Foster powers No. 17 ASU to 58-23 win over New Mexico

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By Brad Denny By Brad Denny
D.J. Foster runs through the Lobo defense. By Brad Denny D.J. Foster runs through the Lobo defense. By Brad Denny
By Brad Denny By Brad Denny

ALBUQUERQUE -- Another week, another career night for D.J. Foster.

The Arizona State junior running back rushed for a career-high 216 yards in leading the No. 17 Sun Devils to a resounding 58-23 victory over the New Mexico Lobos. It was the first 200-yard effort by an ASU player since Delvon Flowers in 2001, and just the third since 1994.

"I am just blessed to have the line that I do," said the typically humble Foster. "Those guys don't get enough credit. I'll run behind those guys any day."

On the night, ASU ran for 423 yards while holding one of the nation's elite rushing teams to 207 yards on the ground and limiting them to 3.6 yards per carry.

The Sun Devil defense had several issues containing UNM's offense in the first half, but delivered the game-changing plays they lacked last week. Ten days after not forcing a turnover in the opener against Weber State—breaking a 29-game streak of forcing at least one—ASU's defense recovered three Lobo fumbles, and the ASU offense did their part by converting each opportunity into a touchdown.

While the final score may paint a picture of domination, but Saturday's game was a tale of two halves.

ASU burst out to a 22-0 first quarter lead, thanks in part to a pair of Lobo miscues. Following a Deantre Lewis touchdown run to open the game—sprung by a career-long 52-yard run by quarterback Taylor Kelly—ASU used a trick play that saw tight end De'Marieya Nelson toss a two point conversion to kicker Zane Gonzalez.

"I drew that up last night, I think," Graham said with a laugh after the game.

The Sun Devils struck twice more in the first quarter after fumbles by UNM quarterbacks. Kelly and true freshman Kalen Ballage ran for scores, capping scoring drives that each lasted under 45 seconds. Ballage had another touchdown run early in the second quarter, and it seemed the rout was on.

"I think our guys thought we were going to blow them out," said Graham.

However, ASU's offensive execution faltered while their young defense allowed UNM's triple option attack to make big plays, including 44 and 32-yard passes to set up UNM's second score to bring the score to 29-14. 

On the ensuing drive, Kelly fumbled the ball and the Lobos recovered. Five plays later, UNM found the endzone yet again.

"I could feel the panic," said Graham of his team's attitude late in the first half.

The Sun Devils were staggered as they went into the locker room at halftime, clinging desperately to a 32-21 advantage after a late Gonzalez field goal.

During the half, the mood in the Sun Devil locker room was not one of panic. They had prepared for moments like Saturday night.

"All we did at halftime is say 'Do what you are coached to do.' That's it. There were no adjustments," said Graham.

"It was just guys coming together," said Kelly. "Coach Norvell and Coach Graham thrive for adverse situations. That's why our practices on Tuesday and Wednesday are so adverse. Coaches are getting on people for these situations."

That was immediately reversed on the opening drive of the second half, when a 49-yard Foster run set up a 24-yard Jaelen Strong touchdown reception.

Another UNM fumble on the ensuing drive gave ASU the ball at the Lobo 41-yard line with a chance to deal a deadly blow. Sophomore wide receiver Cameron Smith did just that.

"I've been telling (offensive coordinator) Mike (Norvell) for two weeks, I just want him to hit a home run," Graham said of Smith. "Once he gets one, it's really going to make a difference. He is really, really fast. As he gains confidence, he can be a big threat."

Smith used that speed to burn the Lobo secondary for a 41-yard touchdown catch on the first play after the fumble. Smith led ASU with four catches for 77 yards on the night.

Those plays keyed a 26-2 second half scoring edge for the Sun Devils, which including a one-yard Foster touchdown run, to seal the win. The Lobos' only two second half points came on a return of a blocked ASU extra point.

"At halftime, I felt like we could win the game," said UNM head coach Bob Davie. "I'm dead honest. But we just came out in the second half and couldn't execute."

ASU iced the game with four minutes left in the game when true freshman running back Demario Richard sprung loose for a 46-yard touchdown.

It wasn't always pretty, but Graham was pleased from what his Sun Devils showed in their first road contest of the year.

"We faced adversity," said Graham. "We responded very well, and we dominated a team we should dominate."

The play of Foster, who amassed 270 yard of offense, was the primary reason for the domination. UNM had no answer for him, despite,in his mind, a slow start.

"I had a loose ball on the ground. It took me a while to get going," Foster said. "My teammates and TK (Taylor Kelly) helped me to get things going. I depended on my line tonight, and they did a great job."

ASU (2-0, 0-0) travels to Boulder, Colo. next week to opening Pac-12 play against Colorado (1-1, 0-0). 

Noteworthy

- ASU's 423 yards rushing were the most the team has had since beating Arizona in 1996.

- Through two games, Foster has runs of 12, 12, 13, 15, 19, 20, 25, 42, 49, and 57 yards. He has 363 yards on just 34 carries through the season's first two games.

- In the second quarter, Kelly became the fourth player in ASU history to top 7,000 career passing yards. He is now just five touchdown passes behind Danny White for fourth on ASU's all-time list.

- This was the first meeting between these programs since 1977. ASU now owns a 23-5-1 series advantage.

- UNM's fumble recovery of the Kelly fumble ended a run of over 513 minutes of game action, covering seven games, in which the Lobo defense failed to record a turnover.