Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
The Sun Devils used a dominating second half to post a 51-17 win on Thursday. Here's what we learned from the win.
It didn't start the way that anyone anticipated, but the end result was on par with the pregame expectations. Arizona State throttled Colorado during a 31-0 second half run to move to 5-1 on the season, and more importantly, 3-0 in the Pac-12.
It was an eventful game, and here are the five key lessons we learned from Thursday night.
While Taylor Kelly is ready...
Over the last few weeks, I've managed to come up with different ways to say that Taylor Kelly has cast aside the preseason perception of being "just" a game manager and emerged as a legitimate playmaker. After Thursday's game, I may have run out of ways to say it.
Kelly shook off some early struggles to post the best game of his young career. He completed 20 of his 28 throws for 308 yards and five touchdowns and ran for 85 yards (reduced to 67 after sacks). All of this was, once again, without committing a turnover.
In his three conference starts, Kelly is 3-0 while completing 65.6% his passes for 926 yards, 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions. With the "real" schedule about to start over the next six games, one thing is for certain: ASU has the right man at quarterback to lead them into battle.
The kicking game is not...
While Kelly has solidified the game's most important position, the Sun Devils still have tremendous uncertainty at another critical spot.
Alex Garoutte lost his job as the team's kicker after a rough game against Cal and was replaced by Jon Mora. Mora's day against Colorado got off on...well...the wrong foot when his first kick was much too low and easily blocked. Garoutte then came back to kick five extra points, but Mora did make a 38-yard field goal later in the game.
Heading into the season's home stretch, the kicking woes that the program has faced since 2008 are no closer to any kind of positive resolution. Garoutte...Mora...right now, there is nothing but question marks and stress in the field goal department for ASU.
D.J. Foster is ASU's best weapon
Coming into the year, much of the offensive hope was being placed upon the experienced shoulder pads of running back Cameron Marshall and wide receiver Jamal Miles. However, each has struggled mightily to contribute. Thankfully for ASU, they have a player who is stepping up in both phases of the game to fill their void.
True freshman D.J. Foster had another electric game against the Buffaloes, running for 61 yards on nine carries and catching six passes for 71 yards, including a great 34-yard diving touchdown. That brings his season totals to a team-high 269 yards rushing with a sterling 6.0 yards-per-carry average, along with 20 receptions for 297 yards, both figures second to Chris Coyle.
Foster has consistently showed off explosive speed and acceleration, but also a power element to his running. Despite his age and being just 183 pounds, Foster never shies away from contact. While Foster's immense talent was known, given the pedigree of Marshall and Miles, it's still somewhat of a surprise that Foster has become the go-to guy this quickly in his career.
OK, well such talk is hyperbole, despite what his monstrous numbers say. Will Sutton registered two more sacks to bring his season total to 8.5 in just six games, and looked every bit as unblockable and disruptive as he has all season long.
This most recent performance cemented Sutton as not just a front-runner for All-Pac-12 honors, but a serious contender for the All-American team. Outside of Geno Smith, it's hard to imagine a player who's playing at a higher level at any position than Sutton.
The difficulty will only ramp up in the coming weeks as ASU faces a grueling schedule, but if anyone can rise to the challenge, it's Sutton.
Move the halftime speech to pregame
After 30 minutes, it looked like the same sad, all-too-familiar script. ASU, coming in as a heavy favorite, was playing down to the level of their competition and was teetering on the brink of derailing another season.
The Sun Devils jogged into the locker room at the half, and ran back onto the field as an entirely different team.
After clinging to a 20-17 lead during a first half full of mistakes, the Sun Devils exerted their dominance in a final two quarters that saw them outscore the Buffaloes 31-0. That was the performance just about everyone expected heading into the game.
Facing Oregon, USC, and UCLA in the coming weeks, ASU can't afford to have a similar lethargic start. So whatever the coaching staff said during the half, put it on repeat.