Another week, another few steps back in Taylor Kelly's development. Once again, he started strong, lead the Sun Devils on several effective drives in the first quarter. The second drive was capped by a nice play from Kelly, who evaded pressure and found a streaking Chris Coyle down the sideline for a touchdown. However, it came apart after that. Kelly once again look rattled in the face of pressure, rushed his reads, failed to set his feet and made several terrible decisions, including easy interceptions on consecutive throws late in the game. While it's probably too early to make a change, the prospect is now on the table. Michael Eubank saw some time with the short yardage packages and had some nice runs, but he underthrew a wide open Davon Coleman on a third down play.
Running Back: Inc.
For the second straight week, the team's most dynamic offensive group gets a coaching-induced "Incomplete" grade, as there simply wasn't too much from the. Cameron Marshall ran for 22 yards on three carries on the game's opening drive, yet only three more carries for 15 yards the rest of the way. The potent duo of D.J. Foster and Marion Grice had just 15 yards on eight carries (including a zero yard total from Foster). Grice was the team's leading receiver with seven receptions, but none was longer than nine yards and he had just 30 yards though the air. Foster added just two for 10. After seeing Foster and Grice be so effective in the downfield passing game all year, and given the wide receivers inability to get open, the use of the backs is all the more disheartening.
Wide Receiver/Tight End: D
The deficiencies at wide receiver continue to hurt this team. Aside from merely a production standpoint, the group's inability to get open downfield has greatly hampered Kelly's development, and made the entire offensive scheme easier to defend. The wide receivers managed just four total receptions for 46 yards (Rashad Ross two for 31, Jamal Miles two for 15 with one big drop), and this was the second straight week that starter Kevin Ozier went without a catch. The one bright spot was Coyle, whose 85 yards (on five receptions) were his most since Week 2, but most of those came on two catches (32 and 34 yards).
Offensive Line: D-
One of the major reasons the offense has been stagnant for most of the last two weeks has been the play of the offensive line. On Saturday, the Sun Devils surrendered season-highs in sacks (seven) and tackles-for-loss (11), and nearly evaded several more in each category. The line has struggled mightily in both run blocking and pass protection, and the 71 yards rushing (a paltry 2.0 yards per-carry), speaks to the struggles of the unit's poor play.
Defensive Line: B
Boom or bust. That seems to be the situation for the Sun Devil defensive line, as the group will either produce a sack or tackle-for-loss...or get gashed for a big gain on the ground. There was a lot of the latter against USC, who started backup running back Curtis McNeal. McNeal ran for a career-high 163 yards. ASU had no answer to stop the Trojan ground game, and it cost them in the second half. That was the bust, but the booms were fun. Will Sutton (eight tackles, two for loss, one sack) and Davon Coleman (10 tackles, one for loss) each made several plays, but the star of the day was Carl Bradford, who we'll list with the line. He was a destructive force, filling the stat sheet with 10 tackles, two for loss, one sack, a forced fumble on USC's first play, a fumble recovery and an amazing interception in which he quickly diagnosed a screen, dropped back to bat it down and ending up catching it. Sutton and Bradford have now combined for 19 sacks on the season.
The Sun Devil linebackers had an overall rough day, being ineffective against a Trojan running game that amassed 225 yards and averaged over five yards per carry. They did not manage to get to Matt Barkley and did little in pass coverage. However, the group did make some plays, none prettier than Chris Young's leaping interception following Rashad Ross' fumble on a kickoff. Brandon Magee continues to prove he balls on every play, leading the team with 13 tackles. Steffon Martin made just four tackles, but recovered Marqise Lee's fumble on USC's opening play.
It's hard to place too much blame on a unit for not stopping Marqise Lee's otherworldly talent, and USC only passed for 222 yards. However, Deveron Carr had another terrible game, and was clearly overmatched by Lee, who had 10 catches for 161 yards and the 80-yard score in which he simply blew by Carr. Conversely, Osahon Irabor had another strong game, being good in coverage, knocking away a ball and forcing a fumble. Lee's dynamic counterpart, Robert Woods, was held to just two catches for -3 yards. Alden Darby jumped a route and had a 70-yard interception return for a score.
Special Teams: C-
Saturday was another forgettable day for the special teams. Rashad Ross fumbled away the kickoff after Lee's 80-yard touchdown, and Jamal Miles and Kyle Middlebrooks fared little better in the return game. ASU seemed to overly fear Lee's return ability, and several short kickoffs (he averaged 29.8 yards on his four kickoffs) set up USC with great field position on numerous occasions. On the plus side, Jon Mora made his only field goal attempt—from 28 yards—was good. Punter Josh Hubner, fresh off his Ray Guy Award semifinalst news, had two uncharacteristic touchbacks, and didn't pin any of his five kicks inside the 20, but had a 55-yard kick and averaged 47.2 yards-per-kick.
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