After a sluggish first half in which Arizona State ran only four offensive possessions (but led 10-0), the Sun Devils were able to eventually distance themselves Friday night from visiting New Mexico in a 34-10 victory.
Arizona State was coming off of an unimpressive victory over Cal Poly. The Sun Devils looked better this week -- particularly in the second half. But they still don't look like the team many expect to compete for the Pac-12 South.
What the win means for Arizona State: The Sun Devils played a little cleaner in the second half and started to pull away. But the first 30 minutes re-exposed issues that continue to linger. Specifically, holes along both the offensive and defensive front, offensive miscommunication, poor tackling angles and head-scratching penalties. This wasn't the confidence-reaffirming game the Sun Devils were probably hoping for heading into conference play, where they host USC next week and then travel to UCLA the week after. It's a win, but one ASU probably doesn't feel great about.
What the loss means for New Mexico: No idea how New Mexico will do in the Mountain West this year, but I know the athletes look better than they have the last few seasons. There is good size on the lines and a little more speed than I remember. Losing always stinks -- even if it's a game the world expects you to lose. But there were definitely positives the Lobos can build on heading into league play next week at Wyoming.
Player of the game: Say this for ASU quarterback Mike Bercovici. When he runs hot, he's fantastic. And when he runs cold, he runs really, really cold. After struggling right out of the gate, completing just five of his first 13 passes, he went on a tear, completing 16 of 17 throws. He finished the night 22 of 36 for 317 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed eight times for 15 yards and a score.
Unsung hero: Bercovici gets credit for the big passing numbers, but running back Demario Richard did a lot of the heavy lifting after the catch. Both of his touchdown receptions came on short passes. The first was a screen that Richard took 33 yards. The second was a scramble from Bercovici after the pocket collapsed and Richard (after picking up a huge block from Ellis Jefferson) went 93 yards. He finished with four catches for 151 yards and two touchdowns. He also ate up the clock in the fourth quarter and finished with 104 rushing yards on 15 carries. The receiving yards and 255 total yards were career highs.