Devils in the Details: ASU at Washington St.

Devils Digest's columnist and former Arizona State defensive lineman Kyle Caldwell breaks down Arizona State's 55-21 win over Washington State, discussing the performance of each of the Sun Devils' position groups as well as grading each unit.

The Arizona State Sun Devils went into Pullman with everything to prove against the Washington State Cougars.

Over the last decade, ASU has struggled to play consistent on its road trips, especially up North in Pullman. The Coach Graham era has been a bit of a roller coaster so far when it comes to winning on the road with several uncharacteristic loses over the last two years. Yet once again, this team showed how far it's come under this staffs direction. A very impressive win against much improved Washington State team hopefully put one more subject behind the Devils.

Talking about the offense:

Key Stats

Positive:

33 First downs

557 Total yards

37:27 Time of possession

7 for 7 in the red zone

2 for 2 on 4th down

Negative:

2 Fumbles one lost, one INT

Summary

A beauty of a performance for the offense as they took on a much improved Cougars defense from recent years. From the very beginning of the game, the game plan was working. The balanced attack of Taylor Kelly and his posse showed to be far too much for WSU to slow down.

Over the last few weeks, the strong emergence of Taylor Kelly in the running game has been a very big reason the Sun Devils are hard to stop. When Kelly pulls his reads and keeps the ball, his legs are a major threat since he really has some great speed. This was very much the case against the Cougars. He threw to eight different targets and a really put together one of his best performances yet accounting for seven touchdowns (two rushing, five passing).

Position Grades

Quarterback

Grade: A+

Taylor Kelly was on fire from the beginning of the game. He totaled 7 touchdowns and looked to have one of his best performances to date in Maroon and Gold. If Kelly keeps playing at this level both on the road and at home, there is not a team left on the schedule that ASU cannot beat.

Running Backs

Grade: A

A very balanced day for this position group. Marion Grice had 143 all purpose yards on the day and for the first time this season did not score a touchdown. His backups D.J. Foster and Deantre Lewis also accounted for 155 total yards and two scores from Foster. This was one of D.J.'s best offensive performances all year and it's always clear that when he gets his touches, he does special things. 298 total yards from the stables is worthy of a very high grade.

Wide Receivers

Grade: A

The receivers put together a very strong showing up in Pullman. Jaelen Strong only netted 35 yards, yet he pulled in an early touchdown that really boosted the momentum for the Devils. Richard Smith came into this game and earned back some major trust with his SportsCenter performance. The athletic grab he made on the wild ball for the score was proof of how good he can be and the skills he holds. Really hoping this performance pushes him forward and increases his confidence. He can be a big part of this offensive attack over the next four games.

Tight Ends/H-Back

Grade: B+

Chris Coyle pulled down three catches for 28 yards and a score while fellow position mate De'Marieya Nelson missed the offensive stat sheet. Both of these two had a great day helping the offense. Coyle had a few blocks that really sprang the running game and Nelson did his part both of offense to help pull the defense and in the pass rush game as well.

Offensive Line

Grade: A

The group that keeps growing here in 2013. After their shaky start to the season, it has been clear that the bigs up front are the perfect mesh for how this offense operates. None of them are maul you over and break you down type of players, yet they all know how to work what their skills are and get the seal each play requires.

Center Kody Koebensky really does such a fantastic job sealing off the interior tackles. His ability to get on an edge and work a defender out of his space is truly impressive and you can tell Kody does a lot of his with his football smarts. Another performer from this game that impressed me was the play of Tyler Sulka. He really seems to have come along as the season has progressed.

Many of the rushes he saw were stoned on contact and he had great feet in the run game which is an area this whole group has really improved on. It seemed early in the season there were a lot of plays to point out where the push was let down because of poor footwork. Not the case over the last couple of weeks and their play up front has dramatically gotten better. So refreshing to see how a position group can really gel in season and that improvement does in fact happen during the regular season.

Talking about the defense:

Key Stats

Positive:

14 First downs against

2 Rushing yards allowed (31 Yards Lost)

3 Fumbles caused, one recovered, one INT

Negative:

300 Yards Passing Allowed

Summary

A very impressive showing for the defense who came out and played a game plan that really made it hard for WSU to throw the football. Aggressive play of the secondary allowed ASU to play a lot of man free and cover-1 looks. The uptight lock with the corners made the Cougars short passing game nearly impossible to deploy consistently. The linebackers did a great job as well with their pass assignments and a great overall showing from front to back really put the breaks on a Washington State team that can put up big yards through the air. Carl Bradford had another dominating game and was in the face of Connor Halliday all night long.

Position Grades

Defensive Line

Grade: A

When you don't have to worry about a rushing attack, it truly turns into a fun night for any defensive group. The ASU defensive line was able to pin their ears back and consistently wreck havoc. Carl Bradford brought it all night once again and had two forced fumbles, a sack and three QB hurries.

Marcus Hardison was able to get it going this game with some increased playing time. He recorded a sack and looked to be playing with some much higher energy than we have seen since the season kicked off. Great to see there and hopefully this game will be what he needed to propel him into some consistent performances going forward.

De'Marieya Nelson was a player perfectly suited for this type of game. A very fast and athletic rusher against a team that loves to throw the football. Nelson showed some nice hands and you can tell he understands how to attack half a blocker. Really looking forward to seeing how he can keep contributing on the defensive line.

Linebackers

Grade: B+

Chris Young was really the standout player from this group. Watching him closely, he was a force to be reckoned with. Coming up and blowing up screen passes. Shutting down any perimeter play his way. He affected everything he had the chance to and I really think this was one of his more dominating performances. Stat sheet might not show it in terms of production, yet he really brought it hard on every play.

Anthony Jones showed again that he doesn't have the drive to work off blocks. Far too many times in this game he looked like he was ok with getting locked up. No violent hands and to escape to work back into his gap. He also missed several tackles that were right in his lap.

As the game wore on, players like Grandville Taylor, Salamo Fiso and Steffon Marin all did great work to shut down the Cougars. Was very pleased with the way this position group battled all night. Secondary

Grade: A

A very impressive performance for the secondary as lots of guys showed up on the stat sheet. Alden Darby had one of his best games of the season totaling eight tackles, one forced fumble and three pass break ups. His play is a main reason the defense flourished. Lloyd Carrington also played a great game as he stepped in for an injured Osahon Irabor after he went down. Damarious Randall also had some nice pass defenses. When you see 54 throws in a game, it's easy to give up 300 yards passing, however the secondary played a very solid game and showed why they are playing as one of the conference's best all around position groups.

Special Team Grades

Field Goal Team: A+

2 for 2 from Zane Gonzalez. He is proving to be one of the nation's top scorers.

Punt Team: A+

Gotta love the aggressive play to successfully pull off the fakes. Alex Garoutte also had one punt for 40 yards and Taylor Kelly placed one down inside the five yard line.

Punt Return Team: C

Six returns for 31 yards.

Kickoff Return Team: B

One return for 18 yards from Marion Grice.

Kickoff Team: A

Ten kickoffs, three went for touchbacks. No return longer than 18 yards on seven tries. Great coverage.

Overall Grades

Offense: A

Defense: A

Special Teams: A

Offensive MVP: Taylor Kelly

Defensive MVP: Carl Bradford

What always proved to be a shaky game in the past, the Sun Devils were able to come out and dominate the road game from start to finish. Strong individual performances across the board, yet the team just seemed to really gel all together in this game. Very exciting to see the product speak for itself and all the hard work this staff and team have accomplished over the last two years. With the way this team is currently playing, the remaining schedule will favor the Sun Devils.

Time to go after a tough Utah team this week.

-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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