coach, Arizona State failed to accomplish the one thing Frank Kush did more than anyone else who walked the Sun Devils sidelines: Win.

More specifically, ASU failed to stop Rashaad Penny.

Behind Penny’s three touchdowns, San Diego State beat the Sun Devils, 30-20, in front of 54,336 at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday.

Penny scored three different ways: rushing, receiving and on special teams.

His second-quarter 99-yard kickoff return touchdown highlighted a 353 all-purpose yard performance, 216 of which came on the ground.

The win, which improved the Aztecs to 2-0, was San Diego State’s first-ever in 12 tries against Arizona State.

ASU (1-1) never led.

They did have the game tied, 7-7, when Kalen Ballage scored from one-yard out on the final play of the first quarter. On the ensuing kickoff, however, Penny took it the length of the field for the touchdown.

Ballage finished with 44 rushing yards.

It was a struggle once again keeping Manny Wilkins upright in the pocket. He was sacked five times one week after New Mexico State dropped him seven times.

Wilkins went 20-of-33 for 298 yards and two touchdowns.

THE GOOD

With a goal of two sacks per game, Koron Crump reached that mark in the first half. He recorded his first—and the Sun Devils’ second of the night—on San Diego State’s first possession of the game. Later in the second quarter, Crump rushed up the middle and bear hugged Chapman, the whistle blowing the play dead for a five-yard loss.

The count is up to 24. Ballage’s first-quarter touchdown—a one-yard run out of the “Sparky Set” to cap a nine-play, 85-yard drive that took 3:56 off the clock and tied the game at 7—was the 24th of his career, inching him closer to Art Malone (28) who is fifth on the Sun Devil career list. By the way, Woody Green is the ASU leader with 43.

A week after throwing a pair of 50-plus yard touchdowns, Wilkins added a third, completing a 53-yard deep ball to Frank Darby that pulled the Sun Devils to within 30-20 at the 8:34 mark of the fourth quarter. By the way, the play converted a 3rd-and-37. Earlier in the game, back in the first quarter, Wilkins and Darby hooked up for a 42-yard deep ball.

THE BAD

Fresh off a near 200-yard rushing performance the week prior, Penny gained 107 in the first quarter, 95 of which were recorded on a single play. It was 3rd-and-6 from the five-yard line and Penny went up the middle, made a couple of defenders miss and took it the end zone for a touchdown to give San Diego State a 7-0 lead at the 8:04 mark. The 95-yard run was the third-longest in school history.

More Penny. On the first play of the second quarter, and immediately after the Sun Devils had tied the score at 7, Penny took the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. And yes, that was a school record. It was also Penny’s sixth career kickoff return touchdown, the most among active players. Penny started right, cutback and went untouched up-and-down the left sideline to regain the lead for the visitors.

Again, Penny. Facing a 3rd-and-21 at the ASU 33 in the third quarter, Christian Chapman found Penny wide open in the right flat; no one was within 10-15 yards of the senior running back. Penny went 33 yards untouched for the touchdown, his third of the game, and a 27-14 lead at the 1:52 mark. It was the third third-down converted on what was an 11-play, 58-yard drive that took 6:28 off the clock.

STAT OF THE GAME

353-342: Penny finished with more total yards than the Sun Devils.

HE SAID IT, part I

“Special teams has been atrocious,” head coach Todd Graham told Derek Hagan at halftime on the Sun Devil Radio Network.

HE SAID IT, part II

“We got to play better, coach better. Very, very poor effort,” Graham said following the loss, which snapped ASU’s six-game regular season winning streak against non-conference opponents.

NOTED

In the third quarter, RG Steve Miller was replaced by Quinn Bailey; Zach Robertson played RT.

In the fourth quarter, WR John Humphrey appeared to hurt his left knee; he limped off the field.

Injured in the opener, RB Demario Richard did not play; though he did dress out for the game.

Among the variety of tributes for Kush was the players all wearing throwback ‘sunburst’ helmets.

Scouts from eight NFL teams plus the IFL’s Arizona Rattlers and Senior Bowl were at the game.

UP NEXT

After two straight home games to open the season, the Sun Devils will venture out on the road for the first time in 2017. They play at Jones AT&T Stadium, home of the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Saturday, Sept. 16. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. with coverage beginning two hours earlier on ESPN 620 AM.

These teams played a year ago with ASU winning, 68-55, behind Ballage’s NCAA record-tying performance of eight touchdowns. He had 185 all-purpose yards.

All-time, the Sun Devils lead 2-1 in a series that dates back to 1999.

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