Devils in the Details: Washington at ASU

Devils Digest's columnist and former Arizona State defensive lineman Kyle Caldwell breaks down Arizona State's 53-24 win over Washington, discussing the performance of each of the Sun Devils' position groups as well as grading each unit.

Saturday afternoon was the game we have been waiting for here in 2013. The Sun Devils and Huskies both came into the weekend's matchup needing a big win to get their seasons on the right path. The home team took advantage and played with a high level of execution from front to back coming away with a huge statement win.

The offense had some early first quarter struggles yet after shaking the slow start, they turned it on and never looked back heading into half time leading 29-10 and finishing the game 53-24.

The final outcome was not one that many predicted. Washington had played very well in this early season and has one of the nation's best running backs in Bishop Sankey. The work was sure to be cut out for the ASU defense who has been suspect in the run defense category since Coach Graham took over last season. When the final quarter came to an end, the defense had held Washington to -5 yards rushing and put together one of the finest defensive showings we have seen in recent years.

A big congratulations to the Sun Devils players and coaching staff for all their hard work. It was very clear on Saturday that all the hard work has started to come full circle. Results speak for themselves and with the Sun Devils sitting at 5-2 with loses to Stanford and Notre Dame, things are sure heating up in the Pac-12 South. If ASU can continue to play with as much energy and efficiency as they did on Saturday, the future is theirs for the taking.

Talking about the offense:

Taylor Kelly pulled together another strong performance leading the offense on some fantastic drives. His 84 yards rushing was a career high and once again he showed why he is the signal caller in this offense. Marion Grice, the nation's leading scorer, pushed it into another gear against the Washington defense. His 268 total yards on the day was another career best and the catalyst to energy staying high and aggressive. With big performances out of Chris Coyle, Kevin Ozier and D.J. Foster in the receiving game, the offense as a whole just rolled and rolled. Zane Gonzalez finished the drives the offense couldn't and went 4 for 4 on the day. This game could have been an easy 65 point effort had some of those drives pressed on through the end zone yet Zane showed why he is so valuable to this team and came through clutch.

Key Stats

Positive:

31 First Downs

314 Yards Rushing, 271 Yards Passing - 585 Total Offensive Yards

93 Offensive Plays

10 for 10 in Red-Zone Scores-Chances

4 for 4 - Field Goals

38:40 Time of Possession

Negative:

None

Grades:

Quarterback

Grade: A

Taylor Kelly had a very solid day throwing putting up 271 yards on 26 of 42 attempts. His long pass was 35 yards and he threw two touchdowns. As in recent weeks, it is very clear that when Kelly runs the ball, the offense succeeds. The 84 yards he had in Saturday's win were big and one of the many reasons ASU was able to put together such an explosive offensive day.

Running Back

Grade: A

Marion Grice was on fire has he has been all season finding the end zone for three scores. His 158 yards rushing was a career day averaging 7.5 yards per rush. The defensive line of Washington played everything on their heels and it was very clear if ASU were to feed the rushing attack, it was going to be a great day on the ground. The bigs were blocking well and players like Grice benefited from it all. His one handed touchdown grab was a highlight reel play that won't be forgotten and just another reason he is the elite player we all have come to appreciate. With the overall game that Marion has, it's no wonder why many are talking Doak Walker and mentions of an early draft pick. Grice is the real deal.

D.J. Foster and Deantre Lewis put together a solid performance both averaging over 5 yards per carry. Foster also grabbed four catches for 56 yards and proved again he is one of the top receivers on this team and has the skills line up everywhere on the field. Great day for the stables.

Wide Receivers

Grade: B

When the leader goes down, the surrounding cast needs to step up and that is exactly what happened when Jaelen Strong endured an ankle injury early in the game. Kevin Ozier had a team leading 88 yards on eight catches. His confidence has continued to climb as the season moves on and he has proven he is trust worthy with the game on the line. An average day in blocking and thus the B grade, as there were too many screen plays that were blown up as well as some key blocks missed in the perimeter run game. The bye week will be much needed for this group and will allow players like Strong and Foster to heal their legs up.

Tight Ends/H-Back

Grade: B+

Chris Coyle had one of his best performances of the season collecting 78 yards and a nice touchdown. Coyle is one of the players that makes this offense roll and it was clear he helped the offense move with his blocking and receiving. De'Marieya Nelson did not have much of a day in the receiving game, yet he did a better job this week blocking and pulling open the run lanes with his ability to be such an athlete out there. Bottom line.. he is just a good football player and deserves attention where ever he lines up.

Offensive Line

Grade: A

Finally the offensive line got after it and showed how good they can be. This was one of the pre-season groups that had many of us thinking they were going to be a strong point of the team. Yet after a shaky start to the season and some under achieving performances across the board, it is clear things are finally starting to click up front for the bigs. The last two week of games have shown how much this group has improved here in 2013 and proof that players can get better during the middle of a season. Seniors Evan Finkenberg and Kody Koebensky played hard and aggressive in their technique and the rest of the group followed.

I was impressed with how Tyler Sulka has come on in the last two games and against Washington had one of his best games. He was creating a great pocket in his pass sets and really played strong with his hands in the run game. Overall, it is clear that the bigs up front have started to play very aggressive and doing so with some confidence. With some of the bigger, stronger defensive fronts behind them in the schedule, I would look for this group to continue to get better each week as the season rolls along.

When good things start happening, they are contagious. The performance against Colorado the week before really got things going with the offensive line and it is very clear that their efforts and energy has risen to a new level. The bigs were the driving force against Washington and showed why they are the difference makers when they play to their capability. Looking forward to watching this group keep growing in 2013 and take it to the Cougs.

Talking about the defense:

There has been lots of debate when it comes to the defensive side of the ball and what the missing link has been so far this season. Well, on Saturday that was answered when the defensive line showed up and performed with their hair on fire. The activity up front was different than the previous five games. Guys were showing so much more activity on each individual play and it was clear they realized how their impact is felt throughout the whole defense. Just another example of how contagious play makers can be when they are playing next to each other. The secondary and line backers played roll to the front line yet the day belongs to the boys up front. So much chaos each play and proof that you can really devastate the read-spread option offenses when you play your keys and do so with some nasty.

Key Stats

Positive:

-5 Yards Rushing

212 Total Yards Allowed

16 - 40 Passing Attempts

11 Punts

7 Sacks

12 TFLs

4 of 17 on 3rd Down

Negative:

49 Yard Kickoff Return Allowed

Grades

Defensive Line

Grade: A+

This was one of those days I wish I could have been suited up and out there with the boys. Big plays, aggressive technique and so much activity delivered each play.

Early in this season there has been a lot of plays were you watch a guy and he seems to give up after the first move didn't work. Not so much against Washington and there were so many examples showing guys work their second and third counter moves, only to see the result come to them and help create the big play. One of the big notes I took away was watching how much more stunts were executed. Prior, there has not been enough of this when you have such an athletic front, yet there were many play calls that took away Washington's ability to keep up.

Watching Bradford come from his edge spot, all the way to the opposite A gap is something no opposing lineman is going to be able to consistently block. It is so clear that he came into Saturday's game just wanting to pin his ears back and when this happens, I don't think anyone out there can block him every play. His hips and hands were more active than I've seen and thus some of the successes. The same goes for Will Sutton's critique. His energy was amped up and has been since the Colorado game. The defense feeds off Will and having him get involved early and often keeps this group rolling towards success.

Jaxon Hood played very well getting back to full health and having him back really freed up both Sutton and Conway who had his best game so far as a starter. Conway was able to come off the edge unblocked on several plays because of how well the interior line was playing. When you try and block the end with an RB, more often than not, the RB is going to lose out. Another solid and rising performance from Davon Coleman. He has really come on strong and been a major contributor up front this season. Gotta love that effort from the senior to seize his opportunities.

One of nice additions up front was that of De'Marieya Nelson. It was clear the staff wanted to push the speed up front and by adding Nelson, they get closer to that objective. On several of his rushes, Nelson helped create some havoc on the edge. I hope this project continues because it could be a big help in this next game when ASU travels to pass happy Washington State.

Linebackers

Grade: A

It has been very clear that the shuffling of positions may have caused some confusion in gap fits as the season has unfolded. Chris Young being moved from Spur to Will from week to week has only made it a bit harder for other guys to clue into their specific roles, yet it seems like the group is starting to really gel with Salamo Fiso playing inside at the Sam. Fiso has become a big time play maker and a surprise to many of us as he continues to produce.

One of the things I love watching is his ability to climb in pursuit and find the ball carrier down the line of scrimmage. You can see he has a high football I.Q. and just knows how to instinctually get to the football. A true inside line backer and someone who has the skill set to cause offensive linemen fits. Fiso had two big sacks on Saturday and again, this all on his ability to set up his blitz and find the football. Hope to see much more of this in the coming weeks.

Secondary

Grade: B+

When the defensive front plays as well as they did on Saturday, it is usually going to be a very nice day for the secondary. The rise of Damarious Randall has been one of the biggest keys to the defense becoming more athletic and having greater range. Randall can cover ground and does such a great job coming downhill on his run fits. It was a great day and looking at Washington's pass stats, you can credit the secondary for some great coverage. There were several early let ups though that came from Robert Nelson and another one from Lloyd Carrington that allowed Washington wideouts to streak down the field. If the ball wasn't over thrown, there could have been some big time bombs thrown against ASU.

Summary:

Play fast, play confident and all things are possible. That was the theme on Saturday and it stemmed up front with the front seven just getting after it. What a great performance all around.

Special Teams

Grades:

Field Goal Team:

A+ Zane Gonzalez was 4 for 4 and now sits 15 for 18 on the season. He is 12 for 13 inside 40 yards. One of the greatest assets on this team and a true freshman stepping up and coming through for the Sun Devils.

Punt Team:

A Alex Garoutte did a solid job kicking and the coverage team did what they were supposed to do only giving up one yard on two attempts. A fantastic day kicking and covering punts.

Punt Return Team:

C Too many miscues and clearly Coach Graham felt the same way. Robert Nelson and Damarious Randall couldn't seem to get on the same page when it came to fielding a punt and that was at a still fairly crucial point in the game when yards mattered. Nelson also had a costly fumble. I do like how they have now created a set where there are two guys back to help field the punt. This allows a lead blocker right in front of where the catch is taking place and helped to set up several Nelson returns.

Kickoff Team:

B This would have been a higher grade had Garoutte not put one out of bounds. Something you can never do at the college level. On another note, there were three touchbacks and the coverage team did a fantastic job surrounding the Washington returners. There was one long return of 49 yards, yet everything else was bottled up.

Kickoff Return Team:

B

Three returns for Grice. Nothing special. Good Ball security.

Overall Grades

Offense: A

Defense: A

Special Teams: B+

Offensive MVP: Entire Offensive Line

Defensive MVP: Entire Defensive Line

In closing

With the building confidence on both sides of the ball, the rest of the season is going to be something special to watch unfold. With some key games still remaining against very formidable opponents, the Devils will have to continue to build on what they have started. A 5-2 record after the schedule they have fought through is a very promising result to how great the rest of this season can go. It is now up to the fans to keep this thing rolling and support this team. With some time off from the next home game, it just means the Sun Devil nation more time to buy tickets and help promote the energy in Sun Devil Stadium. Don't wait to see how things go, be a part of it and keep this team rising to the potential we all know they have.

Coach Graham has made it clear how much he wants the Sun Devil fan base to be a part of home games and that the crowd is the biggest aspect to playing at home. With this being out in the open, there is no excuse not to be in a seat when ASU comes back home to play Oregon State in several weeks.

ASU will beat Washington State and then they will beat Utah. Mark it down.

-KC50

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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