Devils in the details

Todd Graham used the word "Dominating" to describe the play of his sqaud during their 37-7 conference opening win against Utah. That is exactly how I feel as well after watching the game live and reviewing the tape. ASU came out of the gate strong on both sides of the ball and never looked back. Fans should be very content after this game and there really are so many things to be happy about.

Great performances all over the field and "CTG" style of football being executed will always translate into an Arizona State victory. The dominant play at Sun Devil Stadium has rang loud and clear this early season and the maroon and gold have so far look unstoppable playing at home.

In the three home games so far this season the Devils have outscored opponents 145-27. Play like that at home every week and the stands will continue to fill up. Play like that on the road and for the next home game SDS will be standing room only!

Great things to talk about. The film does not lie…ASU dominated Utah!

Talking about the Offense:

The scoreboard speaks for itself in last night's win but the overall efforts by so many players is what should really be taken away. There were a lot of doubts about key positions in this group as a whole and questions whether or not players have fully "bought in".

Well, all those questions and concerns were put to rest Saturday night as the entire offensive group was on point for the entire contest. ASU scored points in every quarter and recorded over 500 yards of total offense!

Yet, the best stat of the night and the one this staff is building its self on is ball security. Zero turnovers! Those stats will win you a lot of football games!

Key Stats:

24 First Downs. Last week the Devils fell short of 20 and lost the possession battle. This week was very different.

23/31 - 372 Yards Passing. Very efficient and both QBs did a great job throwing smart passes all night long. Kelly threw more yards in the first half than he had so far in an entire game.

0 Turnovers.

Position Grades:

Quarterbacks: A

What a night for this group. Taylor Kelly was hot all night and made one smart decision after another. He is literally growing up right in front of us and it is very clear he understands what they are asking him to do.

Kelly was 19/26 for 326 yards and threw for three scores. He has already reached 1,000 yards passing on the year. The sophomore moved well in the pocket gaining 19 net yards on the ground and kept the offense marching all night. The ASU signal caller is playing at a very elite level and I think he has won all of us over to this point.

His pooch punt was also a thing of beauty rolling all the way down to the 5-yard line. I love the fact that ASU now has this play in. If the defense lines up wrong. Then gash them and run a play out of it. Otherwise, if Kelly can kick that that more often than not you will end up with great field position for the defense.

Michael Eubank also did very well when he was brought in going 4/5 for 46 yards. Unfortunately, he was unable to get anything done on the ground and with seven rushes he only totaled three yards. Both quarterbacks took several big hits and popped right up which is huge. Anytime your boys in the backfield can bounce back like that it delivers a blow to the defense. Great game QBs. Bring it to Berkley!

Running Backs: Grade: B+

Nothing too fancy out of this position group but lots of hard work all over the field.

The pass blocking was much improved this game when the backs were asked to stay in which is not all that much they did a good job. D.J. Foster led the group with 70 yards on 10 carries. He also added a big 27-yard reception. This was his first game this season without a touchdown but he did a wonderful job in there coming up with some solid runs against a stout Utah defense and averaged seven yards per carry.

Cameron Marshall only netted 16 yards rushing on seven carries and a score. He also hauled in three catches for 30 yards and a touchdown. Marshall looked rather healthy out there this week in terms of his legs but could not get the vision going on his carries and the Utes' defense swallowed him up.

Marion Grice was missing on the ground but recorded a score through the air. He was terrific on that catch making moves and spinning on contact into the end zone. The offense will be successful if they can find ways to keep Grice involved. He has proven so far he has all the tools to make this offense work and hopefully he can get some more touches as the season rolls along. James Morrison saw his first carries of the season a gained 10 yards.

This group as a whole really gives the defense so much to have to prepare for. Looking at all the sets the ASU offense presents each week takes a lot of practice time and reps for any defense. Having the 2 and 3 back positions being able to line up all over the field to create mismatches and the pre snap motion into and out of the back field is proving too much to defend.

You would like to see a bit more consistency in yards gained from this group and start to wonder if all the rotating is hurting that category at all but when you have a stable this deep you have to keep them all involved. After watching the Cal defense the last couple weeks I could see this group producing a plethora of yardage against the Golden Bears.

Offensive Line: Grade: B+

This group came back from a bad performance at Missouri in a big way. The boys up front showed last week they were really struggling to pick up the one on one efforts from the pass rush and still needed work getting the pads going on the run game. Saturday night the front five came out and showed why they are one of the most improved positions on this team. ASU only totaled 23 yards lost rushing and three of those plays came out of Utah sacks for -18 yards. Not too shabby when playing a talented box like Utah.

Offensive tackles Brice Schwab and Evan Finkenberg totally redeemed themselves this week after poor performances against Missouri. Schwab was playing at a very high level and did wonderful job on his pass sets. He is so long in his arms and legs that his kick sets are a thing of beauty. The speed rush does not work on him well because he stays very square with strong arms. When he does get his hands in there on the defender he stays locked up and can log roll guys when they counter very well.

Finkenberg has different physical attributes than Schwab in that he is shorter in his arms and has smaller hands but he plays so quick with his feet and thus his production. It seemed a lot easier for the tackles to pass protect this week because the offense did a great job to shortening down the passing game and staying away from tons of play action which seemed to hurt them the previous week.

Left guard Jamil Douglas also played a very solid game going against the big interior line of the Utes. He is very long for a guard and sometimes that can hurt inside with guys because length in a shorter space can slow you down but Jamil is learning each week and so far this season he has played very sound.

Andrew Sampson has been playing night and day since last season and I love his energy improvement the most. Last year he looked slow and out of position a lot because of his feet. So far this season and after working with Offensive Line Coach Bob Connelly he is one of the most improved offensive lineman I have seen.

Kody Kobensky was having a great game at center until he suffered a stinger to the back of his neck. Mo Latu came in for him and did a solid job showing why he was one of the most talented recruits at center out of high school. He is so big in there and takes up so much space from left to right in his hips it is hard for defenders to just get on an edge. His snaps were a bit shaky at times but it was his first game with a ton of reps and that might be why. So excited to see this group playing like this at home and now they need to go establish that effort on the road. All eyes on this group next week!

Wide Receivers: Grade: A

All season long everyone was asking... where are the receivers? Well, Saturday night they were everywhere!

The group was led by Rashad Ross who made some awesome catches and showed how well he can stretch the defense both left to right and vertical as well. He hauled in five catches for 87 yards and one score. When he is speeding across the field on the drag routes the defense really has a hard time keeping him bottled up and it only makes the job easier for everyone around him.

Jamal Miles had a very nice game as well racking up 104 all-purpose yards. He looked much quicker than he has all season long and perhaps his legs are finally starting to get under him this season. Kevin Ozier was his very consistent self and had two catches for 73 yards the longest being 52 yards. He is a very big target and has helped the Offense the whole season with his efforts in the run game as well.

Alonzo Agwuenu emerged on the stat chart with one catch for 19 yards. I'd like to see Alonzo get more reps during game days because I really feel he has some untapped potential but maybe he is still suffering from the JC to D-I learning curve.

Kyle Middlebrooks saw some action and looked like his old quick self. His crossing routes and ability to get out into the flat is something this offense will benefit from here soon! A quiet night for J.J. Holliday. After a great camp it you would have thought to this point he would be more productive but time will tell and I hope he gets his chances.

Overall, it was a wonderful night watching this group come out of its shell and I hope they can continue to play like that. If they do the sky is the limit with our expectations on offense.

Tight Ends/H Backs: A

Chris Coyle is the man. He is the utility guy that we see snag his share of passes but really can do it all and helps this offense work the way it does. He did a solid job in his run blocking and caught five catches for 62 yards. Still waiting to see if Darwin Rogers can get more involved. As soon as we have another big body threat out there the offense is only going to get more dangerous.

It was one of those nights that we saw a lot of fireworks. The type of night that gets the crowd excited early and often. The Devils are averaging 41.3 points a game right now and if they can stay in that range they are going to be very hard to beat! All eyes will be on this group against Cal as we see if they can go on the road and get after the Bears. I will be watching the group of big boys up front especially to set the tone and play as well as they have at home. Great job to the staff this week for putting together a wonderful game plan! Go offense!

Talking about the defense:

Big efforts equal results. This group played on fire all night long and there were some key plays and players that really helped to set that tone. The line of scrimmage took some time to establish but after the run defense was shored up the Utes were completely shut down. The edge blitz schemes seemed to really hurt Utah's run game and the ASU play calls were really on point! Great job to this unit as a whole. They have played well all season long and if they can play like this every week the 2012 Sun Devils are headed to big places!

Key Stats:

92 yards rushing. There were some problems shoring the run up early but the Devils found their bat and took it to Utah as the game went on! Holding any team, especially Utah under 100 yards rushing is big time.

117 Yards Passing. 10/15 with one INT. The secondary played lights out and timed everything well. Take away the first big pass and Utah throws for well under 100 yards.

10 First Downs. WOW. Ball control.

4 Caused Fumbles. 2 Recovered Fumbles. 1 INT. BOOM.

Position Grades:

Defensive Line: Grade: A

This group is finding its rhythm and now that they are four games into the year they are really starting to gel with the scheme.

There is no hiding who is the leader up front this season. Will Sutton as we all know now is an absolute beast. His energy and activity are his strong suites and he can pride himself on that. You always hear about the motor when it comes to D-Lineman but seeing this out of someone his size is what makes him so great. He has awesome hips on the pass rush and can really get on the edge of both inside and edge O-Lineman. His hands are very strong in the run game and he does a great job playing with long arms.

Sutton only had four tackles but it looked like he created 20. He is really just so much fun to watch and if he keeps playing like this the defensive front will continue to play well.

Carl Bradford had a very nice game and the Utah power running scheme was easier for him to handle than Missouri's read zone scheme. He is very active out there and another energy guy that really brings it when the momentum is going his way. He had 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack. Junior Onyeali found his pass rush this week and really did a nice job all night putting pressure on the back field. His big sack was a killer for Utah and after that hit the Utes went totally flat. If J.O. plays like that every game day the defense will flourish. Welcome back Junior!

Mike Pennell did not fill up the stat sheet but he did fill up the holes. He was strong in there on run downs and the Utah linemen could not move him. It would be great to see some more energy out of him on plays and he could really benefit from picking up his pursuit to the ball. I know he can run well.. so do it!

Davon Coleman had a quiet night only collecting one tackle. A lot of rotation in this group occurred late in the game and the depth did a good job when they came in keeping Utah down. I would love to see Jake Sheffield get some more snaps in situations because he has such a great motor and plays very strong up front. I think he can make plays when called upon. Cal has a very solid run game and the boys in the trenches need to come to play this upcoming weekend!

Linebackers: Grade: A

Two words: Brandon Magee.

He is a leader on and off the field and when he is between the white lines he is all over the place! His effort to get from side line to sideline is really special and I know all us faithful are so happy to see him out there doing so well this season. He led the team in tackles with ten and had some really nice tackles and efforts to cause and recover fumbles.

The run game of Utah is much easier to defend that that of Missouri when talking about misdirection and downhill running. Certain guys benefitted from that in this group and it made their fits much easier to read and play out. Steffon Martin was one of them and played his best game of the season. He collected five tackles two of which were for loss. Several other guys who had nice efforts all game long were Anthony Jones, Grandville Taylor and Kipeli Koniseti.

The linebackers group really gets after it on special teams and the effort on those teams from this group is so high. Great job linebackers getting after the Utes!

Secondary: Grade: A

A very good night from this position group and a lot of guys really stepped up showing how much they have improved.

Deveron Carr for one was a guy last season that was not playing to his potential and more often than not he looked out of place and lost out there. This season he has done a 180 from that and his fits on both the run game and pass defense are awesome! There were a couple quick screens that he came up on engaging the blocker very aggressively holding the edge and created big TFLs for the defense. Carr was also strong in the pass game timing everything his way and the improvement out of his hips and feet this season are night and day.

Osahon Irabor played another good game and is the other corner that has really benefitted from the new scheme and coaching. The only play he gave up that was big all night was the first pass and he really was in perfect position with his body to make a play he just didn't get the hand up in time to get a knock on the ball.

Robert Nelson, Deantre Lewis and Kevin Ayers all played solid games and helped the Sun Devils Defense hold the Utes to 200 yards of Offense.

The two players though that have stood out this whole season and did so again last night were Safeties Keelan Johnson and Chris Young. Johnson was awesome in his pursuit and tackling in the run game totaling six. He also had the lone interception of the night. Chris Young looks like a man amongst boys on a lot of plays and that is not something you usually say at the college level. When he is coming off the edge I haven't seen a back or a lineman really been able to get after him solidly this whole season. There were several plays last night where the back was the blocker and came at him with the cut block and he used his hips and hands to literally just run right around him like he was never there. The week before he made some awesome pressure doing the same moves and he has proven now that you need to match him up with the bigs rather than the backs in this area or he will get you.

Young had eight tackles, 2.5 for loss and a forced fumble. This group is making us all proud so far this season and their growth from 2011 until now shows what a great job this staff has done in the off season to get them ready and improve their skills.

This is a night we all want to remember. The Sun Devil defense brought it all game long and sure had the crowd going early in the game! Look for big things as this group travels to Berkley. If they play like this next Saturday the skeptics can be silenced and the "All IN" slogan can be soaked up. Way to go Sun Devils Defense!

Special Teams Grades:

Kickoff Team: A

Alex Garoutte had 6 touchbacks! He was kicking the ball deeper than I have ever seen from him. The kicks they did return the lanes were all run awesome and the Defense started with great field position. The energy out of this group was really nice to see!

Kickoff Return Team: B

Only one return all night from Jamal Miles for just 14 yards. Two blocks were missed at the front line and it showed as Miles was swallowed up.

Field Goal Team: B

3/5 with the longest being 43 yards. Alex Garoutte was 3/4 and Jon Mora was 0/1 missing from 40 yards out.

Punt Team: A

Two kicks for 80 yards both inside the 20 yard line. Great job from Josh Hubner. The coverage was great and Utah's field position greatly suffered.

Punt Return Team: B

Two returns out of Jamal Miles for 19 yards and solid effort from everyone in their blocking. As this group keeps working through the season and Jamal continue to get himself together I would look for big plays here.

Overall Grades:

Offense: A

Defense: A

Special Teams: B+

I think the grades this week speak for themselves and there is nothing negative to take away from Saturday's performance (maybe two missed field goals). The team played very disciplined football and the coaches really put together a great plan to get after the Utes.

Utah was predicted to finish ahead of ASU at the season's start and with this statement it shows all the hard work this staff has accomplished. The crowd in attendance was said to be 58,000. It was definitely a loud 58,000 but at this point in the year, with as many great things as we have already seen, you want to see more fans in the stands to start Pac-12 play!

The next home game is not until October 18th which is a Thursday but if ASU can get after the next two games I would expect that match up with the Ducks to be a sellout. Buy in Sun Devils! Coach Todd Graham and the 2012 Sun Devils are for real! Be there and be loud! This team is going to special places. Help support the cause and get in a seat!

Looking ahead to the upcoming week, the Sun Devils will be traveling into an environment where they have not captured a win since 1997. The attention to detail this week in practice is critical. If the Sun Devils can play anywhere close to how efficient they have at home then they end the Cal streak and break one more wall down that has sat in this program.

I personally cannot wait to the game played out and the Sun Devils owe Cal a major whooping. Positive Living all week long. Keep Speaking Victory and everyone get ALL IN!

GO Devils!


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 is also a member of the Sabercats' coaching staff who won the 2010 Class 4A Division I state championship.

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