The Arizona State Sun Devils gave a surprisingly impressive defensive performance against the Texas A&M Aggies, but they also were forced to deal with an unexpectedly competent defense.
First-year A&M defense coordinator John Chavis saw his defensive front seven bottle up Arizona State’s vertical passing game and inside running threat en route to the Aggies pulling away late in the fourth quarter to win 38-17.
Here are a few key stats from Arizona State’s season-opening loss.
Arizona State’s yards per rush average. The Sun Devils ran the ball 41 times for 92 yards but most of the damage was limited on sweep plays and outside runs as the Texas A&M defensive front clogged up the middle. Running back Demario Richard led the way with 16 carries for 73 yards (4.6 yards per carry).
Two of the Aggies’ Phoenix-area recruits accounted for four of Texas A&M’s scores. Freshman Christian Kirk, who hails from Scottsdale Saguaro High School, scored his first career touchdown with a 79-yard punt return. Kirk, who was recruited by ASU, set Arizona high school records for touchdowns, receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
Fellow Arizona product and former Desert Mountain quarterback Kyle Allen accounted for two throwing touchdowns — including one 66-yard screen pass to Kirk — and ran for another. Kirk’s catch-and-run sealed the win for A&M, giving it a 31-17 lead with 3:45 left in the fourth quarter.
The numbers of sacks by the Aggies’ defense, which got to ASU quarterback Mike Bercovici with ends Daeshon Hall and Myles Garrett combining for six of those sacks.
ASU’s offense couldn’t get going in the first quarter — credit Texas A&M’s pressure for it — compiling just 61 yards as Garrett hounded the backfield for three tackles, two for loss and a forced fumble in the first 15 minutes alone.
One silver lining for the Sun Devils was the play from receiver Ellis Jefferson, who caught four passes for 69 yards. The sophomore got involved late in the game and set ASU up for a score with a 33-yard reception that put his team at the 6-yard line. Arizona State, however, settled for a field goal to pull within 24-17 in the fourth quarter, and the Aggies would pull away.
The number of punts by ASU on its first five possessions, before a fumble recovery and return by Demetrius Cherry set up a quick red zone score to cut the 14-0 A&M lead in half. Punter Matt Haack would punt 10 times total.
ASU put up 291 yards, well off last year’s average of 442 yards per game.
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