Sun Devils face Lobos, get another shot at triple-option
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Arizona State had all kinds of trouble defending the triple option last week.
Now the Sun Devils get to face it again when they play New Mexico on Friday night.
Last Saturday night, Arizona State (1-1) needed two fourth-quarter touchdowns to escape with a 35-21 victory over FCS opponent Cal Poly. Like last week, the Sun Devils enter this game as overwhelming favorites.
Coach Todd Graham wants the Cal Poly game as far in the rear view mirror as possible going into Arizona State's final nonconference tuneup before the Sun Devils open Pac-12 play next week at home against No. 6 USC.
''It goes down in the column as a win,'' Graham said, ''and nobody will ever talk about it after this week. ... Bottom line is that, all over the country games like that happen. You want to persevere and come out on top. That's a game that you check off the list and you move on to the next one.''
This is a different looking triple option than the traditional one Arizona State faced last week.
''We're both triple option at the core,'' New Mexico coach Bob Davie said, ''but there's not a whole lot of similarities between us and Cal Poly,''
The Lobos run the option out of a different formation than Cal Poly.
''They are not under-center, it's not a Navy flex-bone deal,'' Graham said. ''This is a shotgun, triple option attack. Their quarterback and running backs are faster.''
New Mexico (1-1) runs out of a ''pistol'' set. It's a system that still requires discipline to defend.
The Lobos, who opened with a 66-0 victory over Mississippi Valley State, had offensive issues in last week's 40-21 loss to Tulsa.
Here are some things to look for when the Lobos meet the Sun Devils.
BERCO UNTRACKED: Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici may get the chance to get his passing game into the high gear that many expected.
Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans completed 16 of 30 passes for 321 yards against New Mexico. Tulsa had two players rush for more than 100 yards.
In two games, against Texas A&M and Cal Poly, Bercovici is 48 of 76 for 482 yards and only four touchdowns. Not the kind of numbers the usually high-powered Sun Devils produce.
LOOKING AHEAD: The struggle against an FCS school should prevent the Sun Devils from looking beyond this week.
But the Sun Devils know that things get serious with nine consecutive conference games, beginning with consecutive contests against Pac-12 South rivals USC and UCLA. Four of the next five opponents are nationally ranked: No. 6 USC, No. 10 UCLA, No. 21 Utah and No. 12 Oregon.
TEMPO, TEMPO: Arizona State likes to run an up-tempo offense, and that could be big trouble for New Mexico.
Tulsa is a team that likes to play fast too, and the Hurricanes ran 89 plays against the Lobos, rolling up 600 yards.
''I'm fully expecting tempo. They want to get some rhythm going,'' Davie said. ''They want to score some more points. They're a little frustrated, and I expect them to go full-speed tempo. That's just what the game has become.''
LINE WOES: Davie traces his team's problems on offense against Tulsa to issues up front.
''There's really no consistency on the offensive line,'' he said. ''There's no question we're a little wobbly.''
TOUGH ROAD: New Mexico historically has had very little success in Tempe.
The Lobos are 1-12-1 at Arizona State. The lone victory came 81 years ago.
Overall, the Sun Devils are on an 18-game winning streak against New Mexico. Last season, Arizona State beat the Lobos 58-23 in Albuquerque, the first meeting of the schools since 1974.