RECAP: ASU Falls to SDSU in First Loss of Season

By Michael Baron // Football Reporter for Blaze Sports

Rashaad Penny and the San Diego State Aztecs (2-0) handed ASU (1-1) its first loss of the season by a score of 30-20 at Sun Devil Stadium Saturday night in Tempe.

Arizona State WR Frank Darby celebrates after pulling down a touchdown pass from Manny Wilkins vs San Diego State // (Photo by Brady Klain/Photographer for Blaze Sports)

The senior running back dominated to the tune of 353 all-purpose yards.

“Obviously a very disappointing night,” ASU head coach Todd Graham said. “Poor job of coaching, poor job of playing and performing. We’ve got to be better than that.”

Penny, the Mountain West Conference’s offensive player of the week because of a 197 yard rushing performance, picked up right where he left off last game. Penny scored the game’s first points on a 95-yard touchdown run just six plays into the game. The run stands as the third-longest rush in school history.

“They play hard, but the biggest thing was on us,” senior defensive lineman Tashon Smallwood said. “We didn’t execute. Missed assignments. Not getting off the field on third down, we didn’t do that well. All those things add up to a loss.”

ASU tied the game up on a Kalen Ballage 1-yard touchdown run as the first quarter came to an end. Unfortunately the senior running back would only finish with 44 rushing yards total.

“We’re still struggling offensively to get a rhythm,” Graham said. “We’re supposed to be a run, play-action pass team and we’re not even running the ball.”

After the Ballage TD, Penny was at it again.

The Aztec running back took the ensuing kickoff 99-yards to the house. It was Penny’s sixth career kickoff return for a touchdown, the most among active FBS players.

“I thought special teams was chaotic and it shouldn’t be,” Graham said. “We’ve practiced the heck out of that, and we obviously have to do a better job of preparing our guys than what we did, and that’s obviously on me.”

SDSU led 17-7 late in the second quarter, but the Devils pulled within three points as redshirt junior quarterback Manny Wilkins found sophomore wide receiver N’Keal Harry for a 5-yard touchdown strike to make the score 17-14 with 4:54 remaining in the half.

But that’s as close as the Sun Devils would get for the rest of the game.

Wilkins racked up 298 yards in the air, including a 53-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman Frank Darby on a third-and-37 at 8:34 in the fourth. That score made the game 30-20. ASU attempted a two-point conversion to bring the game to one score but it failed.

Manny Wilkins attempts to hurdle over the San Diego State defender // (Photo by Brady Klain)

The two teams total yardage was similar in numbers. SDSU recorded 352 yards of offense compared to ASU’s 342. However, neither offense had a balanced attack. The Aztecs ran for 279 yards, but only netted 73 yards passing. The Sun Devils were almost the complete opposite with 298 yards through the air, but only 44 yards on the ground.

“It’s all about going on to the next week now. Our focus is on Texas Tech,” Wilkins said. “I’m proud of the way we fought, but it’s time to bounce back.”

What’s Next for ASU

ASU has a week to sort out its issues as the team hits the road for the first time in the 2017 season. The Sun Devils travel to Lubbock, Texas to face the Texas Tech Red Raiders of the Big 12 Conference. These teams met last year at Sun Devil Stadium, when Kalen Ballage scored eight touchdowns, and ASU won in a shootout by a score 68-55.

Kickoff on Saturday is at 5:00 p.m.

Michael Baron is a football reporter for Blaze Sports. You can reach him at michael.baron@asu.edu or follow Michael on Twitter @Michael_Baron96

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