Devils in the details

Ex-ASU player Kyle Caldwell breaks down the Sun Devils' 43-22 win over USC

What an amazing night! That ship of ours that had been smilingly cast upon the rocks last week now has been brought to life "literally" as the storm came into Sun Devil Stadium and set life to the sails! In my world this was supposed to happen and now we can say that Arizona State Football is back on the path it should be. The "monkey" is off the back and a weight lifted off this program. The Sun Devils quest for the South has begun!

This was such an epic night filled with lots of emotion and so many obstacles. The Sun Devils hosting the USC Trojans and the 11 year battle for a Win that has slipped the Devils reach time in and time out has now come to an end! The student section was out of control as they have been this whole year, the weather was unique to good ol' Arizona and the step we have all been waiting for has now been taken.

I have to say as a fan watching the game I was prepared for my feelings at half time (being there before against the Trojans in 2005: 21-3 at half time), knowing the half time adjustments were going to be made and the Devils were going to have to endure an onslaught of power football which is what USC is known for. Sure enough they did and with fortitude the Sun Devils were able to put a deep notch in their belt as Pac-12 play has now begun.

As a whole the team was so much fun to watch with the sideline on fire and lots of passion everywhere I looked. I kept seeing Brock as well as many offensive players cheering on the defense, getting the crowd fired up which is something that has been missing for awhile now.

It seems this team is honed in on what it is all about. Liking the guys around you, believing in the system in place, being coachable and having fun doing it all. The penalties dropped a ton and if you take away the side line and hands to the face we have four total for hardly any yards which is what you have to do to beat any good team.

I was very impressed with the play calling and really want to give a kudos to the coaching staff for having the team extremely focused and bringing together some awesome resilience.

Talking about the offense

So improved and so awesome to watch the system was finally clicking on all cylinders. The Devils did a great job establishing the line of scrimmage and not digging holes early in drives which both have been a problem so far this season.

We won the first down battle, were 50% on third down, had ZERO turnovers, ran the ball very nicely and our spread out passing game wore out USC which was very obvious. Often times you hear talk about people not liking the offensive scheme and that throwing swing routes and motioning out of the backfield is a waste but last night really proved what all those intangibles do to a defense.

The Sun Devils were throwing sideline to sideline and anyone who has played defense before knows how tired and wore down that will make you running in pursuit all game long.

Our motions were pulling linebackers out of the box and with some very good blocking by the offensive line lots of beautiful holes were there for our backs. I was especially pleased watching the pass blocking this week as to a week ago against Illinois. It was very clear the boys up front got the message and took accountability. Great technique, guys anchoring down their man, creating a good pocket for Osweiler to step up in. It was a thing of beauty!

Let's grade the film!

Quarterback grade: A

I said it before and I am gonna keep saying it loud and proud. Brock Osweiler is a stud! He is a guy who has total composure and a heart full of leadership. I fully believe in him and all his abilities. Watching Brock you can see when the pressure is on he is going to step to the plate and put the ball where it needs to be or make the nice scramble with his lanky frame.

The announcers said it perfectly last night when they said he plays like a guy who is 6'2- 6'3 and not 6'8. He moves very fluidly and I thought his presence in the pocket was much improved this week. He was stepping up nicely working well with his O-Line. A thing of beauty when it is all on. Great job Brock!

Offensive line Grade: A

Biggest improvement I have seen from one game to another (PERIOD).

The big boys up front were playing with a whole different mindset and I was so pleased to watch them last night! Garth Gerhart pulling from center sealing off box players on the edge as well as both offensive guards, Mike Marcisz and Andrew Sampson. They really played well. Evan Finkenberg and Dan Knapp in their pass protection really got it together.

I saw them anchoring down playing a lot lower, meaner. The line as a whole played at a much faster pace than the previous week. Blocks were being held and the seal on the edge was also there which has been problem some.

Congratulations! Now keep improving and go get better every week! Your fans love seeing this improvement now keep it going!

Running backs grade: A

Cameron Marshall and the boys really put it to a good USC Defense. Starting from the fourth play of the game I could feel it was really going to be the Devils night when Cameron took it to the house. He played with a sore ankle I am sure yet he played his tail off!

Every play guys were coming in low shooting for the knees and the big boy just kept finding the tenacity to take it on. His night really created a lot of our success (25 carries, 141 yards; 5.6 avg with 3 TDs). I thought that the backs all did a better job pass blocking when asked to. Very great outing and it was the difference in the game compared to the previous weeks. Go RBs!

Wide receivers grade: B+

Another good performance by this position group and a good grade to go with it.

It is really awesome to see how different all these guys are in skill and what they individually all bring to the offense. Osweiler was able to spread the ball to a bunch of different targets and the good depth in place is showing. Jamal Miles at his F wide receiver position is so fun to watch when the blocking is executed out on the edge. He really is such a deadly weapon with the ball in space as it has shown a bunch this season.

We all have caught the Pflu! Mike Willie had another great night blocking and four crucial catches. Gerell Robinson improved from his last week which he had far too many drops. I really want to see Chris Coyle get some catches! I love his effort and the mindset he has with the ball in his hands. He likes to fight for every inch and never wants to go down on first contact.

In College Football the name of the game is improvements and that is all we want to see. Last night was a great example of that. Great job receivers!

A beautiful night for the offense in the score column and a fun night for the fans! This group collectively matured right in front of us and the next few weeks will be extremely interesting to watch if the Devils keep improving. They set the bar high against a good Pac-12 defense and set the standard of what we expect every week. The key is in the ignition, the engine is running. Don't hold anything back.. just put that peddle to the medal!

Time for the DDDD-Side!

The defense was coming off a good showing against Illinois last week which would provide them with the confidence they were going to need against the Trojans. We all have watched the last few years against USC and how the defense has put the Devils in position to win games... Last night it happened!

The swagger was there, the turnovers were awesome, the onslaught was withstood and we protected our field with great energy.

It was clear USC knew were the Devils have some "weaknesses" and they attempted to expose them often times having some success. They key was ASU never giving up and when they needed a big play it happened because of great effort!

Colin Parker coming in hard trailing a big run and bringing his arms hard on the tackle caused a fumble. Vontaze Burfict keeping his eyes up and on his target on a blitz put the ball right in his hands. Shelly Lyons being reliable and playing his responsibility in the pass let us take one to the house and sent the USC fans literally flying out of the stadium!

A thing of greatness when you can put it all together and last night the Arizona State Sun Devils did just that!

Defensive line grade: B+

A great night for this group overall. I think we were all witness to a couple of guys growing up right in front of us.

Greg Smith had a momentum changing sack that showed when he wants to turn it on he has the skills to do so. Jamaar Jarrett was making some great pressure plays on the pass rush all night. He has such a motor and if he can just get those hips going a bit more around the hoop I think he could pull together some nice stats at season's end and keep helping the Sun Devils win games. I thought he was very stout against a lot of double teams on the edge and kept fighting all game long.

Davon Coleman did a good job with his first career start. It's always tough playing USC and their play action pass game as a defensive end. They pound the rock, pound the rock and then fake you out on the edge when the H-back goes zipping by your face with a quick chip into the flat instead of a seal block or cut block and sometimes you are left out to dry in terms of containing the pocket.

With Coleman this was the case a couple times last night. He just needs to see and feel those pressure keys (The OT and back coming at him) and get those eyes were they are supposed to be (The targets in the backfield; the ball). Barkley is not much of a runner so this never hurt us last night and overall Coleman did a great job.

The interior boys; Bo Moos, Will Sutton and Corey Adams all played well considering they were extremely outmatched in size. I thought their effort on passing plays was great. I saw a lot more activity with the hands. Not one of them ever quit or looked like they were taking plays off. Sutton was playing through an early injury showing some good toughness. Corey was playing fast and was in on some nice plays last night and Moos the "Bull" I like to call him showed me he can play with the big boys.

Very pleased with the D-Line last night and I look forward to the next couple games with this group.

Linebackers grade: A-

Sun Devil fans everywhere praise #7 and last night he came through in some very important times. Burfict's inside the red zone interception was a thing of beauty breaking off the blitz and getting his hands on the quick slant route. He showed us all he is growing up when he then helped pick Barkley up off the ground and patted him on the head, especially after a week of media outbursts directed at him.

Colin Parker played a solid game and was in on all sorts of tackles again. Shelly Lyons stepped up last night getting a lot more playing time. I like his hips and his ability to close distances quickly.

The only thing this group needs to improve on his breaking off blocks with their hands instead of staying locked on in the run game. They did a nice job filling the holes but often times could not counter off the big blocker and get a body on the ball carrier. When they did there was lots of gang tackling which was a thing of wonder last night and it helped create the mindset that they were there to take it.

Now just keep wrapping up! Awesome job last night Linebackers!

Secondary grade: B

A group that is still trying to find its identity and make a name for its self. There were a lot of positives to take away from the game last night with this group yet still some things that need to get fixed.

They did a much better job with their communication playing in a loud Sun Devil Stadium. Guys checking off with each other, heads on a swivel it looked like there was a lot more talking going on. That was great to see and I know it made a huge difference. I still think the hands in the pass defense from the corners need to be addressed or we are going to keep seeing some silly passing interference calls all season long.

Don't get me wrong. Corner is the hardest position on the field to play! Yet, you have to be one of the most disciplined guys as well. Great hips and feet will make or break you and I know our kids have the skill to be great if they want to. When the ball is in air they need to do a better job to get good position and time it well. It is a selfish play if you know you are out of position and grab onto anything you can so you don't get even more embarrassed. So with that being said just play that good disciplined technique and all will be fine! You are great up sided athletes with all the world to gain and all our respect to be had! Listen to the coaching and believe in yourself!

Clint Floyd played a good game. He was flying up on the run at times and throwing his body in there with reckless abandon. Eddie Elder also did a great job overcoming a concussion and getting back on the field this week. I look for this group to keep getting better every week as a lot of teams are going to try and expose us here.

Special teams grade: B

Improved from last week however this whole category of this team still needs to keep getting better.

The Kickoff team was facing a great returner in Woods and the coaches did a good job keeping the ball away from him. He has game changing type skills and when he did have the ball in his hands it was scary. Stay in the lanes, get on the edge of the guy blocking you and not down his chest and squeeze the heck out of the ball carrier. It's a science.. just keep getting better at it! Grade: B-

The punt coverage and kicking were very average. It looked as if guys were really getting locked up at the line of scrimmage which only left edge defenders and a whole lot of lanes/open field. Being aggressive and getting off the block and sprinting your butt down the field in your lane squeezing the ball carrier is not that hard to do.

You have to want to make the great play get off the block then use a great speed burst to get past your man trying to block you. Once you have the beat on him he can't block you in the back cause that is always easy to see for the ref in space. You have to want to be the guy on this kind of group and it takes a special character to get it done consistently.

Josh Hubner needs to get his nerves straight. Two games in a row with shanks and last week it cost us points. He has the leg to average 50+ yards a punt if he wanted to I think with him it's all between the ears. I have faith.. let's see it Josh!

My last tidbit on the punt team is the gated spread punt. It is going to cost us or so it looks. We ran that with Koetter for a few years and this formation by itself lost us games (Stanford) with blocked punts all over the place. There are holes in it and USC ALMOST got us more than once last night as well as everyone else we have played this year which I know we have all seen.

You rush two big defensive ends towards the wall, get some push, get the hands up and you have yourself a block. Not a fan of this especially with the slow timing of our long snaps. Grade: C

Every time we get the ball on kick returns I feel like we are going to take one to the house both Kickoffs and Punts.. This is a great feeling.. Now go block someone every play and we will! Grade: B+

Overall team grades:

Offensive grade: A

Defensive grade: B+

Special teams grade: C+

Saturday night was one of the most exciting and proudest moments I have had post playing days here at ASU. I left the stadium with my chin held high, my voice box sore and a knowing this team and Coaching Staff have all the talent in the world to take what they want. They can play with anyone in the nation and when we are clicking it is on I tell ya! With the Oregon State Beavers coming in and having what I would call for them an off year and a very bad start to their season by all accounts the Devils will be tested again but on a different level. I want to see ASU take what they started this game; less penalties, more discipline and execution and truly build on it and show that they are an upper echelon team. No regression only progression! Thrilling moment in Sun Devil Football and a great step on our quest for the South but like Brock said post game when asked.... It is only one game... On to the next. I like it, GO DEVILS!


Defensive 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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