Talking about the Offense:
It was an up and down day for the offense but there are a lot of things to be proud of. The offensive line were formidable and kept Cal box in check As Arizona State dominated the time of possession en route to winning the game.
The Devils accomplished this by rushing the ball 48 times and came up with first downs when they needed them; 29 total. It was a season-high for plays executed totaling 94 snaps. When you hold on to the football, play penalty free and spread it around as well as they did on Saturday, the victories will follow.
Watching this group from week to week mature and learn as they have has really been a refreshing theme. On the season they are averaging some impressive numbers and lead a lot of Pac-12 statistical categories. This group as a whole has more than impressed me on the season and I love what the coaches are accomplishing.
Every week the game plan has showed growth and marked improvement both physically and mentally.
Some of the biggest improvements in the last two weeks have come in the passing game. After the Missouri loss, Offensive Coordinator Mike Norvell has done a great job shortening down the passing game and it has led to a lot more ball control. Quarterback Taylor Kelly is having more time to throw with less play action involved in the pass concepts and the results on offense have come from these changes. It has also helped with the front five as well as now they are having more time to pan out the defense and settle in their pass blocking. Great job to everyone involved.
Key Offensive Stats:
Time of Possession: 35:43. 11 minutes over Cal's 24:17.
29 First Downs. Moving the Chains!
94 Offensive Plays. High Octane indeed!
293 Yards Passing- three touchdowns. Two weeks in a row that Taylor Kelly has just gone out and got it done!
2/5 Field Goals Attempts. Can't ever leave points on the field and kicker Alex Garoutte needs to come through when he is given the opportunity (albeit one kick was blocked to a blown assignment in the protection). Too much time is spent with this staff in practice and scrimmage settings to have game day slip ups. Confidence is imperative in this department.
Taylor Kelly is really something special. Coming into the season I personally had no idea he was going to be this good and the maturity he is showing speaks for its self.
Kelly was 26/45 for 292 yards with three scores. He also rushed for 35 yards on nine carries and did a great job extending drives at crucial times. Kelly really showed how he is picking up on the progression reads and now, unlike a couple weeks ago, is improving on checking down to his 2nd and 3rd options.
There were a lot more baited looks in this game where Kelly would lock a receiver bringing the safety over, only to throw back across the zone and hit the open man. Seven different receivers caught balls and this type of production will win a lot of football games.
Michael Eubank came in with his packages and went 1/1 for one yard while rushing for 11 yards on two carries. Eubank seems to really be getting zoned in on by the defenses now and when he comes in the offense becomes much simpler so it seems.
There is a lot of debate on this topic whether bringing Eubank in hurts or helps the offense and unless the numbers from Eubank pick up some the debate will only intensify. He is a special athlete and has the potential to create a lot of problems for opposing defenses. Yet, when he comes in there is something about his body language the last two weeks that seems off. He either is not confident in his decisions or is scared to make a mistake.
Either way, Eubank needs to step in and take advantage of his opportunities. Let your athleticism work and get after it with 100% effort. I feel like he is much faster and stronger than he showed in this game against Cal.
Running Backs Grade: B
Lots of great efforts from this group but for some reason you expect more. There is so much talent and the home run threat always feels there so you have to start to wonder if the rotation needs to be adjusted at all.
Cameron Marshall had more carries this game than he had in previous weeks totaling 18 carries for 65 yards (3.6 yards average). He plugged and chugged looking stronger than he has in the last couple weeks. Marshall has never been a player that is going to blow the roof off of the defense but for some reason it still seems like he is very much underperforming. He looks healthy and gets the rest during the week in practice, so you have to wonder why he is not having more production.
The offensive blocking and plays he is running are very much set up for his style of running. Marshall needs to find ways to increase his vision and take the blinders off because he has left a lot of yards out there. I am all about the guy who will lower his nose and stick it in there but there are plays he is doing this when the hole is there and he needs to make the in play adjustments to get there. He did have a nice day in his pass protection and his body is obviously the best out of this group for stopping defenders.
Marion Grice had some good production on his touches gaining 49 yards on 10 carries adding 25 yards on four catches. He is so explosive in his burst and when he puts his cut foot in the ground he really can make some plays on defenders. In my personal opinion, Grice has outperformed others in this position group and minus seniority, he has earned more opportunities. Another topic of debate and something that will continue to play its self out. Grice has made a strong case that he should be the #1 back.
D.J. Foster was his usual self doing most of his damage in the receiving department. He caught five passes for 63 yards and nearly breaking every one of those plays wide open. His rushing stats totaled four carries for 12 yards. Foster is the special play maker we all knew he was going to be, maybe just not this early in his career. This playbook allows him to do so many things and stretch the defense all over the field. If Norvell can find ways to keep the freshman active every week this offense is going to be unstoppable.
I said it last week as well but this group is the most explosive and hardest to defend when both Grice and Foster are on the field at the same time. The best stat of the day from this group was the ball control and how the backs took what the defense gave them and this is a big reason why the Devils left Berkeley with a win. Solid day for the running backs and hopefully they explode on the Buffalos in 11 days.
Offensive Line: Grade: B-/C+
"Inconsistency" is word I take away from the play of this group in Saturday's game. Too many great things going on in this unit as a whole to have some of the major miscues that happen to cost them points. Center Kody Koebensky had a day I am sure he would want to forget in regards to his shot gun snaps. He had two go over Taylor Kelly's head one of which took them out of the red zone. That type of mishap cannot happen especially in such a tight game on the road.
Other than those two errors, Koebensky did a great job handling Cal's strong interior lineman and really has shown how good he is at working the center position. A lot of the inside zone plays that have success are because of Kody's ability to move laterally so well and he gets this done with great footwork.
Another standout from the offensive line was Evan Finkenberg. The left tackle played a very good game taking on a strong pass rush from Cal. They came at him often off the edge and he really played his heart out over there. He is so quick with his footwork and when he needs to take the deep kick step he does so with ease. I would imagine he has some basketball in his background with how well he can move at the tackle position.
Right tackle Brice Schwab was rock solid again and overall the bigs up front played very well against a Cal box that is very strong. You would like to have seen more production in the run game but going against a defense like that of Cal's you will take what you get and this group performed with a passing grade. 74 yards lost rushing and two sacks given up determined the grade for this group.
Receivers: Grade: A
Two weeks in a row this position group has performed at a very high level and this time it was on the road which proved hard against Missouri a couple weeks ago.
Rashad Ross and Kevin Ozier were stellar. Ozier pulled in two touchdown grabs and had 42 yards receiving. Jamal Miles also collected some yardage; 41 yards on three catches. He had 14 yards rushing as well. Jamal Miles still does not look like his old self in terms of burst and confidence. Not sure the cause of this other than he does not want to make a mistake and it is taking away from his game. Foster when lined up at receiver as previously mentioned, had an explosive night. He is very hard to cover in space and helps this group give the defense fits. Look for this position group to have another big night against Colorado's poor pass defense.
Tight End/H-Back: Grade: A
Darwin Rodgers collected his first catch of the season and it came on a one-yard touchdown. Awesome to see the JC transfer finally get on the stat sheet and I hope that trend continues.
I have been outspoken about it, but when you have both Rodgers and Coyle on the field in the red zone it really can cause mismatches for the defense. Both of these guys have great hands and have proven they can make the plays when asked to. Coyle had four catches for 37 yards. He had probably his best game of the season blocking. Coyle in my opinion has gotten much better at his run blocking since game one and I think the game experience to this point is really helping that. He sets the edge very nice on the outside zone plays. He is fast enough to reach most defensive ends and has a big enough frame to cut off the defenders when running inside.
Coyle is your prototypical college tight end. He is everything you would want and he really helps this offense succeed.
The offense has done such a great job this early season and all the hard work that has been put in is really showing. Coach Norvell has the guys understanding the system now and the production speaks for its self.
We can expect lots of big things from this group in the upcoming game against Colorado. I could see the running backs and the offensive line helping create a production day that goes for 600 plus yards.
Saturday was an awesome win for this group and if you add the three missed field goals to the score sheet it is even a much bigger day. Can't leave points out there and hopefully we don't see this happen again. Every Sun Devil fan knows that over the last five years we have lost too many games based on poor kicking.
Talking about the Defense:
It was not always pretty and the rushing game from Cal looked scary at times. Yet overall, the defense once again showed how they are so improved from past years and how this playbook is getting the most out of the players involved.
The defense is nationally ranked in the Top 15 in points allowed. A collective team effort held Cal to just 285 yards, six sacks and one recovered fumble. There were lots of individual efforts that stood out but this group as a whole really has played together and this game specifically was a great example of that.
Cal's signal caller Zach Maynard might not be anywhere near an elite Pac-12 quarterback but the Sun Devils seemed to be deep in his head all afternoon and it led to some very poor throws from him. One of the best things I have noticed this season is how aggressive and hard this group hits. Last year there were a lot of missed opportunities and the tackling was of course very poor. So far this season the defense brings it! They swarm, gang tackle and the ball carriers this season have really paid the price. Saturday's performance from the defense probably required lots of ice bags in the Cal locker room.
9-28 Passing. Poor throws from Maynard but lots of pressure and multiple pre snap looks will cause any QB to lose their wits.
17 First Downs. Stops all night and held a strong rushing game under 20 first downs. That is a win.
Six Sacks. Big time QB pressure.
4/15 on 3rd down. WIN.
Defensive Line: Grade A
Grade A Beef. This position group is playing as one of the strongest on the team. There were a lot of questions coming into the season about how the three man front was going to work after years of running the 4-3 defense but we are seeing the product and this group is reaping the rewards from it.
Will Sutton as we all know by this point is playing like an All-American. He can play every block there is and that says something bold since he really is not that large in size. His energy is 100 percent on every play and he has a lot of production because of it. 6.5 tackles, two sacks and four tackles for loss filled his stat sheet quite nicely. Sutton affected play after play and really helped the linebackers come free when he plays down at the three-technique.
Carl Bradford at the Devil position had success on the edge recording a sack, 5.5 tackles, 2.5 for loss, a forced fumble and one pass break up. He was constantly in the backfield and it is clear that coaches are giving him a lot of green lights to get after it on the edge.
You live and die by that aggressiveness though. There were a lot of plays were Bradford's depth into the backfield and his smaller size got him washed out of plays which led to big B-Gaps for Cal's running backs to hit. Some of the success they had rushing was simply because the edge players up front were doing a poor job squeezing down the offensive tackles and thus the results.
Davon Coleman played strong and was in on some quarterback pressures. Jaxon Hood played a lot of reps and showed that he is so active in effort. No solo tackles for Hood on Saturday but lots of effective plays and plenty of assisted tackles to boot.
Junior Onyeali had his second game in a row having success in the pass rush. You can tell now he is starting to play with confidence and is really trying to use his speed to set up his moves. There are hardly any tackles that can keep up with his speed rush and he needs to make that his staple. Set it up over and over and then get after the counter moves. It is nice to have "Freshman Form" J.O. back on the field!
Mike Pennel was missing this game and after some of the words he shared with everyone via Twitter it is clear the problems with his character still have not found resolve with the staff. Pennel's body language spoke for its self. Troubling issues here with him because this team needs him in a major way. The defensive tackle spot is about as thin as you can get and you start to wonder if the JC transfer is trying to take advantage of this situation and feels as if he is owed something.
I hear a lot of talk among current Sun Devils and this topic usually falls around the fact that he does not want to "buy in" to what everyone else is priding themselves on.
The lesson that needs to be learned here is that this is the "new" Arizona State Sun Devils. No one is entitled to anything and wearing the Maroon and Gold is not something that should be taken for granted. I truly hope Pennel can fix whatever he thinks is going on and get to playing good football. This Defense is set up to make him succeed if he can find a way to get ALL IN.
Linebackers: Grade: B+
Brandon Magee was his usual self and led the group with six tackles and a half sack. There were several times he over pursed the fast ball carriers of Cal and thus the cut back was there and taken. He plays nearly every snap and as the game wore on in Berkeley you could tell his was tired there at the end. Just have to play square up in the box and try to motor down those feet down when getting near contact.
Chris Young is just dominating offensive game plans. He had four tackles but his pressure on the passing game and quicks closing down the inside runs really allowed the defense to call some aggressive plays.
Steffon Martin was virtually missing from the stat sheet only recording just 0.5 tackles but played solid when he was in there. The guy that has improved the most from week to week so far has been Anthony Jones. #31 had a very nice night and helped contain the outside run of Cal. He can play in space and has very nice footwork. Jones will make a lot more plays this season and he impressed me more this game than any others thus far.
One of the biggest miscues of the day came on Sofele's early touchdown run when Carl Bradford takes over the MIKE linebacker position. Not sure if it is a comfort thing or what, but when they roll the Devil Backer inside, Bradford does not look very solid in there. His reads were off and the big run from Sofele came because Bradford did not react to the reads nearly quick enough inside. When you get a down block out of both the center and the guard on those plays you need to fire your gap and scrape through blocks to get in your designed hole. Bradford played the read too slow and let himself get swallowed up by the lineman far too easy which led to the wide open score. A solid day for the backers and an effort they can be proud of!
Secondary: Grade: B
Had Zach Maynard not had such a horrible night throwing the ball we might be talking about a different kind of result on the scoreboard. The secondary helped hold Cal to 9/28 passing but a lot of that stat is based on some really poor throws from #15.
Keelan Johnson led the team in tackles with 7.5 and had a nice pass break up. He showed how fast he is when he caught Keenan Allen running down the middle of the field. Had Johnson not caught him on that play it would have been a sure touchdown. That play was a busted coverage and the game's most basic route, the slant route, was executed flawlessly because of the lack of re-routing. If you are going to let receivers run across your face freely, expect big plays like that to occur often.
Alden Darby had a nice day and his fumble recovery was the lone turnover for the Sun Devils. Deveron Carr had some good plays and several bad plays but in the end this guy has improved so much it is hard for me to look at any of his play negatively. Osahon Irabor was active with his hands recording two pass break ups.
A very good night for the Sun Devil Secondary but a lot of that came from such bad play out of the Cal QB.
Another very impressive day for the defense. As of right now this group is leading the Pac-12 in nearly all categories and the improvement on this side of the ball has to be refreshing to Sun Devil fans as this was one of the biggest let downs in years past.
As the competition will stiffen up over the next couple of weeks it will be fun to watch this group of guys get after some big time offenses. Do they continue to prevail or will we see some of that aggressiveness get exposed? Results come from great practice.
Gotta love what we are seeing right now! Great work D-Side!
Kickoff Coverage: B+: Alex Garoutte kicked off six times and recorded no touchbacks after having a big night the previous week against Utah in this category. Not sure if the sophomore forgot to eat his Wheaties Saturday morning but his inconsistency was shown several times throughout the game. The coverage here was great and there was not a return greater than 25 yards.
Kickoff Return: B+: Three returns from Jamal Miles but nothing fancy. The longest return was 26 yards. Ball control was executed and ASU never dug any holes with this group. You would like to see some better blocking from the front lines in the return game and if they can get that done we have the guys to return kicks.
One of Foster's best attributes in high school was his ability to return kicks. Why not give him some chances here? I know the season is still so long and maybe that thought doesn't make sense when looking at his overall value. Just talking out loud here.
Punt Team: A: Josh Hubner had a great night punting five times for a 44.6 yard average and downing two inside the 20. He is one of the nation's elite legs and has helped with a lot of the defense's success this season. Taylor Kelly had another nice day punting downing his kick deep as well.
Punt Return: B-: Nine punts from Cal and just two returns. Either Todd Graham wants ball security to be the only priority here or Jamal Miles is timid in his ways. The blocking needs to improve up front in this group and the gunners are coming way too clean. In the past ASU has had great success with this group and you hope they can get back to some of that again with Miles.
Field Goal Team: F: Bottom line, you can't miss field goals and kicker Alex Garoutte didn't convert three of them. One of them a 39-yard kick that fell short. Yes, just a 39-yard try that did not make it to the post. Kicking on field turf is supposed to make it easier for kickers and I am not sure what the breakdown was with Alex but it was clear he let his nerves get to him in Berkeley. As the line allowed one kick to e blocked and that is an area that has to improve as well.
Special Teams: C+
This was a great day to be a Sun Devil and the game was executed at the level Coach Graham has implemented since day one. Hard nose, disciplined football will win you a lot of games and the fact that ASU only recorded two penalties on the road showed how far this team has come. .
There are however still a lot of things to work on and get better at but with a bye week in place and Colorado on the road we should see lots of improvement over the next 11 days as the Sun Devils work into the meat of their Pac-12 schedule. .
Hats off to the entire staff for an excellent win in a stadium that has haunted the Sun Devils for years. Graham is 1-0 now in the state of California. A lot better than some his predecessors have fared over their tenures. .
You have to love what is going on in Sun Devil country right now. The game of football is being played how it should be played and our team is so much fun to watch. I feel confident now as a fan rather than having hopeless dreams. .
Such an awesome feeling and I can't wait for the Sun Devils to take it to Colorado in 11 days! ALL IN, SPEAKING VICTORY! .
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.