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ASU Football: Sun Devils survive overtime thriller

(Photo: Tyler Strachan/WCSN)

No. 14 Arizona State required overtime to defeat No. 17 Utah, but a 36-yard field goal sealed the deal in overtime for ASU.

The Sun Devils dominated the first half on Saturday night, but finished its huge first 30 minutes with only a 7-point lead as long drives didn’t translate to touchdowns. It was a different story in the second half though, as Utah began the half with a 75-yard touchdown drive and the ASU offense struggled to move the ball at all.

It took ASU over 24 minutes to score in the second half against Utah, but a 30-yard field goal from Gonzalez knotted the game up and the defense held the Utes on multiple occasions to force overtime.

The Arizona State defense again came up big in overtime by forcing the Utes to settle for a 35-yard field goal that was missed by Utah’s usually-automatic Andy Phillips. Gonzalez handled things from there.

Player of the game: Demario Richard

The freshman running back racked up 116 yards rushing on just 14 carries against a Utah defense that entered the game among the top in the nation at stopping opposing rushers. No team had accumulated more than 180 yards rushing on the Utes in 2014, but the Sun Devils managed to rack up 239 led by the contributions of Richard. While not the athlete that D.J. Foster or Kalen Ballage are, Richard has consistently followed blocks exceptionally well and has the patience of a seasoned veteran.

Biggest concern: Taylor Kelly’s passing reads

Rust and weather were the excuses for Taylor Kelly’s rough outing against Washington last week, but what’s the reason for his struggles against Utah on Saturday night? Kelly completed just a hair over 50 percent of his passes and tossed more than a couple balls in to danger. The running game took off against a top-rated rush defense and that was aided by Kelly’s 55 yards rushing and ability to run the read option, so he made a positive impact, but he has to be better at seeing opposing defenses.

Unsung hero: Lloyd Carrington

The senior cornerback has had some struggles at times in 2014, but on Saturday night he looked every bit like the player Todd Graham and Keith Patterson have hyped him up to be. Carrington locked down opposing receivers all night and was a force in the backfield as well with two tackles for loss and a sack. Thanks to Carrington and the rest of the ASU secondary, the Sun Devils were able to hold Utah’s Travis Wilson to just 57 yards passing.

Stat of the game: 5.6 yards per carry

Only Idaho State managed to average more than four yards per carry on the ground against Utah, and the stout Utes defense managed to keep each of its last three opponents under three yards per rushing attempt. Led by the aforementioned Richard, the Sun Devils snapped that trend and bruised out well over 200 yards rushing.

What’s next?

ASU gets a break from the grind of Pac-12 play, but not much of a break as it’s No. 10 Notre Dame coming to Tempe next for a nationally-televised afternoon game. While the game has no impact on the Sun Devils’ hopes at reaching the Pac-12 Championship Game, a win over the Fighting Irish would significantly boost ASU’s case for inclusion in the College Football Playoff.

You can reach Adam Stites on Twitter @AdamStitesASU or by email

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