3 big takeaways from the Arizona State Sun Devils' season-opening win over Northern Arizona

Posted at 11:50 PM, Sep 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-04 02:54:55-04

On paper, it looks just fine. But most Arizona State Sun Devils fans who watched Saturday night's game know there's plenty of work to be done.

ASU opened its season with a 44-13 win over Northern Arizona in the first game at the newly-remodeled Sun Devil Stadium. But it took a while for the Sun Devils to put the Lumberjacks away, and even in doing so, they left quite a few questions to be answered.

Here are three big takeaways from ASU's win.

1. Wilkins is a work in progress.

On Saturday, we saw the potential that Manny Wilkins possesses. Making his first collegiate start, the redshirt sophomore quarterback was OK throwing the ball, completing 20 of 27 passes for 180 yards. But also threw an interception, missed some open receivers and often held on to the ball too long.

Wilkins was more impressive on the ground, rushing 14 times for 89 yards and a touchdown. This leap over a Lumberjack defender was arguably the highlight of the night.

Wilkins will have to be better next weekend at home against a much more formidable opponent when Texas Tech comes to town. ASU fans hope Wilkins will use Saturday's win as a confidence builder and look sharper next week.

2. Offensive line is as average as expected.

What do you expect when you lose four starters from last season's starting offensive line? The Devils' new, inexperienced O-line struggled to protect Wilkins on Saturday, allowing three sacks and not allowing their new QB to settle in as well as he would have liked.

ASU's archrivals had similar struggles 30 miles away in Glendale on Saturday -- and like the Wildcats, the Sun Devils will need more from the big guys up front if they're going to have success in the Pac-12 South this season.

3. Secondary continues to struggle.

The Sun Devils did an outstanding job of shutting down the NAU running game (56 yards on 34 carries), but ASU's struggles against the pass seem to have carried over from last season.

No Pac-12 team gave up more passing yards and TDs than the Sun Devils did last season, and this year's team isn't off to a good start in that department, either, as NAU quarterback Case Cookus completed 23 of 33 passes for 369 yards and a touchdown Saturday.

It's fair to say that junior Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes, who threw 36 TD passes last season and threw for nearly 500 yards Saturday against Stephen F. Austin, will be licking his chops after he watches the film from Saturday night's game in Tempe.