QB Wilkins throws 2 TDs, leads ASU past Aggies in opener
TEMPE — Manny Wilkins threw for 300 yards and two touchdowns, Kalen Ballage had two scoring runs and Arizona State overcame a sluggish second quarter to open the season with a 37-31 victory over New Mexico State on Thursday night.
Arizona State jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead, allowed the Aggies back in it, then pulled away in the second half to win its 19th straight home opener.
Wilkins showed off his strong arm on a 60-yard scoring strike to John Humphrey and finished 22 for 27. Ballage had scoring runs of 7 and 20 yards, carrying most of the load with Demario Richard on the sideline with a right-knee injury.
New Mexico State's Tyler Rogers threw for 398 yards and three touchdowns on 40-of-57 passing. He also had two interceptions, including one returned for a 49-yard touchdown by Kobe Williams.
Jason Huntley and Jaleel Scott each scored two touchdowns for the Aggies.
Coming off a disappointing 5-7 season, Sun Devils coach Todd Graham did not have his contract extended for the first time since arriving in the desert, a possible sign that more losing won't be tolerated.
Arizona State opened the scoring on Ballage's 7-yard run and Jalen Harvey's 53-yard reception in the first quarter.
The Sun Devils went flat from there.
New Mexico State put together two long drives in the second quarter, pulling within 14-13 by halftime on Scott's spectacular 16-yard touchdown catch and Rogers' 1-yard keeper.
Arizona State was better in the second half.
Wilkins threw a perfectly-placed ball on the 60-yard touchdown to Humphrey and Ballage burst through the right side for a 20-yard TD run to put the Sun Devils up 30-13 late in the third.
New Mexico State made a late push, pulling within 37-25 after Huntley scored on a 50-yard run and a 23-yard reception. Scott scored on a 29-yard pass at the buzzer.
The Aggies took a while to get going, but had a 549-400 advantage in total yards and got a good defensive push against a Power Five program, which could help them down the road.
Arizona State became discombobulated for a stretch in the first half, but wore the Aggies down to pull away. The Sun Devils will need to play four good quarters, not just three, as the schedule gets tougher.
New Mexico State heads to New Mexico on Sept. 9 for the Rio Grande Rivalry. The Aggies ended a four-game losing streak to the Lobos with a 32-31 victory in Las Cruces last season.
Arizona State has a home game against San Diego State on Sept. 9 before facing what could be a difficult road game against Texas Tech on Sept. 16.