Devils in the details

Ex-ASU player Kyle Caldwell breaks downs ASU's 41-27 loss to Oregon

The Arizona State Sun Devils traveled to Autzen Stadium playing the Oregon Ducks Saturday night. No doubt, the Sun Devils flew home that night with a lot of regret on their minds and a sour taste in their mouths.

The game had played out how many expected. The speed of the Ducks is something not many teams can match up with and if not defended flawlessly will expose even the best Defenses.

Costly penalties and two turnovers by the Sun Devils sealed any chance for a second half come back and upset type victory. To say it, it just was not the Devils night and as a fan I sensed that about half way through the second quarter. Hearing a lot talk about Refs and being home teamed it seems like some of the main issues are trying to be avoided.

Fact is, Refs are part of the game just like the crowd and just like the way the ball rolls on the ground. It doesn't always go the good guys' way and it is up to the team and coaches to always overcome those intangibles that equal out the sum of a football game. The great teams will always find a way to beat the odds/refs/fans/opposing teams and not use any excuses if they fall short.

I know the Sun Devils are not using any excuses for their play today other than they got beat by a great Oregon team. The bye week comes at a good time in terms of injuries and ASU will come back strong with some needed rest.

I see the rest of the season a success and although the momentum has been shut down a bit, the Pac-12 South is still in the Sun Devils hands for the taking.

Rematch? Yes, Please.

Talking Offense:

Did ASU show a glimpse of the team we thought they were growing out of?

A team that could play soundly for four quarters and not take a play off? Mental errors would be minimal and no distractions in between the white lines were going to come their way?

I personally felt this was the case as the last couple of weeks have really shown that might be possible. Against Oregon however the Sun Devils showed they have not fully grown into that team yet.

The game came down to momentum and every time it felt like the Sun Devils were going to make a move they turned around and shot themselves in the foot with a costly penalty or some bad blocking on the offensive side of the ball.

In the first half it looked like sparks were flying. Brock Osweiler and the receivers were hooking up on some nice targets and the offensive line was pass blocking quite well against the three and four-man rush from Oregon.

The Ducks by the way cared none for the Devils rushing attack as they simply lined up and only rushed three defenders even on run downs. As the game went on we did see some zone blitzing by Oregon which lead to quite a bit of pressure being put on Osweiler. The lack of the run defense by Oregon in the box really allowed them to focus in on the pass game and thus we know the outcome; two interceptions and a lot of incomplete passes.

It was a shame to not see much of a run game developed in the first and second quarters especially with the Ducks trying their efforts to stop Osweiler and the receivers. I think Einstein said it best... Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.

I love watching the offense and the system we have in place. It wears down defenses, spread the field and can create some great mismatches. Yet to consistently throw swing pass after swing pass with it being clear it was the first read was something I am still confused with.

Usually ASU does a great job with this play and the edge blocking that goes with it. After watching the film again it looks like we were just trying to run their corners and safeties off with pass disguise and nearly every time the Oregon defender was seeing right through this leaving one or two tacklers in space making plays on the ball carriers.

If this is going to be the bread and butter of the offense some new schemes on the edge have to be put in place or we are going to keep getting our ball carriers in some very sticky situations. With the bye week being presented hopefully the coaching staff will really try and develop some run principles again because it has shown this whole season how it affects our offense.

Let's talk some grades and techniques.

Quarterback Grade: B

Brock Osweiler played "well". It was not the "A" version of him we have seen this year at times but he moved the ball all night. B.O. hooked up with the receivers in the first half and did a good job staying with his reads, letting the receivers make the plays needed to catch the football.

The INTs were very costly and unfortunately both lead to points from Oregon. Too many times it looked like he was unsure of the decisions he was making. You could see it in his arm movement while standing in the pocket and his inability to decide to throw it.

This is when mistakes happen and like so many things in life you just have to trust the skills you have. If he is open, throw it because football is a game of inches and they all add up to either hurt you or help you.

Offensive Line Grade: D+

Not an impressive outing by this position group.

They played high and very tentative. I was expecting much more since I had personally watched Oregon quite a few times this year and knew we could get after their defensive line and linebackers.

Aderious Simmons showed major signs of the lack of playing time this season. His run blocking efforts looked like he was in slow motion at times really letting Oregon defenders create the lanes they wanted too instead of him and his massive frame taking control. The interior line had no push up front and it all came back to really hurt the Devils.

169 rushing yards yes, that is a positive stat yet overall as a sum this group was out performed by a defense I thought they could have handled.

Running Backs Grade: B

Not sure what the status of Cameron Marshall's ankle is but it seems as though he really has no ability to make cuts this year.

Cam is a type of back that should never be taken down by the first defender in my opinion. Yet time after time he goes down and I don't know if it is lack of stability on the ankle and not being able to make defenders miss or just not being that type of back in general that has the burst and cut ability.

I hope the bye week does his body well and he comes back even stronger for the second chapter of the season. Jamal Miles did a nice job on the stat sheet rushing (7 carries for 68 yards). No Kyle Middlebrooks? None?

Wide Receivers Grade: B

A good day of production, lots of tough balls caught and yet this group still doesn't seem like it's reached its full potential.

ASU has guys that when you watch them match up against defenders you think they should dominate every play. They are fast, have great feet and hands but it's just not always happening. It would be awesome to see the play book turn deeper down field and bit using Willie and Robinson's size to stretch the defense vertically while allowing Pflugrad, Parker, Ross and Bell to run the shorter timing routes they are good at underneath.

I just don't get it though in terms of throwing the ball deeper to our athletic big guys... why doesn't it happen more often? Deep post or corner? Haven't seen a deep ball since Missouri I feel like.

The run blocking was very average for this group. We have seen much better from them this year. Clearly the Robinson personal foul was costly and over shadows his performance. When this team learns it will only beat itself and discipline is the name of the game, special things will happen.

In summary, it was just one of those nights you want to forget only because of the momentum swings. Every time something good happened it felt like a matter of time until something bad was going to occur - not the way you want to feel about your offense. Hopefully the bye week does wonders and we see a team that can consistently move the football with both a run and passing attack.

Talking Defense

3 for 11 on third downs is good... 536 total yards allowed are not!

Defensive Line Grade: C-

This group did not play to their potential in my opinion.

For the last couple weeks we have really seen some blossoming things from several of our guys up from yet this last Saturday was a very average performance overall especially when it comes to playing the read zone.

The lack of having true size inside was shown as the second half rolled along and Oregon's offensive line took over the game. Will Sutton, Bo Moos and Corey Adams tried hard and fought well but it was not enough to make the difference. The edge of the line was broken down over and over talking containment and either lack of linebacker presence or the amount of one on one blocking was the difference.

To play the read the defensive ends must squeeze squeeze squeeeeeeeze till they have created some orange juice...and then squeeze some more. With that squeeze there must be great play from the outside linebackers to play force if the QB keeps the ball.

More often than not and especially after Bryan Bennett came in the game did we see any of this. The holes were there for the taking and Oregon just ran us till we were running on empty. Jamaar Jarrett played another solid game and has been the most consistent up front this whole season. Hopefully we see some better effort from this group as the season moves on.

Linebackers Grade: C-

Bad angles, poor tackling, misreads... you get where I am going with this?

This group along with the defensive line had the chance to control the game and was going to be the key matchup with Oregon's offensive line. The battle was fought and the Sun Devils lost.

I thought Shelly Lyons did a decent job creating a turnover with his interception and Colin Parker made his usual dependable efforts but where was the man in the middle?

The guy who is feared by many and the centerfold of our defense? Vontaze Burfict has been missing. Anyone seen him in Tempe? I am confused about his style of play now.

Did he get criticized for playing too aggressive and costing his team during key moments over the last three years, of course. Did he show signs he had moved on from a lot of this, yes. But where is the guy that has this abundance of talent and can make plays all over the field?

Play after play he seemed to get locked up with an offensive lineman and make minimal effort to break the block, often times just standing up tall and letting the O-Lineman drive him in the direction they wished. I know he doesn't want to get a flag and knows he is a "marked man" but is this how you still play defense.

Burfict needs to get this steam roller going and start coming down hill more in the run taking on the side of the blocker he is responsible for coming at him with a violent dip and rip to win the block and get in his gap instead of staying so square and allowing all the blocking surface to be given up.

The point is though, once you are blocked... DON'T STAY BLOCKED! This goes for all the linebackers as well not just Burfict. It needs to be fixed or we will continue to get run on.

Secondary Grade: C-

This group had many of the same issues the linebackers had. Horrible angles to the ball carriers led to some much added yardage. As well as Eddie Elder had been playing his efforts on the secondary force were very unlike him. Watching the film he would come side to shallow when the runner would have already declared outside.

As a safety you have to funnel everything back side so the pursuit in play can help you out if a big run breaks. With Elder coming inside it just allowed a bigger lane outside and made him and our defense look really bad.

Osahon Irabor did a decent job as well as did Deveron Carr but neither one looked to have progressed much since the beginning of the season which is what you are always looking for especially at these critical positions. Keelan Johnson did a good job coming in for injured Clint Floyd. Hopefully Floyd recovers well over the bye week.

In summary ASU couldn't stop the run and some really bad penalties cost them points on the board. This has to do with the game as a whole and goes back to the momentum factor.

Every time something good would happen ASU would erase it with an uncalled for penalty and it all added up to be the difference in the score column.

Question: Did we blitz? Even once?

Special Teams Grades:

Kicking: A-

Alex Garoutte was three for three in field goals which was awesome to see! All his kicks were money going right down the middle. The thing I am still confused with is the kickoffs: kicking to the 10-15 yard line? Please tell me the theory in this.

Punting: A-

Eight punts, 43 yard average and two inside the 20. Decent day for Josh Hubner except for one of his last kicks that set up Oregon nicely to finish out the game.

There is still too much rush coming down on him and his three man wall which seems like it causes him to rush or shorten up his approach. I spoke before about the spread punt - I just don't like it.

Coverage Teams: B+

This area improved this week and we saw some much better play come from some great efforts. Oregon had three punt returns for 26 yards and five kick returns for 106. Not too bad against a fast team like the Ducks.

Return Game: C

Eight kickoff returns for only 138 yards (17.3 yards per return)? Where is the blocking? Every time I looked like the Devils would have a crease it would vanish because guys were not holding blocks. Effort, effort, effort!

Overall Team Grades:

Offensive Grade: B

Defensive Grade: C-

Special Teams Grade: B+

The Sun Devils played hard yet just couldn't get it done when it really mattered and showed they have some more growing up to do to get there.

As I said before, the name of the game is discipline and being able to do it aggressively is how the game has to be played. The Devils were neither disciplined nor aggressive and Oregon took our slack and "ran" with it.

Some players on this team need to be called out by the leaders and hopefully with this bye week in place a permanent mentality can be established that play like that won't be tolerated anymore.

If it doesn't change the results won't change and until that day happens ASU will continue the roller coaster ride it is on.

The bye week is welcomed and ASU will come back very strong. Here is to seeing the Sun Devils back in two weeks with a chip on their shoulder after their first Pac-12 loss.


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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