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Fork Report: ASU beats New Mexico, still without complete game

Perhaps things will be different once Pac-12 play begins.

Yes, Arizona State beat New Mexico, 34-10, but in its final non-conference tune-up, the Sun Devils struggled through the first two quarters before putting the game away in the second half for their 19th straight victory over the Lobos dating back to 1947.

Head coach Todd Graham had wanted to see his team play a complete game.

He didn’t get it.

What Graham did get, however, was a special performance from his sophomore running back Demario Richard, who had better than half of ASU’s total yards.

A Sun Devil Stadium crowd of 43,310, watched Richard rush for 104 yards and catch four passes for 151 yards, setting a school record for receiving yards by a running back. He scored twice, including a 93-yard catch-and-run that sealed the win.

ASU (2-1) finished with 449 total yards.

Quarterback Mike Bercovici went 22-of-37 for 317 yards and three touchdowns. At one point, he completed 15-of-16 passes.

The Sun Devils led 10-0 at the half as New Mexico (1-2) dominated the time of possession, holding the football for more than 21 minutes.

THE GOOD

– The streak continues. With a late first-quarter grab, wide receiver D.J. Foster has caught at least one pass in 43 straight games, the longest active streak in FBS and second only to John Jefferson’s school record of 44. The Pac-12 record is 48 by Kareem Kelly of USC (1999-2002). Foster finished with four catches.

– On his third carry of the game, Richard rushed for 33 yards, the longest run by a Sun Devil running back this season. He added a 33-yard catch-and-run touchdown to open the second half, giving ASU a 17-0 lead. And then just for good measure, Bercovici hit the running back for a 93-yard catch-and run touchdown, extending the home team’s advantage to 31-10 at 13:26 of the third quarter. Richard has eight touchdowns in his past four games, as he had four in the Sun Bowl win to end last season and two against Cal Poly.

-After starting the game 5-of-13 for 36 yards, Bercovici completed seven straight passes totaling 80 yards and a touchdown on the Sun Devils final possession of the first half. On the drive, Bercovici surpassed 2,000 career passing yards, 14 of which were covered by Tim White on the score for a 10-0 lead at the break.

-The Sun Devils had touchdowns on three of four possessions over one stretch covering the second and third quarters. Each of the scoring drives lasted less than three minutes with the first two coming inside of two minutes.

-After the Tyrone Owens 65-yard third-quarter touchdown run, the Sun Devils defense allowed 19 total yards on the ensuing six possessions, including five three-and-outs. For the game, ASU forced six three-and-outs, a new season-high.

THE BAD

– The Sun Devils were without running back Kalen Ballage (mono) and wide receiver Frederick Gammage (arm). Also missing were defensive starters Viliami Latu (leg/ankle) and Armand Perry (ankle). Tashon Smallwood and Kareem Orr got the starts at defensive end and free safety, respectively. For Orr, a true freshman, it was his first career start.

– After their first two drives of the game, the Sun Devils totaled two yards on six plays, going three-and-out on back-to-back possessions. Bercovici was 0-for-4, his passes not even close to being caught. Meanwhile, New Mexico, though scoreless on its first two possessions, gained 76 yards on 19 plays.

– For the second straight week, the Sun Devils had first-and-goal at the 1 and failed to score a touchdown. Richard rushed for no gain, Bercovici fumbled the snap losing four yards and then threw incomplete, forcing ASU to settle for a Zane Gonzalez 22-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead early in the second quarter.

– Though the Sun Devil defense pitched a first-half shutout, it struggled to get New Mexico off the field on third down. The Lobos converted seven of their 12 opportunities, four of which were five yards or more with a long of 12 to move the chains. Plus, there was an ASU penalty — defensive end Edmond Boateng facemask — on third down that resulted in an automatic first down.

– The one and only Sun Devil turnover came on special teams. White muffed a punt, which led to a New Mexico field goal that cut the ASU lead to 24-10 at 1:44 of the third quarter. The muff was the third in two games, though the first two the Sun Devils recovered. The play also marked the 10th fumble of the season. Keep in mind, ASU fumbled 15 times all of last season.

STAT OF THE GAME

255: The combined yards from scrimmage for Richard, who gained more than 100 yards both rushing and receiving


HE SAID IT

“A lot of people said I couldn’t do it, that can tell you right there.” — Demario Richard

NOTED

– Wide receiver Devin Lucien was ruled out of the game after a 12-yard catch in the second quarter in which it appeared he hurt his left leg.

– Richard’s 93-yard fourth-quarter touchdown tied for the third-longest pass play in ASU history and was the longest since Jeff Van Raaphorst hit Aaron Cox with a 95-yarder against USC on Sept. 28, 1985.

– ASU improved to 18-4 at home under Graham.

-ASU locked up a winning record through the first three games of the year for the 16th consecutive season.

– Graham won his 30th game, making him the sixth Sun Devil head coach to reach the milestone and the only one outside Frank Kush and Darryl Rogers to do so by their fourth season

– Scouts from five NFL teams — Broncos, Cardinals, Colts, Giants and Texans — were in attendance

UP NEXT

It’s the start of Pac-12, and ASU opens with USC, the media’s preseason pick to win the conference, on Saturday, Sept. 26.

Kickoff has yet to be determined, but the start time could be either 5, 5:30 or 7:30. And of course, pregame coverage will begin two hours earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

The Sun Devils have won three of the last four meetings, including last year at L.A. Memorial Coliseum, 38-34, on a play that was immediately dubbed the ‘Jael Mary’, Bercovici’s 46-yard touchdown throw to Jaelen Strong as time expired. It was ASU’s first victory at the Coliseum since 1999.

Prior to the Sun Devils’ recent stretch of success, USC had won 11 straight in the series and hold a 19-12 advantage all-time.

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