Pac-12 mystery: ASU football is thriving, UA just surviving

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                </div>  It was pretty easy to recognize the Arizona State football team last week after the Sun Devils rolled over their first two opponents, beating each by more than 30 […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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It was pretty easy to recognize the Arizona State football team last week after the Sun Devils rolled over their first two opponents, beating each by more than 30 points.

That is the consistency head coach Todd Graham has been preaching since he arrived in Tempe three years ago, the key ingredient, he feels, to enable the Devils to become a national contender.

ASU dominated Weber State, an FCS program in the Big Sky Conference, in a 45-14 season-opening win.  The Sun Devils rushed for 267 yards and held Weber to 152, while passing for 303 yards to the Wildcats’ 156.

Last week the No. 16-ranked Sun Devils upped the level of competition, taking on New Mexico.  The Lobos are an FBS program that plays in the Mountain West Conference and are on the upswing in a rebuilding program under former Notre Dame coach,  Bob Davie.

But the triple option offense that Davie installed in Albuquerque was able to average just 3.6 yards per carry and picked up a total of just 207 rushing yards.  The blitzing Sun Devil defense also created three turnovers, including two fumbles in the first quarter that helped ASU to a 22-7 lead at the end of the first quarter and provide a huge momentum that carried through to the lopsided win.

Junior running back D.J. Foster ran wild, rushing for 216 yards and catching three passes for another 54 yards, as the Sun Devil offense piled up 423 total yards.  Taylor Kelly threw for 192 yards and two touchdowns – without an interception.

The 423 yards allowed by the New Mexico defense marks the first time in almost 20 years that a team has put up more than 400 yards against the Lobos.

So ASU appears to be thriving… but the University of Arizona had to settle for just surviving last week.

After a blow-out win in their opener against UNLV, the Wildcats had to count on four field goals to squeeze out a win against UTSA in its second game.

The question at this point in the season: Will the real Wildcats please stand up?

Arizona set a school record with 787 yards of offense in its opener against UNLV, a record that had stood for 45 years.  The Cats averaged better than eight yards per rushing attempt and held the Rebels to just 5.2 in a game that saw two Arizona runners eclipse the 100-yard mark and two receivers that had 100-yard nights.

Freshman quarterback Anu Solomon, in just his second college start, completed 25 of 44 pass attempts for 425 yards and four touchdowns.  And he was able to connect with 10 different receivers as he shredded the Rebel secondary.

So what happened in the span of less than a week, when Arizona met Texas-San Antonio in a Thursday night match-up in which the Cats weren’t able to mount a three-point lead until late in the game, and then held on to win thanks to a Jared Tevis interception with 1:02 left on the clock to seal the victory?

That’s called an escape, not a defining win.

Arizona managed 454 yards of total offense in the narrow victory – 333 yards off the torrid pace set in the previous game – but 85 of that came on a touchdown pass from Anu Solomon to Cayleb Jones on the first play from scrimmage.  And while the Cats were gaining yards – thanks in large part to 174 rushing yards from Nick Wilson – so were the Roadrunners who collected 349 yards of total offense.

Solomon’s 231 passing yards were just slightly half of what he racked up in the first game.

Overall, the game stats show a couple of evenly-matched teams.  Arizona had 22 first downs to 23 for UTSA, Arizona ran four more offensive plays at 76-72, Arizona converted on four of its 15 third-down attempts and UTSA was 3-for-12, and each team was flagged three times on penalties.

Perhaps the difference between the outcome for Arizona State in its last game and that of Arizona can be found in what happened inside their own 20-yard lines.  The Sun Devils turned six trips into the red zone into scores against New Mexico, getting into the end zone on five of those and settling for a field goal on the sixth.  But Arizona was able to get across the line just once in its five trips, settling for four field goals.

That’s just one of the reasons Arizona State is a ranked team early in the season and have scored more than 100 points in just two games.

“I told the team I would rather win ugly that lose pretty,” Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez told the press after the UTSA game.  “There were times out there where we were really ugly.  We didn’t finish drives, and gave away some things.”

RichRod and his staff are trying to take advantage of some extra time before the next game to clean up the messy parts since they don’t play again until Sept. 20 when they host Nevada.

It will be interesting to see which Wildcat team shows up for that game.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)