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Arizona State on Saturday dropped its final non-conference contest, 52-45 at Texas Tech. The Sun Devils are 1-2 for the first time since 1999.

Let’s review:

3 takeaways

1. ASU showed something. For most of the first half, the Sun Devils looked like they were on their way to getting routed. They had snapping issues, tackling breakdowns and a head-scratching special-teams mistake. They trailed 21-3, 35-17 and 42-24. Yet, somehow they pulled themselves together and gave themselves a chance. Yes, only wins matter. But Saturday’s comeback was the season’s most positive development. That’s why it’s relevant.

2. The offensive line still has issues. ASU made the expected changes. Sophomore Cohl Cabral started at center and sophomore Zach Robertson started at left tackle. In some ways, it backfired. Cabral’s poor snap in the first quarter led to a Texas Tech touchdown and a 21-3 deficit. ASU quickly went back to previous starter A.J. McCollum – and his first snap nearly went over the quarterback’s head. Overall, the Sun Devils  were better up front, but the sooner they can find a trustworthy five, particularly at center, the better off they’ll be.

3. The Sun Devils need good news with Koron Crump. Midway through the first quarter, the senior rush linebacker was hit while rushing out to defend a pass play. Crump’s left foot appeared to stick in the turf while he got pushed back. He didn’t return. In his first season out of junior college, Crump last season was an All-Pac-12 second-team performer. An extended absence would hurt a defense that needs all the help it can get.

Offense

Overall, this was ASU’s best’s performance of the season. The Sun Devils put up season highs in points (45), rushing yards (168) and total yards (494). They had seven plays of 20-plus yards. Junior QB Manny Wilkins completed 27 of 41 for 326 yards and three TDs. Through three weeks, he’s one of only three quarterbacks in the nation to have 100-plus pass attempts without an interception. … For the first time, it seemed ASU made it a priority to get N’Keal Harry involved. The sophomore receiver had a career-best 13 catches for 148 yards and a TD. With Wilkins throwing a block, Harry also picked up 17 yards on a reverse. Overall, Harry’s 24 receptions rank ninth nationally. … Sophomore WR Kyle Williams was a force as well, hauling in seven catches for 111 yards and two TDs. He also had a couple nice blocks. … Wilkins and senior WR Ryan Jenkins miscommunicated on a short route in the second quarter that could’ve turned into a big play. Wilkins threw a poor pass, leading Jenkins too far, but Jenkins didn’t seem to be expecting the ball at all. He was wide open. … Robertson had two false starts, one on ASU’s failed final drive.

Grade: B

Defense

Texas Tech will move the ball on just about everyone, but ASU made it too easy for the Red Raiders. They totaled 615 yards, averaging 7.8 per play, and had eight plays of 20-plus yards. With the game on the line, Texas Tech drove 90 yards in 12 plays for the go-ahead score. A big moment: Letting Texas Tech convert third and 8 with 5 minutes left. Overall, Texas Tech converted seven of 15 third downs. Through three weeks, ASU’s 54.55 defensive third-down conversion rate is worst in the country. … ASU’s tackling was awful in the first half. The ball pursuit was OK; the Sun Devils just didn’t finish (see video above). The corners also appeared to struggle shedding blocks. ASU was better in the second half. … In the third quarter, junior Demonte King replaced junior Dasmond Tautalatasi at down (strong) safety and played well, possibly earning himself more time this week.

Grade: D+

Special teams

For the second week in a row, ASU gift-wrapped points to the opponent before halftime. Against San Diego State, the Sun Devils shanked a punt, giving the Aztecs a short field. Against Texas Tech, they lined up in a spread formation – three players split wide on each side, four around the ball. Texas Tech used just a three-man rush and Ja’Deion High broke through untouched to block Michael Sleep-Dalton‘s punt. Texas Tech scored five plays later to take a 35-17 halftime lead. I asked Graham about ASU’s formation. “We were running a spread punt to – we run it all the time,” Graham said. Actually, it was the first time ASU had lined up that way in a game all season. And on this night, it cost the Sun Devils. … Freshman Brandon Ruiz missed a 41-yard FG but otherwise had a solid night. He later made a 44-yard field goal. Ruiz also produced touchbacks on all eight kickoffs. Considering ASU gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown against San Diego State, that was significant. … After missing the first two games with a quad injury, sophomore Ryan Newsome returned a punt for 11 yards. … Sleep-Dalton punted with his right (dominant) leg. He had punted with his left the past two weeks. He punted twice, averaging 45.5 yards, dropping one inside the 20.

Grade: C

Personnel

As expected, sophomore WR John Humphrey (knee) did not play. … Senior RB Demario Richard returned from a leg injury and looked good, rushing for 53 yards and a TD. … Senior DE Alani Latu initially shifted to rush linebacker after Crump left the game, but defensive coordinator Phil Bennett rotated in players throughout the contest. Junior DT Renell Wren, freshman DT Shannon Forman and sophomore DT George Lea all saw action.  Junior Abraham Thompson (rush linebacker) and redshirt-freshman Chase Lucas (corner) played most of the second half. … Sophomore LB Malik Lawal replaced junior LB Christian Sam in the second quarter after Sam got banged up. (Sam returned.) … Sophomore Terrell Chatman had his first career catch.  … Junior RG Alex Losoya got snaps at right guard in the first half.

Up next

ASU opens Pac-12 action Saturday against Oregon. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Sun Devil Stadium. The Ducks (3-0) are coming off Saturday’s 49-13 win at Wyoming. 

Texas Tech: ASU rally falls short in shootout

More: Why RB Kalen Ballage is ASU football’s most improved player

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Contact Doug Haller at 602-444-4949 or at [email protected] Follow him at Twitter.com/DougHaller. Download the ASU Pick Six Podcast, available on iTunes.