All is not lost, but losing quarterback Kyle Allen and wide receiver Christian Kirk — the state of Arizona’s No. 1 high school recruits each of the past two years — to Texas A&M came back to bite Arizona State as it lost the 2015 AdvoCare Texas Kickoff, 38-17, in front of 63,308 at NRG Stadium.
Against their hometown team, Allen (Desert Mountain) passed for two touchdowns and rushed for a third, while Kirk (Saguaro) totaled two scores, including a 79-yard punt return.
The two hooked up for a 66-yard touchdown with 3:45 remaining, a play which effectively sealed the win and ended the Sun Devils’ run of 12 straight season-opening victories.
ASU dropped to 0-5 all-time against the SEC.
Redshirt senior quarterback Mike Bercovici waited a long time for his opportunity to lead the the Sun Devils offense,but it was a struggle from the get-go.
ASU scored just once on its first 12 possessions and finished the game 5-of-19 on third down.
Bercovici completed 25-of-41 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a score but was sacked nine times.
Sophomore running back Demario Richard rushed for a team-high 73 yards, while redshirt sophomore Ellis Jefferson led the receivers with 69 yards.
The Sun Devils were outgained 425 to 291.
– With his six-yard catch on the first drive, senior wide receiver D.J. Foster extended his nation-leading streak of consecutive games with at least one reception to 41, which matches Derek Hagan for second on ASU’s all-time list of consecutive games with a catch. He trails only John Jefferson’s school record of 44.
– ASU had just one punt return last season of longer than 10 yards, an 18-yard run by Kyle Middlebrooks against UA. They matched that total on the first one of 2015 with redshirt junior running back De’Chavon ‘Gump’ Hayes’ 11-yard return. Hayes averaged seven yards on three returns.
– Needing a spark, the Sun Devils defense provided one in the second quarter with sophomore linebacker Christian Sam’s strip-sack of Allen. Sam’s first career fumble forced was recovered by redshirt senior defensive lineman Demetrius Cherry and returned to the Aggies’ four-yard line, where on the very next play Bercovici found redshirt junior tight end Kody Kohl wide open for a touchdown, cutting the A&M lead to 14-7.
– Not known as a running quarterback, Bercovici rushed to the right for 19 yards and a touchdown, cutting the A&M lead to 17-14 late in the third quarter. The run was not only a career long but also the first career rushing touchdown for the first-year starter.
– A pair of big pass plays helped A&M on its first scoring drive of the game. First, Josh Reynolds victimized the Sun Devils for 36 yards and then Kirk caught a ball for 28 yards four plays later, which put the Aggies in the red zone, where on a 3rd-and-7 Allen completed a nine-yard pass to Tra Carson for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
– Special teams once again appears to be an issue for the Sun Devils, which in the offseason hired Shawn Slocum to head up that unit. Early in the second quarter, Kirk returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead. A year ago, ASU ranked 114th in punt return coverage. Then in the third quarter, redshirt freshman Coltin Gerhart was flagged for roughing the punter, allowing A&M to continue the drive.
– Twice, the Sun Devils turned the ball over in the third quarter. First, Bercovici fumbled and two possessions later Richard coughed up the football for the first time in his career. The good news is A&M only converted one of the turnovers into points, a 19-yard field goal for a 17-7 lead.
– Aided by personal foul call on sophomore safety Armand Perry — ASU’s fifth penalty of the game — Allen capped a nine-play, 84-yard drive with a 12-yard run for a touchdown and a 24-14 fourth-quarter lead. Allen had been on the sidelines for A&M’s previous three possessions in favor of true freshman Kyler Murray.
STAT OF THE GAME
224: The number of total yards gained by Kirk, who caught six passes for 106 yards, returned two punts for 82 yards and two kickoffs for 36 yards.
HE SAID IT
“Our guys played hard…just made too many mistakes to win the game,” Todd Graham said. “That’s about as poor as we played offensively. I just think we beat ourselves.”
– Sophomore running back Kalen Ballage did not play due to illness and returned home to Tempe after traveling to Houston.
– Redshirt junior linebacker Laiu Moeakiola’s first-quarter sack, which was his third tackle of game, also happened to be his 100th tackle for his career.
– Junior Matt Haack punted seven times in the first half, matching the team’s season-high for a game from all of last season, done on three separate occasions.
– Redshirt senior safety Jordan Simone and senior cornerback Kweishi Brown each intercepted passes in the third quarter with Simone recording the third of his career and Brown his fourth.
– Foster moved to third all-time on ASU’s career receptions list, while at the same time surpassing 4,000 career all-purpose yards, which he did on a nine-yard reception in the second quarter.
– True freshmen defensive lineman JoJo Wicker and cornerback Kareem Orr saw their first career action as Sun Devils, as did Hayes, redshirt senior wide receiver Devin Lucien, redshirt junior wide receiver Tim White, junior tight end Raymond Epps and redshirt freshman safety Dasmond Tautalatasi.
– ASU failed to score 20 points for only the third time in 40 games since Graham and offensive coordinator Mike Norvell arrived in Tempe.
– ASU dropped to 17-2 since 1955 in all games played in the state of Texas, with the other loss coming against Notre Dame two years ago at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.
The Sun Devils’ next two games will be played at Sun Devil Stadium.
The home opener is against Cal Poly on Saturday, Sept. 12. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning two hours earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
Out of the Big Sky Conference, Cal Poly went 7-5 in 2014.
ASU is 3-0 all-time against the Mustangs with the most recent meeting coming more than 60 years ago, when the Sun Devils won 33-6 in 1947.