Sun Devils escape with 35-21 win over FCS Cal Poly

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Mike Bercovici threw two of his three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter and Arizona State overcame a second straight shaky performance to beat Cal Poly 35-21 Saturday night.

Arizona State (1-1) was flat in an opening loss to Texas A&M and had a hard time shaking the FCS Mustangs in its home opener.

Demario Richard ran for 121 yards and two touchdowns, but the Sun Devils had a pair of key turnovers and struggled in the red zone in before scoring twice in the final eight minutes.

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Bercovici hit Kody Kohl on a 10-yard touchdown and put the game away with a 4-yard pass to Tim White. He threw for 283 yards.

Cal Poly (1-1) opened the season by knocking off two-time FCS national champion Montana 20-19 on a last-second field goal and didn't back down in its first game against a Pac-12 team.

Pounding the Sun Devils up the middle with their triple option, the Mustangs ran through Arizona State for 284 yards. Joe Protheroe had 130 yards and a touchdown.

Arizona State had breakdowns across the board in its 38-17 loss to Texas A&M in Houston.

The Sun Devils had a hard time protecting Bercovici - nine sacks - and the receivers struggled to break free of the Aggies cornerbacks. The special teams were called the worst since he's been here by coach Todd Graham and the defense had a solid effort spoiled by mistakes that led to a pair of long touchdowns.

Cal Poly doesn't exactly have the same speedy defensive ends as Texas A&M - few teams do - so Bercovici had more time and Arizona State's offense clicked in first half.

The Sun Devils had 282 total yards by halftime, nine fewer than the entire Texas A&M game, and scored more points (21) than the opener after Richard scored on runs of 13 and 6 yards.

The only first-half blemish was a big one: Kohl lost a fumble to set up a Cal Poly touchdown.

Arizona State continued to move the ball in the second half, twice moving inside Cal Poly's 10-yard line, but got nothing out of it.

A 1-yard touchdown run by Richard on the opening drive was overturned on review and Bercovici threw an interception in the end zone on fourth-and-goal. A drive early in the fourth quarter ended when Zane Gonzalez missed a 28-yard field goal.

The Sun Devils finally capitalized in the red zone midway through the fourth quarter, when Kohl wrestled the ball away from Cal Poly safety B.J. Nard for a 10-yard touchdown that put Arizona State up 28-21. White put the game away with his touchdown catch with less than two minutes left.

Arizona State's defense had its own struggles.

Instead of giving up big plays like against Texas A&M, the Sun Devils took a series of gut punches from the Mustangs' triple option.

Attacking with the dive option, Cal Poly ran right up the middle against Arizona State's defense, setting up a 4-yard touchdown run by Protheroe and a 1-yard scoring dive by Chris Brown in the first half.

The Mustangs switched things up to open the second half, working more to the outside and Brown completed his first pass of the game - on his second attempt - for a 21-yard touchdown to Reagan Enger that tied the game at 21-all.

Arizona State tightened up after that, though, forcing four straight punts.


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