In three of Arizona State's four games this season, the Sun Devils have been held to fewer than two touchdowns in the first half.
Even with his team's early struggles, offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey has engineered an attack that has the Sun Devils averaging 48.75 points per game through their first four games.
Each of the last two weeks, the Sun Devils have overcome two-touchdown deficits at the half to rally for victories, and though ASU is now 4-0, Lindsey is hoping his team doesn't make come-from-behind victories the norm.
"I wouldn't say it's a norm, anytime you win, you're happy to win and it's hard to do whether you're in front or not so we're just glad with where we are right now and we'll just continue to get better," Lindsey said.
On Tuesday, head coach Todd Graham said the Sun Devils would like to start faster, but ultimately, he's fine with the way ASU has won thus far because it has accomplished its goal of going 1-0 each week. On Wednesday, Lindsey emphasized the importance of improving, but said it will be nice to draw on the team's prior experience overcoming adversity later on this season.
"I think you talk about that with every team, some years you don't have the opportunities to do that and some years you do," Lindsey said. "I think this is one of those years where at least we have something we can rely on when the game is at the end but each game is different so it's good to have that experience but at the end of the day we've got a new opponent and a new set of circumstances."
Entering the season, ASU faced questions about its ability to execute offensively because it was starting a new quarterback, four new offensive linemen and a pair of new wide receivers.
To some extent, slow starts are typical of teams lacking proven veterans, but both Graham and Lindsey are pleased with the way ASU has corrected early mistakes and executed properly down the stretch during games.
"Some of our things that have happened early in the games have been self-inflicted which is maybe has something to do with inexperience and it's things that we can correct and we're working to do that," Lindsey said.
One of the defining aspects of ASU's second half performances this season has been the play of sophomore quarterback Manny Wilkins, who is completing more than 75 percent of his pass attempts in the second half this year.
On Saturday against Cal, Wilkins was a shaky 5-for-10 in a first half effort that featured a handful of missed reads and opportunities. In the second half, Wilkins was able to lead the Sun Devils back from a 24-10 deficit by completing 16-of-20 attempts, and playing a turnover free final two quarters.
"It's early still but I think he's (Wilkins) grown, I think he's continuing to improve," Lindsey said. "I like where he is, but he's probably his worst critic and that's probably a good characteristic to have. He comes to practice every day to work, he spends a lot of time in the film room, he knows he has a lot of improvement to do but so far so good with it."
News and Notes
- Junior linebacker Christian Sam did not practice in the portions of practice open to the media, and was still walking through the injury line during warmups. Sam injured his ankle against Northern Arizona, and has yet to practice since then. On Monday, Graham said he hoped to have Sam back for Saturday, but that's looking increasingly unlikely.
- Senior defensive tackle Viliami Latu joined Sam in the injury line, and wore a bulky compression sleeve over his left knee. After warmups, Latu swapped out the sleeve for a knee brace over at Muscle Beach. By the time the media viewing period was over, Latu had yet to return to drills.
- Sophomore defensive back Tyler Whiley wore a cast on his right wrist that covered the base of his right thumb. Whiley was participating in individual drills normally.
- During a conditioning drill, ASU aligned with a first team defensive line that featured sophomore Renell Wren at end, redshirt freshman George Lea at nose, junior Tashon Smallwood at Tiger and sophomore Joseph Wicker at Devil backer. Senior Laiu Moeakiola participated in the drill and was aligned as the Spur linebacker.