Newcomer Report: Colorado

Arizona State’s 38-24 win last Saturday over Colorado marked the second straight road win for the Sun Devils this season and its first in conference play. While the story of the night were the injuries to senior quarterback Taylor Kelly and sophomore linebacker Viliami “Laiu” Moeakiola, a number of ASU newcomers rose to the challenge to help the Sun Devils maintain their undefeated record.

With its third installment of the Newcomer Report, DevilsDigest takes a closer look at how many of the Arizona State newcomers performed against the Buffaloes.

Defense:

For a second consecutive week, Arizona State Head Coach Todd Graham elected to start three true freshmen on defense.

As he previously did against both Weber State and New Mexico, Tashon Smallwood started along the interior of the defensive line at the Tiger position. While Graham praised the freshman’s quickness getting off the ball throughout the team’s preseason camp, Smallwood has been slow out of the gates so far for the Sun Devils in 2014.

Smallwood failed to record a tackle for a third straight week but did show a little burst midway through the third quarter, applying pressure against Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau which resulted in an incomplete pass attempt.

However, the freshman was flagged for a roughing the passer penalty on a 3rd & 10 play which extended a Colorado drive that ultimately ended in a Buffalo touchdown to pull CU within 14 points early in the fourth quarter.

Freshman linebacker D.J. Calhoun made his third start of the season at the WILL position and bounced back nicely after a rough outing the week before against New Mexico. Calhoun recorded seven tackles on the night (five solo) and recovered a Colorado fumble inside the Buffaloes’ own 10 yard line, which led to a five yard Taylor Kelly touchdown pass to D.J. Foster three plays later.

Cornerback Armand Perry started for a second straight week at field corner with mixed results. The freshman recorded nine tackles on the night but appeared shaky in pass coverage, although he wasn’t alone on Saturday. Colorado passed for 313 yards and collected a total of 545 yards of offense; the most any Sun Devil defense has given up under Graham.

Redshirt junior Jordan Simone started the season opener against Weber State at field safety before giving way to James Johnson in week two at UNM. Simone though once again found himself in the starting FS position against Colorado and was unquestionably the star of the night for the Sun Devils on defense.

Simone collected a team-high 13 tackles (12 solo) and two tackles for a loss, to go along with a forced fumble and an interception.

After Arizona State charged out to an early 7-0 lead, the Buffaloes looked to respond quickly as Liufau went for the deep ball on the first play of the drive. Cornerback Lloyd Carrington appeared beat on the play but Simone came over the top for the interception at the ASU six yard line, returning it 29 yards to set up another Sun Devil scoring drive.

The junior also halted some second quarter momentum by the hosts, forcing the fumble that was recovered by Calhoun after the Sun Devils had seen their early 14 point lead dwindle down to just three.

Freshman Christian Sam did not start but filled in nicely at SPUR following the injury to Moeakiola. Sam had a career-high five tackles, one tackle for a loss and a sack, one of three for the Sun Devil defense on the night. He also helped preserve the win with a fourth quarter interception, the first of his career.

Throughout the last two weeks, we had seen both Marcus Ball and Ezekiel Bishop backup Moeakiola at SPUR in practice while Sam had fulfilled the back-up role to Calhoun at WILL. On Saturday though, it was Sam who had his name called for the SPUR duties and it’s safe to say he performed admirably under the circumstances. Depending on the severity of Moeakiola’s injury, we may see the freshman line up at SPUR again when UCLA visits Sun Devil Stadium on September 25th, perhaps becoming the fourth true freshman to start on defense for ASU this season.

Redshirt junior Demetrius Cherry also saw significant minutes against the Buffaloes along the interior of the defensive line. The junior college transfer got good pressure up the middle on a number of plays, recording three tackles while also demonstrating his ability to become a dependable back-up to Jaxon Hood at the NOSE position.

Kweishi Brown, another junior college transfer, also had three tackles on Saturday. The junior dished out some good hits in the secondary as he continues to grow within the Arizona State defense.

Marcus Ball, Chad Adams, and Alani Latu all recorded one tackle apiece. Solomon Means, Jamal Scott, DeAndre Scott, Edmond Boateng, and Viliami Latu all made appearances but did not record any official statistics.

Offense:

Kalen Ballage – The true freshman running back had one of the plays of the game with his 38-yard touchdown catch and run, knocking over center Nick Kelly as well as Colorado defenders along the way. That was really the only action of the night for him.

Demario Richard – The other freshman running back just had two rushes for three yards in a much more limited role than we had seen in the last couple of weeks.

Kody Kohl – Although he’s not a true newcomer, it should be mentioned that he had his first catch of his career against Colorado. It was an eight-yard reception.

Once again, the offense seemed to run through Taylor Kelly, D.J. Foster, Jaelen Strong and really not a whole lot of others. The Ballage catch and run was encouraging, as he will likely see an uptick in touches with the injury to Kelly heading forward.

Other newcomers on offense who participated in this contest were: WR Ronald Lewis, RB Jacom Brimhall, OL Jack Powers, and tight ends Brendan Landman and Grant Martinez.

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