About that New Mexico triple-option offense….
Yeah, Arizona State would like to introduce you to the single-option offense. They call it D.J. Foster.
The junior running back rushed for a career-high 216 yards and a touchdown to help the Sun Devils win at New Mexico, 58-23.
With the victory, No. 17 ASU improved to 2-0.
Foster led an offensive attack that totaled 621 yards, including 423 on the ground.
The Sun Devils scored the first 22 points of the game, converting two New Mexico turnovers into a pair of touchdown runs by Taylor Kelly and Kalen Ballage.
A week after rushing for 410 yards, New Mexico (0-2) was held to 207 yards, yet still that triple-option attack gave the ASU defense fits at times, especially in the second quarter when the Lobos pulled to within a score, 29-21.
Any thoughts of an upset, however, were quickly erased early in the second half as the Sun Devils came out of the locker room re-focused and re-energized.
On the first play of the third quarter, Foster ran 49 yards to the New Mexico 26. Three snaps later, Kelly fired a 24-yard pass to Jaelen Strong to make it 38-21 ASU. Following a New Mexico fumble, the third turnover forced by the Sun Devils, Kelly hooked up with Cameron Smith for a 41-yard score and a 45-21 advantage just four minutes into the quarter.
ASU added two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including Foster’s lone score of the night, a one-yard run to put the finishing touches on the Sun Devils’ 18th consecutive victory over New Mexico.
After the first score of the game — a Deantre Lewis one-yard touchdown run — the Sun Devils decided to go for two and reached into their bag of tricks. Coming in motion, De’Marieya Nelson received the handoff from Mike Bercovici and lofted a pass towards the end zone and into the waiting arms of Zane Gonzalez for an 8-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Talk about efficiency. Kalen Ballage carried the ball twice for a total of four yards and two touchdowns in the first half. He scored from a yard out in the first quarter and then from three yards out in the second quarter, giving him three touchdowns in six quarters of play.
Kelly accounted for 85 of the Sun Devils’ 172 rushing yards in the first half, including a career-long 52-yard run on the team’s first offensive play of the game.
Foster has now set a new career-high in rushing yards in three straight games, going back to the Holiday Bowl.
All eight of ASU’s scoring drives took less than three minutes with three coming within 60 seconds.
At the half, Graham voiced his displeasure “about seven critical errors” on third down. His club allowed New Mexico to score its first two touchdowns by converting on third down. On 3rd and 6, Jhurell Pressley rushed for eight yards and a score. Then later, while facing a 3rd-and-14, Lamar Jordan threw a 32-yard pass to Teriyon Gipson for a score.
The Sun Devils turned the ball over only once in what appeared to be some miscommunication between Kelly and Damario Richard on a handoff in the second quarter. The fumble was New Mexico’s first takeaway in 513 minutes, ending a seven-game drought dating back to last year.
Gonzalez, one of the more reliable kickers in the country, had a pair of point-after attempts blocked, the second of which New Mexico returned for two points. Gonzalez also hit the upright on a 44-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter.
Two of the Sun Devils four penalties came on the opening drive of the game. Marcus Hardison received a facemask call, while the defensive line jumped offsides on 4th and 1, giving New Mexico an automatic first down.
STAT OF THE GAME:
270: The number of yards from scrimmage gained by Foster, who in addition to his rushing prowess caught three passes for 54 yards.
HE SAID IT:
“This (offensive) line doesn’t get enough credit,” Foster said. “I love running behind them every day.
On Foster’s 17th carry of the game, he surpassed 200 rushing yards, becoming the first Sun Devil to do so since Delvon Flowers in 2001.
On ASU’s second possession in the second quarter, Kelly surpassed 7,000 passing yards for his career, becoming the fourth Sun Devil quarterback to reach the milestone, joining Andrew Walter, Jake Plummer and Rudy Carpenter.
As expected, Armand Perry started at boundary corner, putting three true freshmen on the starting defense for the first time in more than 30 years according to ASU. Perry was joined by linebacker DJ Calhoun and lineman Tashon Smallwood, who both started the season opener against Weber State.
Another road trip for the Sun Devils.
ASU travels to Colorado (1-1) to play its first Pac-12 conference game on Saturday, September 13. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning two hours earlier on KTAR News 92.3 FM.
Last season, the Sun Devils beat Colorado, 54-13.