ASU football‘s offense has struggled to get going as Arizona leads 22-14 at halftime as the Wildcats are averaging nearly eight yards a play.
Many expected the Territorial Cup to be a shootout. While there’s been explosive plays from both teams, there’s only been 36 points to show for it.
Here are some takeaways from the first half.
1. Arizona State’s defense is struggling.
The Sun Devil defense has made massive strides this season under first-year defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales, but the first half was a struggle.
Arizona State couldn’t stop Arizona’s balanced attack as Khalil Tate has had all day in the pocket to look through his progressions.
Tate is 12-of-16 passing for 197 yards and two touchdowns as the Sun Devil defense hasn’t been able to put pressure on him in the pocket.
Running back J.J. Taylor has been stellar in the first half rushing for 81 yards on 12 carries.
Arizona outgained Arizona State 308-163 in the first half with the Wildcats averaging 7.9 yards per play.
Arizona State must find a way to stop this Wildcats offense.
2. Arizona State’s offense off to slow start.
The Sun Devil offense was hoping to get off to a strong start especially after seeing the way Arizona’s defense was exposed against Washington State last week.
On Saturday, the Wildcats defense has been putting consistent pressure on Wilkins and playing strong man-to-man coverage downfield.
Wide receiver N’Keal Harry has two catches for 19 yards in the first half. Running back Eno Benjamin is averaging 2.3 yards per carry (12 carries for 27 yards). ASU must find a way to get those two more involved.
Quarterback Manny Wilkins has been hit a lot but when given time in the pocket, he’s shown to make plays. Wilkins is 8-for-13 for 121 yards and one touchdown.
3. The Sun Devils need to build off strong finish to the first half.
Arizona State ended the half strongly after a lackluster start with Wilkins engineering a 75-yard touchdown drive that was capped off by a 10-yard touchdown run by Benjamin.
The defense has done a nice job holding Arizona to field goals in the red zone. This score could have been a lot worse for the Sun Devils.
Offensively, look for Arizona State to attempt more passes downfield. Arizona has been known for giving many explosive plays. The Wildcats secondary also has shown it can be vulnerable.
Defensively, the Sun Devils need to get more pressure on Tate. His ability to extend plays is a big reason why Arizona’s offense has had so much success.