TEMPE - Arizona State's first half of the 2017 season had Sun Devil fans on edge. But a dominant performance for a 20-minute span in the second half might -- emphasis on might -- have fans feeling a bit better heading into Week 2.
After leading just 14-13 at halftime, the Sun Devils reeled off 23 unanswered second-half points and held off a late surge for a 37-31 win over the visiting New Mexico State Aggies. Here are three big takeaways from the Devils' win.
Second-year starting quarterback Manny Wilkins was under pressure for most of the night -- he was sacked seven times by a New Mexico State team that recorded only 11 sacks all of last year -- but he showed poise in the pocket, especially in the second half.
For the game, Wilkins completed 22 of 27 passes for exactly 300 yards, and he threw the two longest touchdown passes of his collegiate career -- a 53-yarder to Jalen Harvey in the first quarter and a 60-yarder to John Humphrey in the third quarter.
Wilkins still has a way to go in order to become an elite quarterback, as he still made some poor decisions and poor throws Thursday. But he showed enough promise to suggest he'll improve upon an unsteady 2016 season.
2. Defense struggles but does enough
ASU's rushing defense was shaky in the first half, and its secondary was burned for some big plays, including this ridiculous touchdown catch by New Mexico State's Jaleel Scott in the first half.
But like Wilkins, the Devils' defense settled in and began wearing down NMSU. ASU recorded six sacks and forced quarterback Tyler Rogers into making some bad throws by getting after him. Sophomore Kobe Williams' interception return for a touchdown put the game away early in the fourth quarter.
Zane Gonzalez, the best kicker in ASU history, graduated last season and now kicks for the Cleveland Browns. But many fans didn't expect the Sun Devils to miss a beat in the kicking department with the addition of former Gilbert Williams Field High School star Brandon Ruiz.
Ruiz had a mixed outing in his first collegiate game, as he missed a 56-yard field-goal attempt before halftime, and he sent an extra point wide right. But he nailed a 52-yard attempt in the third quarter with room to spare, reminding ASU fans that they should be in good hands (or feet) with Ruiz taking over the kicking duties.