Pac-12 road contests more often than not end with the home team the victor and the Utah Utes have proven they like to take advantage of that stat already beating the Stanford Cardinal at home this season. This was not the case on Saturday as the Sun Devils ended the Utes 49-0 streak when leading at halftime.
This game was sure to be a physical match up and one that could easily see a low point total at whistles end. The 20-19 final score showed two teams that played with great heart and never gave up. Huge plays from big time players proved to be just too much for the Utes in the fourth quarter as the Sun Devils scored 13 points and shut down the Utah for the win.
149 Rushing Yards
13 4th Quarter Points
12 TFLs Against - 6 Sacks Allowed
3 for 13 on 3rd Down
This was one of Taylor Kelly's least productive games as a starter, yet he was able to help get the ball in the end zone when it mattered most. His two rushing touchdowns were the only scores on the ground and the 4th quarter surge was behind his direction. Kelly never was able to set his feet and through as the Utah defensive front was in his face all night long, as Kelly took six sacks. Considering how much pressure the offensive pass game took all afternoon, Taylor played a solid game.
Marion Grice and Deantre Lewis were the only two rushers on the day other than Kelly. Marion finished the day with 136 rushing yards and 20 receiving. His 4th quarter surge really helped put the game away and although he was held out of the end zone for the second game in a row, Grice was one of the starts of the day totaling 219 all purpose yards. Deantre Lewis was involved early and looked explosive on his gain of 26, however as the game wore on, it seemed Grice was the only featured back. The pass protection from this group was fairly average and really the only reason the grade is not an A.
One of the lowest production results in years for the ASU wide receiver position group. D.J. Foster led the crew with 44 yards on five catches. Foster had a few drops that were uncharacteristic, even one in the end zone early in the game. Richard Smith has come on strong the last two weeks and shown why the staff had such high hopes for him coming into the season. His late 4th quarter touchdown was a big time play and pushed the Sun Devils past Utah by one point for the difference.
Jaelen Strong still looked hobbled and it is clear that he is nowhere near 100 percent. Small impact from Cameron Smith as well as he was out there for a majority of the offensive snaps. This group will need to redeem themselves coming home to SDS against Oregon State.
As much as the rushing game got it going in this game late, the offensive line and their play on the day was below average at best. A true disappointment to see as the last four-game stretch has really shown this position group playing at a high level. Utah was able to win lots of one on one blocks up front and controlled the line of scrimmage nearly all day. Their pass rush was not exotic, and nothing to date the Devils have not seen.
So why the let down? Watching the offensive tackles, it looked like there was never a sense of confidence from the beginning of the game. The edge pass rush was more often a true speed rush with only one man to sort through and pick up. Finkenberg and Sulka both failed to really play with great footwork. Instead of working to keep their hips squared up to the line and a great pass set, it looked like a scramble on too many plays. Bad eyes never allowed their feet to get under their hips and the reach was the only way to get to their blocks.
For a senior who has started a lot of games, I thought Finkenberg may have played one of his worst games. Much can be said about the play inside as well. Too many one on one blocks up front and the pocket was getting compressed with ease. Just an overall poor performance and nothing close how they have looked over the last stretch of games. Luckily, this could be a big learning lesson and push for motivation heading into the most important stretch of the season. Time to get back to the basics; great pre snap communication, practiced footwork, play execution and mental fortitude to play vicious all game long.
Chris Coyle may have not shown up on the stat sheet all that much but he was strong in the run game helping set the edge and seal on some of Grice's biggest runs. Coyle had two catches for 35 yards which was one of his lowest totals through his starting career, yet he played hard and helped the ASU rushing game push forward.
This was one of those games I am sure the offense wishes they could get back. After watching the film, it was clear Utah came out playing with more energy and a lot nastier in their attack. This allowed blocks all over the field to be shed and a really poor effort to sustain drives for the Sun Devils. It is all about having the want to and clearly Utah wanted to be the aggressor in this game. Receivers needs to help the offensive line and when the pass rush is having as much success as it was, the receivers need to put the effort forward to get open. Oregon State will bring in a tough defense to Tempe and this group needs to pull it all back together going coming home to SDS.
19 Points Allowed
12 First Downs Allowed
Two Interceptions - two Forced Fumbles
247 Total Yards Against
5 for 18 on 3rd Down Defense
0 Points Allowed in the 4th Quarter
2 for 2 on 4th Down Defense Allowed
One of the most productive outings we have seen from this group collectively on the season. Will Sutton, Carl Bradford, Davon Coleman and Gannon Conway all game to play and what a day it was for this group. Will Sutton had by far his most active game all season long racking up nine tackles and a game ending interception, the first of his career. Big Will was so awesome to watch and showed why he is a force when he turns it up like he did. Very active hands, great hips when getting around his blocks and a motor that did not stop all game long. When Will uses his hands like he did on Saturday there are very few who can consistently block him.
Carl Bradford played with a ton of effort and pursued hard to the football getting in on seven tackles. Huge sacks from Coleman and Conway showed how valuable these two have been up front. I really thought that Conway played one of his fastest games of the season. He has continued to get better as the season has rolled along and the emergence of Coleman has pushed the two of them together. The front four where one of the major contributors to this road victory and their play was so fun to watch.
The leader in this group, Chris Young, once again came to play contributing to 14 tackles, 1.5 TFLs and a half sack. Young was playing from sideline to sideline and one of the things that stuck out was how aggressive he was able to play at the line of scrimmage. Chris is really good and finding his fit in his responsible gap and bursting to turn the ball back in to his force help.
When linebackers can attack the line of scrimmage like this you are going to see the rest of the players around them succeed. Salamo Fiso continued to grow into this defense and had another great sack to add to his season of production. Anthony Jones played well in defending the pass and had a pass break up and forced fumble. Jones is still struggling to get off his blocks with any kind of urgency, which is more than likely never going to change at this point in the season. A very solid day for this group and the whole front seven played together.
Osahon Irabor came back from some bumps and bruises and was big all day long. Irabor led the position group with six tackles and a pass break up but was solid all day and shut down the opposing receiver. Alden Darby had four tackles and Lloyd Carrington played his role as well. Damarious Randall did not produce as he has but was very effective in his pass coverage.
Considering the Utah offense was only 6 of 21 on their pass attempts, it is clear the secondary helped pull this effort together. One of the biggest plays of the day and a huge key to the ASU come back was the interception and overall play of Robert Nelson. The play just showed how athletic this young man is and why he is out there. This kind of day will hopefully be a big momentum boost heading into a pass happy game versus Oregon State.
The overall defensive effort was one of the best games we have seen this group play on the season. Utah has proven they can score points this season and play especially strong at home. Clearly the ASU defense took this challenge on and came out on the winning end. Huge momentum turning plays showed why this defense is one of the most productive groups in the nation.
Field Goal Team: Incomplete
No tries for Zane Gonzales yet he was 2 for 2 on PATs. Ever point counted in this one.
Punt Team: B+
Alex Garoutte saw his busiest day of the season, punting 10 times for a 37.5 yard avg. He had three touchbacks and a long of 52 yards.
Punt Return Team: D-
Three returns for six yards. The ASU defense played it safe on fourth down yet the blocking was never set up for success on these plays. Hackett was able to average 50.6 yards on the day and had a long of 70 yards. A very dominant day for the Utah punt team.
Kickoff Team: B+
Four kickoffs, two touchbacks and great coverage overall. This group has been playing very well the last couple weeks.
Kickoff Return Team: B+
Five returns for 116 yards and a long of 44 yards. Both Deantre Lewis and Marion Grice returned the ball well and Grice had his longest return of the season going for 44 yards.
Special Teams: B
Offensive MVP: Marion Grice
Defensive MVP: Will Sutton
This was a game that will go down in the memory books for 2013. The Sun Devils did not play their best game and yet they found a way to win on the road which has been a major challenge through the years.
Great teams will always find a way to win, even when things play out against them. This was the case on Saturday and ASU never gave up in this game. It very clear that the conditioning, discipline and will to make the big plays were in line for the Devils. The huge 4th quarter push proved all of that and this team once again showed how far they have come under Coach Graham and staff. So proud to watch this program keep showing how many steps forward they have taken in the last two years. With the remaining three games sure to test this team and the race for the South up for grabs, the character will sure to be tested to the end.
For now, there is one thing ASU fans can all control, and that is to get their places in Sun Devil Stadium for this upcoming game versus Oregon State. With so much riding on this game and the momentum coming home, it is the fans' responsibility to be in their seats loud and proud. I will be there and I hope to see the stadium full in support of these great Sun 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