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Fork Report: Arizona State’s comeback comes up short against Texas Tech

Texas Tech receiver Dylan Cantrell makes a touchdown reception while defended by Arizona State's Joseph Bryant during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, in Lubbock, Texas. (Mark Rogers/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal via AP)

Three second-half defensive stops allowed the Arizona State Sun Devils to get back in the game.

They needed a fourth stop to win the game.

Despite a 300-yard passing performance from Manny Wilkins and 100-yard receiving efforts from both N’Keal Harry and Kyle Williams, the Sun Devils dropped a 52-45 decision to Texas Tech in their first-ever trip to Lubbock.

As good as Wilkins was, Nic Shimonek was better. Much better.

Shimonek, in his first season as Texas Tech’s starting quarterback, passed for 543 yards and six touchdowns. He threw five of his scores in the first half, staking the Red Raiders to a 35-17 halftime lead.

Three different times ASU found itself trailing by as many as 18 points.

Four straight second-half scoring drives tied the game at 45.

Texas Tech (2-0) answered the Sun Devils’ final comeback with a 12-play, 90-yard drive capped by a three-yard touchdown run by Dylan Cantrell, the Red Raiders only score on the ground.

Shimonek finished 37-of-50 for 543 yards.

Meanwhile, Wilkins went 27-of-41 for 326 yards and three touchdowns, two to Williams (111 receiving yards) and one to Harry (148).

Both Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard had rushing touchdowns.

At 1-2, it’s the first time in six seasons under head coach Todd Graham that the Sun Devils failed to finish non-conference play with a winning record.

THE GOOD

Aided by four Texas Tech penalties, the Sun Devils went 75 yards on eight plays to score their first touchdown on what was their first possession of the second quarter. Wilkins threw a three-yard fade to Williams in the back right corner of the end zone to close the gap, 21-10, at the 11:42 mark. Texas Tech was flagged for holding, pass interference, taunting and a late hit out of bounds. The penalties totaled 47 yards.

Making his first appearance since the season opener, Richard had the Sun Devils’ second first-half touchdown. He rushed from one yard out to cap a nine-play, 80-yard drive that pulled ASU to within four, 21-17, at the 5:34 mark of the second quarter. Richard, who finished with 53 yards on 15 carries, had hurt his right leg early in the game against New Mexico State, and then he did not play against San Diego State.

With his team down 18 entering the second half, Wilkins orchestrated three third-quarter scoring drives to pull the Sun Devils to within a score, 45-38. Wilkins went 9-of-13 for 226 yards and a touchdown, which was a nine-yard throw to Williams to cap a nine-play, 79-yard drive. A second touchdown pass midway through the period was ruled a lateral, so Frank Darby got credited with a 21-yard scoring rush on his lone attempt of the game.

THE BAD

At the 6:42 mark of the first quarter, Koron Crump appeared to hurt his left knee. He got blocked to the ground on what was a pass play. Crump, who entered the game tied for second in the nation with four sacks, needed to be helped off the field and a short time later was spotted on crutches with ice heavily wrapped on the knee.

As expected, the Sun Devils made changes to their starting offensive line. Cohl Cabral replaced A.J. McCollum at center, while Zach Robertson filled Cabral’s left tackle spot. By the second quarter, however, all parties were back at their original positions. Cabral had a low snap that led to a fumble late in the first quarter.

Through two quarters, Shimonek had thrown more touchdowns (five) than incompletions (four). His fourth and fifth scores came in the final four minutes of the half to put Texas Tech up 35-17. Shimonek went 21-of-25 for 318 yards, completing touchdowns of 12, 11, 29, 10 and 14 yards. The 29-yard throw converted a 3rd-and-17.

STAT OF THE GAME

6-of-11: Texas Tech converted 54.5 percent of their third downs.

HE SAID IT

“I’m really proud of the heart and character that our guys showed and obviously we’re about winning games and we felt like we should’ve won the football game, but at the end, we couldn’t stop them,” Graham said. “You can’t give up that many yards and we didn’t do a very good job tackling in space.”

NOTED

In addition to Crump, linebacker Christian Sam exited the game in the first half, though he did return in the second quarter.

After giving up a 29-yard pass play in the third quarter, Joey Bryant was replaced by Chase Lucas at the boundary corner.

With the loss, the Sun Devils dropped to 15-6 all-time vs. teams currently in the Big 12, including 2-2 against Texas Tech.

UP NEXT

It’s the start of Pac-12 play.

The Sun Devils host Willie Taggart and the Oregon Ducks (3-0) in the conference opener on Saturday, Sept. 23. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning two hours earlier on ESPN 620 AM.

Taggart, formerly at South Florida, replaced Mark Helfrich as head coach in the offseason.

ASU has lost 10 straight to Oregon, including 54-35 a year ago in Eugene.

The Sun Devils’ last win in the series came in 2004.

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