TEMPE, Ariz. -- The questions about Arizona State going on the road are silenced, at least for one week.
The Sun Devils went up to Pullman and throttled the Washington State Cougars 55-21 in a dominating effort that improved ASU to 6-2 on the year and 4-1 in Pac-12 play.
The offense topped 53 points for the third consecutive game and fifth time on the year, while the defense stifled the Cougar passing game.
We hand out some game grades for the Devils big win.
At home, Taylor Kelly is one of the most efficient and effective quarterbacks in the nation. On the road...not so much. Kelly made a major stride into fixing that with his performance on Thursday night. He played his best road game to date, accounting for seven total touchdowns, including two rushing scores. His five passing touchdowns tied his personal-best. Kelly was calm, cool, and collected as he made excellent decisions and showed off his rare dual-threat ability.
Running Back: A-
The streak is over. Marion Grice failed to find the end zone for the first time in 10 games, but he still played another fantastic game. He rushed for 94 yards on 18 carries and was not hit for any losses. Grice ran hard and through many WSU tackles, gaining many of his yards after contact. He also caught two passes for 31 yards. D.J. Foster was more effective, catching a team-high seven passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns, while adding 30 yards on eight carries. Deantre Lewis got a lot of work late in the game to close it out, rushing for 48 yards, although he did lose a fumble.
Wide Receiver and Tight End: A-
Welcome back, Rick Smith.
After a terrible first seven games marred by drops, a costly fumble, and a benching, the sophomore rebounded with a terrific game. He had a career-high 79 yards on three catches, including a sensational juggling 51-yard touchdown reception. Jaelen Strong, still hobbled by an ankle injury, did manage four catches for 35 yards, including a touchdown, but was clearly not 100 percent. Tight end Chris Coyle managed three grabs for 28 yards and a touchdown, but the rest of the group was quiet, combining for three catches for 25 yards.
Offensive Line: A-
Another stellar job by the boys in the trenches helped lead the way for ASU to top 50 points for the third straight game. On the ground, the line paved the way for 295 pre-sack yards and a very healthy 4.9 yards-per-carry average. Jamil Douglas in particular had several great blocks. The line also was able to give Taylor Kelly the time needed for his five-touchdown day. He was sacked twice, but by and large had all the time he needed to led the offense down the field.
Defensive Line: A+
There was a lot of talk in the wake of the win over Washington whether the performance of the run defense was a fluke. If so, it's now a two-game fluke. ASU held Washington State to just two yards rushing, bringing the total allowed over the last two games to -3. Yes, -3. Will Sutton was back to his old disruptive self, and Davon Coleman and Gannon Conway were stout. Beyond smashing the WSU run, the line was very effective in the pass rush. Coleman had a sack, and Marcus Hardison had his best game as a Sun Devil, notching his first career sack. WSU quarterback Connor Halliday was harried throughout the game, leading to several off target throws.
Beyond the line, the second level of the ASU defense also played well. WILL linebacker Chris Young was all over the field, making several big stops, and Devilbacker Carl Bradford had a sack and a team-high three quarterback hurries, making life miserable for Halliday. He also forced two fumbles, continuing his prolonged stretch of All-Pac-12 caliber play. Anthony Jones missed a few tackles, but all told, the unit help keep
Thanks to the excellent pass rush, the Cougars' vaunted passing attack never fully got on track. Halliday threw for two touchdowns and 300 yards, with three plays of over 30 yards that were caused by some coverage breakdowns. Yet for most of the game, the secondary was up to the task. Alden Darby led the team with eight tackles and knocked away three passes, including a big breakup on a would-be touchdown. Robert Nelson had an interception as he continues to improve his play in recent weeks. Lloyd Carrington provided excellent coverage and stout tackling, tying Darby with eight stops. Safety Damarious Randall dropped an interception, but had two tackles and was effective on the backline.
Special Teams: A+
To win tough conference games on the road, special teams must play well. ASU's finally did.
Kicker Zane Gonzalez connected on both of his field goal attempts—from 36 and 37 yards—to extend his streak to 13 in a row. Alex Garoutte was effective on kickoffs, launching three touchbacks, and the coverage units were great, allowing no kickoff return longer than 18 yards.
Garoutte's lone punt was a nice 41 yarder than did not allow a return, but it was the creativity of the unit that gives the special teams an A+.
ASU ran two fake punts, both for first downs. The first was a run by Bradford for 20 yards, and he other was an option read by Garoutte off his rugby style. Seeing room to roam, he ran for 19 yards and a first down.