Devils in the Details: ASU at Washington

Oh what a wild and fun night to be a Sun Devil in Seattle. This game brought every bit of playing through the elements front and center and after four quarters of play on the road, the Sun Devils came up huge in the 24-10 victory over Washington.

Led by their defense that has come on strong in the last two games, ASU was able to muscle their way to a win that showed character and a desire to win a close game. Very impressed with how this team has matured this season and the overall defensive improvements. If you can stay consistent on defense like this, your offense will be able to fight through the adversity that comes through the season. Great win on the road and one more stone crushed as the Sun Devils quest on through this tough South division.

Talking about the Offense

This was one of those nights you don’t want to be a quarterback. Horrible wind gusts, light rain, a hostile stadium and a defense that has the size and athletic ability to shut you down. Taylor Kelly had his work cut out for him making his first start in six weeks since the foot injury.

ASU knew they would need to press the rushing attack with the weather conditions and that is a tough task when facing a front seven like Washington’s. Sputtering at times because of blocking breakdowns, the Sun Devil offense was forced to punt five times in the first half. Matt Haack came up huge fielding moving snaps and delivering some good punts to help ASU win the field position battle. Bad play on third and fourth down stalled the offense all night long while a huge pick six thrown in the third quarter nearly gave Washington the momentum they were looking for.

At the final whistle, the ASU offense was able to produce 285 yards of total offense. A hard night earning yards yet you win and lose as a team and you take this victory any way you slice in on the road.

Positive Stats:

Two Passing Touchdowns

Won Time of Possession Battle - 30:10

1-1 on Field Goal Attempts, 3-3 PAT (Not Easy in the Wind)

Negative Stats:

14 First Downs

105 Rushing Yards

One Pick Six Given Up

Seven Sacks Allowed

3-5 Red-Zone Scores-Chances

Position Grades

Quarterback

Grade: C

Making his first start in six weeks Taylor Kelly had lots to focus on besides the weather. Personally, I didn’t think he looked near 100% in terms of movement in the pocket, ability to burst and his overall mechanics working through the offense. At times, he even looked like he was still limping some.

Kelly really seemed to force some of his reads and you have to analyze his progressions through the passing game as he tended to stare down nearly all of his throws- an easy key for any defense. When it mattered though, Kelly came up with the plays needed near the red-zone on both of his touchdown throws.

Going forward, if Kelly is not 100% healthy, I have to scratch my head on who should be out on the field. The better passer who has been on fire, or the guy who has helped pave the way over the last two seasons. Hard decision to make for any coaching staff and hopefully going forward we are all witness to this situation becoming clearer.

Running Backs

Grade: B-

This grade was a tough one to earn as the Washington defense was ready to defend the run game. D.J. Foster was shut down again and it was very clear the defense was keyed in on him when he was in the backfield. When you watch the backside of read zone plays, you can see the scheme UW was using to squeeze the gaps and force Foster to have no room.

The offensive line broke down all night long in their run blocking and it made it hard for any back to see lanes. Freshman Demario Richard led the group with 54 yards on nine carries and a long of 23. His 18 yard rush off left tackle was impressive which displayed the Freshman carrying defenders down field. Great leg drive and a will to break tackles. That can turn good backs into great backs if you see that type of effort every single play. Great job by Richard stepping up and helping the offense.

I thought Deantre Lewis looked good again this game, especially catching the ball as he totaled 59 all purpose yardage. No Kalen Ballage except near the goal line to block this game. Overall, the running backs did what they could this game to fight for yardage.

Wide Receivers

Grade: B-

Jaelen Strong was big down in the red zone catching a slant route for a score yet his biggest play came in the fourth quarter as he was able to complete a 23 yard play that resulted in ASU pushing the ball downfield and into Washington’s territory. That drive was capped off by a Gary Chambers touchdown and gave ASU the lead again. Huge plays in that fourth quarter from this position group. With that said, there was also a bunch of negative efforts. I thought this may have been the worst collective effort from this group when it came to run blocking. Guys were giving up on plays far too easy and you saw Washington’s secondary able to impact so many plays. The technique needs to improve. Lower pads, stronger hands and really just a desire to help the cause when it comes to running the football. Gotta get better in this area or ASU will continue to see their ground game struggle.

Tight End - H-Back

Grade: C

No production to speak of from this group in terms of the stat sheet which I find surprising. You would have thought with the conditions the way they were that De’Marieya Nelson and Kody Kohl would have seen targets on shorter routes. Overall, these two players were used much less than the previous week against Stanford as ASU tried to spread out Washington with their sets. Average run blocking from this position group which we have seen from them recently earns them the grade. When does Nelson make his impact this season? He is a missing link right now.

Offensive Line

Grade: D-

This is a grade that could potentially be even lower in some eyes. The offensive line as a whole really underperformed Saturday night as we were witness to seven Washington sacks and 12 tackles for loss. The Washington front was able to dominate the game at times beating ASU up front with great energy and effort. Both tackles, Jamil Douglas and Tyler Sulka, looked lost at times in their pass protection which is not characteristic of the pair. Simple speed rushes off the edge lost the pocket and at times I was just hoping Kelly held on to the ball.

Effort across the board needs to be increased in both the pass and run blocking departments. Far too often you are seeing Via Teofilo get worked on run downs. He tends to struggle getting his hands in place and working his hips in front of the defender he is working too. Just seems like the bigs up front don’t want it as bad as the defense does at times and because of this the breakdowns come often. It’s a mindset up front more than anything at times and if you play every down fired up to win then good things follow.

Talking about the Defense

We knew it was going to be a struggle for the Sun Devils this season replacing nine defensive starters. After five games into 2014, it looks like things have started to gel with this side of the ball as we have witnessed two solid defensive games from this group. Personnel changes, overload blitz concepts and at times allowing the linebackers to play things out in front of them more so has really allowed this group to see some success.

The one aspect that stands out the most in my mind when watching this defense the last two weeks is the energy to get to the ball and work through their assignments. That area has greatly improved since the first couple of games and shows that the players are dialing it up and the season progresses. You have to commend that type of effort.

Positive Stats:

First Half Shutout - Second week in a row

Three Points Allowed

Three Turnovers - 1 Defensive Touchdown

Five Sacks - 12 TFLs

Blocked Field Goal

2 of 14 Third Down Defense - 0 for 1 Fourth Down

Negative Stats:

200 Yards Rushing Allowed - 151 Net

Position Grades

Defensive Line

Grade: B+

Probably the best all around effort we have seen from this group all season. Tons of energy and several areas that show solid improvement. Edmond Boateng I thought played his best game so far. He shows some improvement movement off the edge working better to attack half his man instead of running down the chest like he has done too much this season. He was using his hands better and keeping space with those long arms. You can see with him that the coaching points are starting to sink in. Boateng’s five solo tackles and solo sack led the defensive line group.

Sticking to this note, I thought Marcus Hardison also played his best game to date and looked very much improved in both the pass and run game. I think he is finally starting to understand he is not a speedster off the edge and his big frame is suited better for power rushes that have big counters. He was stressing the tackles hard with a big punch in the pass rush area and really shrank the pocket to his side. Love watching a big strong guy like that do what they are good at. He needs to stick to this concept.

Demetrius Cherry is getting better and better with the game reps. For a tall linemen, he does a great job keeping his pads low and working off blocks. His fumble recovery was a huge play that really helped keep the momentum on the Sun Devils side early in the third quarter.

Big Mo Latu also showed some good activity in there and I loved watching him take on blockers as he is such a hard defender to try and move out of his gap. Definitely helps ASU in their run fits having him in there. I still think ASU is doing too much slanting up front with the defensive line. There are some big run plays Washington was about to spring because the slant helped Washington open up run lanes. Sort of a gamble on this concepts and often they don’t allow the lineman to read their blocks and scan the backfield.

Linebackers

Grade: A

Second game in a row that shows this group performing very strong and improving with experience.

Laiu Moeakiola did not look slowed by his shoulder at all this game and led the group with 10 tackles, 2.5 for loss, a forced fumble, pass break up and two big sacks. Huge production from him and you can see why he makes so many plays - the guy just has a motor and works so well in space finding the football, taking great angles and doing it all with an attitude. Love watching him lead this defense up in the box.

Salamo Fiso also had another improved game and was in on some big tackles. He still needs to try and break down, bending his knees more so when he is in traffic. Because he gets to high at times, he is unable to change direction when he is in heavy traffic. Looks at times like he really loses sight of the ball carrier.

Antonio Longino seems to be settling in nice at his standup Will position. He has great athletic ability out there and brings a good sized body into the mix from that position. Came up field a few times too far out on the edge and you would like to see him anchor down a bit more though yet he is still somewhat new to this position so I know it will take time to get all the details in line. Overall great night from this group. Heading into the next matchup against Utah and their potent rushing attack, this group will need to play lights out.

Secondary

Grade: A+ The elements may have helped this group succeed yet the production numbers don’t lie. Safeties Jordan Simone and Damarious Randall dominated with 18 tackles between the two of them.

Simone came up with an interception thrown right to him and Randall played great on the run showing up near the line of scrimmage several times through the night impacting plays. Love how these two have stepped their game up over the last couple of weeks getting better each game.

Lloyd Carrington and Kweishi Brown both continued to show awesome effort and did a great job coming up on the perimeter run plays. Freshman Armand Perry helped turn the game late with his 61 yard pick six. Awesome play by the freshman pressing the sideline and putting one on the board for the defense. This is a group that is really helping to lead this team. If you can get consistent play each week like this, ASU is going to be a very hard team to beat. Time to bring it this next week taking on a strong Utah offense that can run and pass.

Special Team Grades

Field Goal Team: C

Never easy kicking with a wet ball and high winds. Zane Gonzalez was called upon early and put his 33 yard attempt right down the middle. On ASU’s second attempt, a bad snap forced Mike Bercovici to scramble out for a loss and ASU left points on the field.

Field Goal Block Team: A

1 for 1 and a big block from Paul Crawford helping ASU hold a first half shut out.

Punt Team: A+

Matt Haack punted 5 times for 223 yards, 46.6 Avg. and a long of 64 yards. Probably his best game based on numbers and I thought he did a fantastic job fielding moving snaps and getting leg on the ball. Taylor Kelly also placed two great kicks down near the end zone. The punting department and field position was a major reason for the Sun Devil victory.

Punt Return Team: Incomplete

Windy conditions did not allow any returns. Washington’s punt team however was atrocious however and really helped ASU out with some great field position.

Kickoff Team: C

John Ross was able to break off some decent yardage on the kickoff coverage and at times ASU was out of position on these returns. In a game where field position matters, this team dropped the ball.

Kickoff Return Team: C One return for 11 yards. Average performance yet only one kick return in play to judge the performance.

Team Grades

Offense: C+

Defense: A

Special Teams: B+

Offensive MVP: D.J. Foster - 88 All Purpose Yards

Defensive MVP: Laiu Moeakiola - 10 Tackles, 2.5 TFL, forced fumble, pass breakup, Two Sacks

Special Teams MVP: Matt Haack - 5 Punts, 46.6 Avg. Long of 64 Yards

This may have not been the most exciting game to watch as the elements really controlled what each team wanted to do. ASU was able to win all three aspects - Offense, Defense and Special Teams which showed for solid team win on the road. So many great improvements as the season rolls along which speaks volumes for the coaching in place and players believing in the concepts in place.

The Sun Devils control their path in the race for the South as a huge game comes to Tempe this coming Saturday against the Utes. ASU will have to play lights out and Sun Devil stadium should be rocking. Be there - Be Loud.

-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 2008, 2011 and 2013 Class 4A Division I state championship.


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