Sun Devils can’t overcome slow start, miscues in shootout loss to Texas Tech
LUBBOCK, Texas — Texas Tech receiver Dylan Cantrell had as many rushing touchdowns as Arizona State running back Kalen Ballage.
The senior’s first TD on a handoff since his freshman year in high school was the difference, too.
Nic Shimonek threw for six touchdowns, Cantrell had the go-ahead score on a 3-yard run in the final two minutes and the Red Raiders beat the Sun Devils 52-45 in another high-scoring duel Saturday night.
Ballage had one TD for the Sun Devils after tying an NCAA record with eight scores in a 68-55 victory in the desert last year.
Cantrell already had two touchdown catches, a one-armed grab for a first down and a leaping catch on the 90-yard go-ahead drive when he took a handoff from Shimonek on a sweep and stretched the ball over the goal line just inside the pylon with 1:55 remaining.
“It was in the game plan,” said Cantrell, a high school teammate of former Texas Tech and current Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. “If it was the right situation, then we were going to roll with it.”
Manny Wilkins’ deep pass on fourth-and-30 was overthrown on the final Arizona State possession as the Sun Devils (1-2) fell short after rallying from 18 points down at halftime and 14 behind late in the third quarter.
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The Red Raiders started 2-0 for the fourth time in five seasons under coach Kliff Kingsbury.
“Come back like that, we could have won the game,” said Wilkins, who threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns. “We should have won the game. I feel like I should do a better job getting us going early.”
Shimonek, who finished with 543 yards passing, had five scores at halftime after a one-hour weather delay before kickoff. He was 37 of 50 and has nine touchdowns with no interceptions in 80 attempts in the first two starts of his career.
Cantrell, who had scoring grabs of 29 and 14 yards, finished with a career-high 160 yards while Keke Coutee set career marks with 12 catches for 186 yards. Coutee had one score.
“He’s a talented player,” Kingsbury said of Cantrell. “It happened to be his night. All of them made plays. But he had some big-time catches for us.”
N’Keal Harry had 13 catches for 148 yards and a tying 21-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter for Arizona State. Kyle Williams had 111 yards receiving and two scores.
Ballage, who finished with 56 yards in 16 carries, got the ASU rally going with a 1-yard plunge early in the second half.
“We got behind so far in the first half that we made it tough,” coach Todd Graham said. “But we came back, tied the thing up and were playing to win.”
Cantrell made his one-armed grab by trapping the ball between his left arm and his helmet as he was backpedaling along the sideline. In the first half, Cameron Batson caught a screen pass and started up the field before stopping and faking to his right outside the Arizona State 10. As J’Marcus Rhodes stumbled and fell, Batson darted through the hole Rhodes left for an 11-yard score.
BACK OUT THERE
Demario Richard had 53 yards rushing and a touchdown after missing most of the first two games for the Sun Devils. He got hurt in the opener against New Mexico State and missed the 30-20 loss to San Diego State.
The Sun Devils finished with a losing nonconference record for the first time in six seasons under coach Todd Graham. But they did well to get back in the game after losing top pass rusher Koron Crump to an apparent injury early.
Arizona State’s Pac-12 opener is at home against Oregon next Saturday.
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- Kalen Ballage
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