ASU football's game grades for the loss to Stanford

ASU football's game grades for the loss to Stanford

Credit: Getty Images

STANFORD, CA - SEPTEMBER 21: Running back Anthony Wilkerson #32 of the Stanford Cardinal scores a touchdown during the second quarter against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Stanford Stadium on September 21, 2013 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)

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by Brad Denny

azfamily.com

Posted on September 23, 2013 at 9:49 AM

Arizona State's trip to Stanford was spoiled by a terrible first half that put he team in a 29-0 halftime hole.

Despite a nice fourth quarter rally, the Sun Devils came out on the short end of a 42-28 final score, and dropped to 2-1 on the season.

As ASU now looks to get back to their winning ways against USC, we hand out some positional grades. 

Quarterback: C-

Much like last week, Taylor Kelly struggled early with poor decisions only to rebound with a strong second half showing. Unlike last week, it was too little, too late.

Kelly's day started off with maybe his worst single play as a Sun Devil throwing a mind-boggling interception on the team's first possession while under duress. His play over the rest of disastrous first half was little better.

He rebounded in the second half to rally his team back into relevance, dialing up his connection with Jaelen Strong. On the day, he set career-highs with 55 attempts and 367 yards and threw three touchdowns. He did throw a second interception on a Hail Marry attempt at the end of the game.

Running Back: B-

Considering the complete lack of blocking in front of him, Marion Grice's performance was pretty impressive. He had just 50 yards on 17 carries, but he ran hard and determined on every carry, and rushed for his sixth touchdown of the year. Every the dual-threat, he had six catches for 32 yards and another touchdown. 

We may need to start classifying D.J. Foster as a wide receiver, as he had no carries on the day. However, he had eight catches for 80 yards, and finally showed his explosiveness on a few catches.

Wide Receiver and Tight End: Jaelen Strong: A+, Everyone else: D

Each week, Strong provides a more compelling case that he could be the best ASU wide receiver since Derek Hagan. He caught 12 passes on Saturday (fifth highest total in ASU history) for 168 yards and a 27-yards score. Strong's most impressive grab was a leaping 34-yards reception over two defenders on 4th and 18 in the fourth quarter. Kelly knows he's the team's best option, and continually feeds Strong the ball.

Other than Strong and the running backs, it was a quiet and disappointing day from the rest of the receivers and tight ends, as the group continued to struggle with drops.

Chris Coyle made just one catch but made it count, a 45-yard touchdown in which he bounced off two defenders on his way to the endzone. Rick Smith had another drop, and made just one seven yard catch. Kevin Ozier had a five yard catch. 

The most encouraging development was the debut of true freshman speedster Cameron Smith, whose rare speed beat defenders downfield on a couple of occasions, but Kelly could not connect with him. He did make one catch, a 30 yarder, and should see more time this week versus USC.

Offensive Line: F

This was an utterly dreadful performance.

On the ground, they ASU offensive line was dominated by the Stanford front seven. Save for Grice's 22-yard run in the second half, they were unable to open up any holes. ASU managed just 50 yards on 24 carries, a terrible average of just 2.1 yards-per-carry. The more troubling stat was Stanford's 10 tackles-for-loss during the game. 

In pass protection, they were no better. The right side of the line had a tough day, as Vi Teofilo and Tyler Sulka were unable to hold back the rush, and Sulka was beaten on one of ASU's two blocked punts. Center Kody Koebensky was also roughed up and called for a personal foul during the game. Stanford only registered three sacks, but they were able to rattle Kelly early and often, and that pressure helped result 

Defensive Line: D-

The big boys up front get a "gentleman's F" on the report card, although losing tackle Jaxon Hood early to a hamstring injury did not help their cause. Hood's first replacement, Jake Sheffield, was dominated by Stanford on every play. Things got a bit better when big Mo Latu took over, and he figures to leapfrog Sheffield on the depth chart.

The line was unable to generate any pressure on Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan, who took advantage of the time to make big plays downfield. Things were no better up front, as the Cardinal were able to rush for 240 yards (averaging 4.9 yards-per-carry), and often had massive holes, such as Anthony Wilkerson's 16-yard touchdown run in which he went completely untouched.

All-American Will Sutton had his struggles against fellow All-American David Yankey, but managed to make a season-high six tackles. Davon Coleman made seven stops as the top reserve, and Gannon Conway had a tackle-for-loss.

Linebacker: C

Welcome back, Carl Bradford. After two somewhat quiet (by his lofty standards) games, Bradford was the Devils' defensive MVP on Saturday. He made seven tackles (six solo) and had the team's only sack of the day, as well as two hurries. Bradford was all over the field, and was the relentless pursuer that this defense needs him to be. 

The unit as a whole struggled for the second straight week against the run. On several Stanford runs, ASU's defenders saw their arm tackles easily broken, resulting in yards after contact.

Saturday's biggest storyline came late in the game at SAM. Starter Steffon Martin continued to underwhelm, and late in the game we saw redshirt freshman Salamo Fiso replace him. Fiso immediately made several impressive plays, racking up four tackles (1.5 for loss). Look for Fiso to see increased playing time, if not take the job outright.

Secondary: B

Due to the success of their ground game, Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan only threw 17 times, completing 11 for 151 yards. Given the lack of a pass rush by ASU, those numbers could have been bigger.

ASU did have some lapses downfield, resulting in long receptions by Ty Montgomery and David Cajuste. Osahon Irabor was once again the top player of the unit, making seven tackles (one for loss). Robert Nelson had an interception, and safety Laiu Moeakiola forced a fumble that was later overturned.

Special Teams: F

For the second straight week, the special teams were abysmal, specifically the punt team.

Matt Haack replaced Dom Vizzare at punter, but did not do well. He had a 50-yard boot on his first kick, but then kicks of just 38, 39 and 28 yards before having his fifth kick blocked just seconds before half time. Thankfully, he had the presence of mind to kick the blocked ball out of the endzone for a safety.

Kelly attempted a pooch punt later in the game, but his kick was also blocked. Stanford scored a touchdown on the next play.

Zane Gonzalez badly missed his only field goal attempt of the game, from 45-yards. After putting 13 of his 17 kickoffs for touchbacks coming into the game, he put just one of his five on Saturday into the endzone.

The Sun Devil return game was unspectacular, but they allowed a 50-yard return on the game's opening play. 

 

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