Every chin in that program should be held high because a lot of good things happened Thursday night. The score may have not reflected that but the individual efforts do.
Talking about the Offense:
This was a game with so many struggles and one that was taken away from its game plan early in the contest. With the score so lopsided early in the game the Sun Devils were forced to press and the results showed in turnovers and some uncharacteristic decisions.
The Oregon Defense played probably their best game of the season and had it all going from start to finish against the Sun Devils.
The ability to slow down Oregon's pass rush was key in a lot of the Sun Devil's play breakdowns. Overall, it is a performance that Taylor Kelly and others might want to forget about and move on. The great thing to take away though was the fight the boys on Offense showed. They never quit and they pushed until the end in this one.
192 Yards Rushing. Even while being down, ASU found a way to produce on the ground.
408 Yards. A solid day for a lot of teams but not quite where the Sun Devils have been this season.
4 INTs. Forcing throws and a vicious pass rush from Oregon.
6 for 18 on 3rd Down, 1 for 3 on 4th Down. Have to convert.
5 sacks given up.
Quarterback Grade: D
Although the stats don't look good with 4 interceptions, the play of the Quarterback was not absolutely horrible. However, on the grade out sheet it is below average with the D grade. Taylor Kelly has done a great job all season not forcing and pressing this throws however he did far too much of this.
Each Quarterback was in the 50% range of passing and both had 2 INTs. As the game was quickly out of reach early it was clear ASU was going to have to pass and thus the Defense of Oregon was ready for what was coming. Kelly had 16 rushes on the night for 38 yards while Eubank had 7 for 35. The Defense keyed the Quarterback position all night long and it was obvious this was key in their game plan.
The one thing I am still confused on is why there was so much roll out pass game. The Oregon front 7 are some of the fastest and most athletic in the country. Playing this style of pass concept against them is going to lose out on the pass blocking ability and if the receivers are doing a bad job finding space it is going to haunt the Offense just as it did.
Running Back Grade: C+ Marion Grice led the group in rushing with 48 yards rushing on 8 carries. He looked explosive and had some nice catches again this game with a long reception of 21 yards. Grice has proven for several weeks now that he needs to have the ball more than 10 times a game. D.J. Foster was explosive again and really showed how hard he is to tackle making several defenders miss on his receiving touchdown. Foster was not in the game plan early either due to the game being out of hand early or just a break up in the shuffle of the game. Nonetheless this never needs to happen true freshman or not. Foster has been a play maker all season long and if the Offense wants to see the success it has this season they need to find ways to get Foster involved and in the game early.
Cam Marshall rushed for a 5 yard average on 6 carries and looked strong at times. More than half of his yards came on a 17 yard burst. An overall average showing from the RBs but they were taken out of the game plan early.
Receivers Grade: D+ If the passing game is going to revolve around rolling the QB and pocket it is a must that the receivers can find spacing in the pass concepts and break away from the defenders. After watching the tape I see a lot of ASU's receivers getting over handled early in their routes and not getting the better of their match ups.
Oregon was faster and stronger in their secondary than the receiving core for ASU was ready for and it showed. Kevin Ozier caught the only touchdown for the group with his 28 yards reception. Rashad Ross was not to be found actually ending up negative in yards on his 1 catch.
Freshman Richard Smith led the group in productivity with 3 catches for 34 yards. This effort reminded me a lot of how the first three games of the season went and if the receivers don't find a way to put the work gloves on the next stretch of the season is going to get a lot harder for the Offense.
Tight End/H Back Grade: B+ Chris Coyle led all receivers with 7 catches for 56 yards. He was his usual work horse self doing a solid job in the run game and finding space to haul in catches. It would be great to see Darwin Rogers continue to find contribution on the stat sheet like he had been slowly doing but that was not the case Thursday.
Offensive Line Grade: D Out matched all game from start to finish. The Offensive Line looked slower and less athletic than they have this whole season. Oregon's Defensive Line was able to win a lot of one on one blocks and the edge pressure was intense from their side. Oregon's front four were able to record 4 sacks and both tackles struggled to handle the rush of Dion Jordan.
Jamil Douglas who is one of the more athletic big men they have up front looked like he was on skates at times during some of the inside rush of Oregon's Tackles. The same goes really all across the board up front and after the post game comments it rang true that the Oregon Defense really exposed the boys up front in black. A lot needs to be regrouped before home coming here and the pass blocking really needs to find its sync up front.
Talking about the Defense: The game started for the Defense as great as anyone would have hoped for minus one event. The injury to Will Sutton left many in doubt about how the team would respond and how the already thin interior line would be able to handle Oregon's run game. Both were answered quickly as the Ducks went straight at the Sun Devil front and the holes were there for the taking. The lessons learned in this game are very hard edged. ASU was not ready to compete with the speed of Oregon.
A team that is fairly thin at key positions and has not recruited for years in their scheme was exposed where it is the weakest. Right in the middle of the Defense at the tackle position. With Sutton out, Mike Pennel on suspension, Core Adams done with injury and Mo Latu on the Offensive side of the ball there is little room for error at this position. The end result spoke loud and clear and Oregon was able to produce over 400 yards on the ground against the Sun Devils.
Key Stats: 406 yards rushing against. Something we were all scared of and it actually happened.
43 points allowed in just 19 minutes. Some of these were caused by short fields. None the less it was not good.
0 points after 11:33 in the 2nd Qtr. The positive side from the stat above. The Defense had fight all night and Oregon had much of its 1st team Offense in for the whole game. Never give up and play till the end which is just what the Defense did.
48 passing yards. 1 INT. The Ducks did throw 19 times and ASU's Defense only allowed just 48 yards. Very impressive.
3 Turnovers. Positive stat if you can keep the ball on Offense.
0% in red-zone Defense. Have to get strong in the red zone and prevent scores. Never happened.
Defensive Line Grade: D+
The first play of the game the D-Line looking awesome. Will Sutton came up with the big fumble and Davon Coleman rumbled for a few. After that we all know the outcome with the thin front for ASU being very exposed. Coleman had his most productive game of the season recording 8 tackles, a recovered fumble and a sack. His role was very increased with Sutton going down and Davon played up all game. I thought he was doing a great job getting his eyes in the gap and his counters in the run game were very active.
Jake Sheffield was called upon to replace Sutton and although his effort was of great effort he was just not enough inside. Sheffield was not getting his hands in place to fight the double teams inside and doing far too much leaning. There were times that the down block was coming his way and he was only getting the body lean on the O-Lineman giving up all his blocking surface and being washed out of the gap easily. Jake needs to find a way to play with more strike in his hands and some of these fits in the run game will become stouter. He is not the biggest body in there and does not have a super get off the hand strength and placement has to be there every play.
Toa Tuitea was strong and showed some nice activity. He plays with a lot of energy for a big man and if Sutton is not back his role will stay increased. Gannon Conway is a guy that tries hard but does not have the strength to do damage in this type of defense which requires his position to take on a lot of down blocks and double teams. He, like Sheffield, were both ran at by Oregon and failed to hold their area.
Carl Bradford who plays Devil Backer (Defensive End) was very quiet all night and had several key break downs keeping contain on the edge. There are several plays were Bradford is the force, contain player in the scheme and put his eyes inside which allowed him to give up the edge for just long enough to allow the Mariota to flee the pocket. This also happened in the run game where the end in the read zone being read was Bradford. The aggressiveness out of Carl's technique was not there and the play was able to pop. A very below average night for the Devils up front and thus the grade reflects this.
Linebackers Grade: C+
Brandon Magee who has been one of the leaders on and off the field for the Sun Devils gave it everything he had. Along with Spur Backer Chris Young, both players led the Defense in productivity and did a solid job trying to slow down Oregon's fast run game. Magee tailed a sack and had 8 solo tackles. Young recorded 11, 2 of which were for loss. Anthony Jones who had 4 tackles and an INT was in position to make a lot of plays but seemed to just not have the quick decision making it took to make them. His feet stopped too many times on contact and his hands need to get stronger when fighting off blocks.
Steffon Martin, while playing as many snaps as he does, just doesn't find himself on the stat sheet enough each week. Martin only recorded 2 tackles and with the interior line getting handled he needs to find a way to pick up his effort inside to make up for it.
Secondary Grade: B+
Alden Darby was the man at safety. He led the Defense with 12 tackles and was all over the field. Side line to side line is the way he plays Defense and his effort to pursue plays is why he led the team in tackles. Deveron Carr and Osahon Irabor did their part in the pass game but were a bit missing in the run fits.
There were some key missed tackles out of these two and bad angles that allowed the backs of Oregon to quickly turn the edge into a track meet. Robert Nelson only had 1 tackle and was not in the game plan all that much. Keelan Johnson was strong at safety with 8 tackles and he has been the back bone in the secondary along with Darby making lots of plays with great effort.
Special Team Grades:
Kickoff Team: B+
3 kickoffs with 1 touch back and a long return of 31 yards against the Kickoff team did a solid job as they have all season.
Punt Team: A
Josh Hubner is now among the nation's elite punters and his strong leg is earning him some recognition. Hubner had four punts with an average of 53 yards and 1 inside the 20. He now has 11 punts on the season pinned inside the 20 yard line. Taylor Kelly had 3 punts for a 44 yard average and 2 inside the 20 yard line. The quick kick formation is showing that it is very well used.
Field Goal Team: F
Alex Garoutte was 0-1 from 43 and the problems continue on this team.
Kickoff Return Team: C
6 returns for only 118 yards. An average night and an average grade: Rashad Ross had his longest return only travel 25 yards. The blocking was not there on the front line and far too many Oregon defenders were in place to squeeze and make plays.
Punt Return Team: D-
Richard Smith and Jamal Miles had 5 returns for just 29 yards. The blocking up front and on the gunners in this ground is horrendous and I am still confused how this group is one of the Nation's worst when CTG spends too much time putting energy towards special teams.
Overall Team Grades:
Defense: First 19 Minutes: F. After: B.
Special Teams: C-
The Ducks are fast and talented at nearly every position on the field. Their lineman on both sides of the ball are lean and built for the fast pace game plans they utilize. The recruiting world on their side has been progressive and strong for years now and it shows on game day. The bottom line is that the Sun Devils are just not there yet and although they showed a lot of heart, talent won the game. There are only a few teams in the country that could handle Oregon and its play books.
The end result spoke loud and clear and the one thing to really take away from this matchup is how much heart the Devils showed after withstanding the onslaught of Oregon early in the game. There are a lot of areas to improve on and learn from this game especially in the special team aspect. If ASU wants to reach a level above what the last couple years have been they need to stay in tune with the attention to detail and Coach Graham has done a great job of that so far. Now it needs to be focused on particular parts of the game and a lot of that is special teams.
This team and staff will be tested this week as UCLA comes to town with a lot of interesting story lines to go with it. The Sun Devils need to bounce right back and show that they have come far and the hype and hard work are true. A big win against a very talented Bruin team will put the Devils right back on track and in pace in the South Division.
Let's stay all in and keep speaking victory as this season unfolds. Lots of things to be proud of to this point and lets all realize how far this staff has come in such a short amount of time.
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.