Devils in the details

Ex-ASU player Kyle Caldwell breaks downs the Sun Devils' thrilling 37-30 overtime victory over Missouri.

Finally Arizona State was tested in such a way that they have been needing for some time now, and finally the Sun Devils came out on top!

For the last three years these types of wins have eluded us. We have seen some close games both on the road and at Sun Devil Stadium that didn't end our favor and have left us with that empty feeling since oh about 1996.

Each year was suppose to be our turnaround year. The season that ASU finally proved themselves as a National elite. Well, Friday night when it counted, they proved they could get it done.

After a game full of adversity and uncertainty, the Blacked Out Sun Devils showed us as a fan base they were for real. The energy was out of control! I have never been to a night game other than Georgia contest in 2008, where Frank Kush Field was so electric.

It left me with goose bumps all night long. This is something the Sun Devils have been trying to achieve for a long time coming and I am so excited for the rest of this season. With so much to improve on and in a very short period of time, it is truly exciting to think of all the possibilities.

The win versus Missouri lifted the weight that has been on the backs of so many. Now is our time to take it and run!

So after some time to think things over and analyze the Missouri game, let's talk about the position groups as a whole and some specific players efforts that stood out both as positives and negatives.

The Offense had a stellar night! 492 yards on 64 plays, 7.7 avg per play is a great outing. It would have been nice to see more production in the rushing game but when we needed to come up with the big plays we turned to Brock Osweiler and his big arm. As a whole this unit competed every play and left us with lots of positives at the end of the night.

Quarterback Grade: A

Brock Osweiler showed us that he is and can be a great leader this season. That he is confident in his skills and decisions. That he cares and will not settle for anything less than greatness. His ability to extend drives with his legs and find the second and third read on passing plays while under some aggressive defensive pressure was outstanding. Brock opened the eyes of a lot of people Friday night!

Offensive Line Grade: C+

Some of the same things we saw against UC Davis with this group were even more exposed this week against a much better defensive front. Our ability to run the ball this year is going to pay off yet it seems that we need to get back to some basic techniques. The Tackles are playing far too high in the run game and our mastery of double teams is far from a deserving high grade. Missouri had a skilled Defensive Line that rotated a fresh four so as the game went on we saw this play out in the Tigers favor. Too much interior pressure on pass sets caused the Offense to have to make quick adjustments to the second and third receivers which led to short gains and 4 punts.

Garth Gerhart has done a great job so far this season with some of his zone blocking skills. I like his maturity in knowing how to influence the D-Lineman on the inside zone in just a way to spring nice running lanes. It is that simple move a center does with the swing of his hips at the right time that causes a D-Tackle to have to jump back into his gap which opens those lanes up. Seems like the Offensive Line just needs to play with some more fire under them and they will have a successful year. When the momentum was up this group was dominate.

A great early season test for the O-Line and hopefully they make some improvements and communicate well together on the first road game this upcoming week.

Running Backs Grade: B -

Tons of effort from this group and when the big plays needed to be made we were witness to them. Jamal Miles and his speed out of the backfield on the swing routes is something special. It would be a great thing to see both him and Kyle Middlebrooks in some sets at the same time. The stress that would put on a Defense would be nearly impossible to stop. Cameron Marshall ran hard with the good tenacity that he has.

Against a fast Defense his style is much more of the inside run game which needs to remain the focus. With 22 carries we would obviously like to see more than 61 yards (2.8 Avg). Hopefully against Illinois this week we will see some more of Middlebrooks. His skills were missed this week against Missouri at the RB position.

Wide Receiver Grade: B+

This is a wonderful group! It was known at the beginning of camp this group of players was going to be a high note on the team and they have not let any of us down. Aaron Pflugrad was a stud (8 catches, 180 yards, 2 TD's). The way he is able to find holes in the zone and catch the football with great hands is a true asset. Gerell Robinson came up with two big catches and his blocking skills were also shown off. He sprung the swing route out of the black field a couple times with some crushing blocks on the edge which was awesome to see! If this group continues to block well on the edge in the run game the Devils will have lots of success this year.

On to the Defense!

As a fan I would say I watched a fun close fought game that was entertaining to be a part of. As a former player and three-year starter on that Sun Devil Defense it was hard to watch at times.

I stated earlier in the week that the key to the game was going to be not letting the 2nd and longs and definitely the 3rd and longs turn into big gains. That with Franklin's ability to run we were going to have to do a great job containing the pocket and keeping our eyes in front of us as a Defense.

On Friday, there were far too many breakdowns in pass Defense and way too many big plays from the Tigers. Missouri did a great job spreading the Sun Devil Defense out going 4 and 5 wide which would prevent the QB spy game. Yet, with this being the case and the stress being put on the front four the Devils were exposed on a lot of things that can make or break a Defensive season. We need to create turnovers! Zero in two games! Ball out!

Defensive Line Grade: C

Get back to the basics when playing a zone read, QB based Offense! It is clear the D-Line is very talented and has the athletes to do a lot this season. The speed off of the edge at Defensive End is special and with the depth of Junior Onyeali, Greg Smith, Jamaar Jarrett and Davon Coleman there should always be fresh motors on the field. Yet with this speed also comes discipline!

Far too many times our Defensive Ends were shooting the lane and missing both the Quarterback and Running Back on the zone read play. Bottom line is if you get back there that quick then at least tackle your read! Another topic that was noticed was keeping the Quarterback contained from a D-Line perspective.

Normally the rule is on a pass rush that you need to be as deep or deeper than the QB before you can take your inside counter move, ESPECIALLY if the Quarterback is a runner.

There were far too many immediate inside moves from the line of scrimmage which was leaving the edge wide open for big runs. You cannot lose contain continuously and think that it won't hurt you.

Another point is that there needs to be more of a run based mentality and our points of contact need to be addressed. The reaction on a Defensive front has always been and will always been run first react to pass. This was not always the case Friday night and it showed as we opened up some serious run lanes for Missouri. Bo Moos needs to find ways to get his hips moving towards his target (the QB) when he is coming around the edge when the D-Line is running games such as crossing stunts or You/Me's (You go first, I go first).

Corey Adams came up with some nice effort plays but still needs to find an anchor in the run department. This will be a great week of practice as the Devils get ready to go on the road and face another opponent that has a QB that can run and hopefully a lot of these issues are fixed.

Linebackers Grade: C+

This group had a good night but still didn't seem like they were on the same page with the rest of the Defense at times. Fairly stellar on the run game from scrimmage there was a lot of good technique used. Guys were beating blocks and staying in their holes.

You could see that as the game went on and the Sun Devils were going against a much tougher opponent Friday that the legs started to fail a bit. Cramping was still an issue and the pursuit dropped off. Instead of being in good position to make plays they were having to leave their feet and thus some major big plays by the Tigers was witnessed. Big hits are fun to watch but when it's a theme and poor tackling techniques are used often it will kill any team's chances of success.

The backers need to just get after those basic techniques I keep harping on. Get your hat on the ball, bring those arms and good things will happen as we swarm. The spacing on the zone pass drop needs to get better and guys need to find that curl/hook zone on the edge because it showed time after time with eyes in the backfield on the QB rather than the Offensive Receiver which led to some nice passing plays from Missouri.

On a finishing note I thought that Colin Parker showed us he is a very good WILL Backer and can be counted on to do some great things this year I have faith this group comes back this week and shines brightly!

Secondary Grade: C

A lot of positives and definitely some negatives. This group has all the potential to be great this year. Deveron Carr is a great athlete and so is Osahon Irabor. With Senior Eddie Elder and Junior Keelan Johnson out there in this group I expect a lot more leadership to be in place.

Looks like there are some breakdowns in communication going on. I witnessed a couple times guys trying to wave down the player next to him to try and get him the call only to not have the other even look their way for a tap off or to let them know they got the call. As a secondary player you always need to have that head on a swivel and be talking to the guys around you with symbols or whatever is in place to make sure the spacing and eyes are all were they should be.

The timing on pass breakups needs to get much better. Far too many times guys were looking like they were in a panic while the ball was in the air and thus caused a Passing Interference call. Having great eyes, checking your man's hips, putting the hands in the proper place and using their athletic skill to run it out will be all they need to get to. I have all the confidence in the world this group will continue to improve and come up with some big plays this season.

Special Teams Grade: B

In two games we have two muffed punts now. Jamal Miles has all the tools to be a great returner in both kick offs and punts he just needs to catch the ball! Elbows tucked, cradle the ball into your chest. He tends to extend out his arms and try and catch the ball like a pass rather than a punt. Muffed punts will without a doubt change every game especially if they end up in the other teams recovery.

The kickoff coverage was better than it was against UC Davis but still needs to improve. Lane assignments need to be address a bit more and being able to break down on the ball carrier rather than being out of position and having to make a diving tackle which is often broke.

Alex Garoutte is doing a great job kicking the ball and I really like this kid so far. On PAT though he does need to get some more lift under his balls or we may see some more blocks and we all know how much those blocked kicks are appreciated or hated. And on a final note with special teams we need to dramatically improve our long and short snapping.

On our punts the ball seemed to float back there instead of being shot back. The time from snapper to kicker needs to improve about a quarter second or we may see some problems. Also so in the short kicking game some problems with snap and holder. Seemed like they just need some more practice, every point counts!!!

Overall Team Grades:

Offense: A

Defense: C+

Special Teams: B

This will be another exciting week as we take on a talented Illinois team. Our last test before Pac-12 play begins and a good road test. Champagne might not host the most exciting football venue in the country but they sure do like their Fighting Illini. The Sun Devils in all White?? Yes Please! Here is so taking our skills on the road and improving in all aspects this week! Go Devils! -KC50

Defensive end Kyle Caldwell played for the Sun Devils from 2003-2006 and finished with Sun Devil career with 90 tackles and 10.5 sacks. He earned Pac-10 All-Freshman honors in 2003 and Honorable Mention All-Pac-10 recognition in 2006. A graduate of Scottsdale Saguaro High School, Caldwell was a member of the Sabercats' coaching staff who won the 2010 Class 4A Division I state championship.

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