Devilbacker Carl Bradford is happy, and he should be (Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE)
Let's hand out some positional grades, shall we?
Let's just go ahead and throw that "game manager" title out the window. Once again, Taylor Kelly impressed with his playmaking skills, proving that he is a player who can win games, not just "not lose" them. He was sensational for most of Saturday night, completing 19 of his 26 throws for a career-high 326 yards, and a trio of touchdown passes, all without a turnover against what-was a top 20 defense nationally. Nit pickers out there will point out he floated a few deep passes that were ill advised, but Kelly continues to make more believers each week. Michael Eubank saw some time, mostly in the second half, and completed four of his five throws for 46 yards. He ran five times but for only 14 yards and was sacked twice.
Running Back: B
Another game, another relatively quiet night from Cameron Marshall on the ground. He carried just seven times for 14 yards, but did score a first quarter touchdown that gave him sole possession of third place on the school's all-time rushing touchdown list with 33. He also caught three passes for 30 yards and another touchdown. DJ Foster was again superb with just 11 touches. He ran for a team-high 70 yards on just 10 carries and caught a 26-yard pass. Marion Grice found the endzone again, this time on a 10-yard reception, but gained just 10 yards on his four carries. James Morrison saw his first touches of the season, gaining nine yards on three carries in garbage time. A bright spot: the group did not have a fumble.
Wide Receiver: A
The most maligned group on the roster, the wide receivers had been largely absent over the first three weeks. Not Saturday. Rashad Ross was excellent, shaking off his awful game against Missouri with a sterling effort against Utah. He started the scoring with a great 38-yard touchdown catch in which he had a nice juke, and led the team with 87-yards on his five catches. Jamal Miles had 59 yards on his four catches, and Kevin Ozier had a great 52-yard reception which set up a field goal. Alonzo Agwuenu had his first catch as a Sun Devil, a nifty 19-yarder down the left sideline.
Tight End: B+
With the wide receivers finally posing a threat, things opened up a bit for Coyle on Saturday. He tied Ross for the team lead with five catches and totaled 62 yards on the night. He continued to block effectively, and his aggressive runs after catches are very reminiscent of a young Jeremy Shockey.
Offensive Line: B
The Sun Devil line was facing a supremely difficult challenge in Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, a task made more difficult when center Kody Koebensky was knocked out of the game early. Lotulelei—a likely top five pick in next April's NFL Draft—had five tackles (one for loss) but was not the disruptive force he could have been. The pass protection was good, with Kelly having time to be comfortable in the pocket en route to his career night. Only one sack came when the game was still in question. Things were a little rougher in the run, where ASU only averaged just 3.6 yards-per-carry, with Foster the only ball carrier to average more than three.
Defensive Line: A
This grade would be worthy just for the performance of Will Sutton alone. He was again a dominant force, causing a major disruption to both the Utah running and passing games. Sutton made four tackles, one for loss, and had half a sack, but his constant harassment made a world of difference, such as his pressure that forced a bad throw by Jon Hays that was intercepted by Keelan Johnson. Junior Onyeali was effective off the edge, and delivered the hit of the season on his one sack. Tackles Jaxon Hood and Mike Pennel helped disrupt the Utah line enough to hold the Utes to a paltry 2.4 yards-per-carry.
Brandon Magee and Chris Young are becoming a terrifying 1-2 punch. Young continues to be a devastating playmaker, with his uncanny range and sure tackling. He made eight tackles, including another 2.5 for loss, and made 1.5 sacks. He also forced a fumble that was recovered by Magee, who led the team with 10 tackles. For good measure, Magee also forced a fumble of his own. After a very slow start. Steffon Martin made some plays, including two tackles-for-loss. Devilbacker Carl Bradford had 2.5 tackles-for-loss and a sack. Perhaps the best stat of the night was John White IV—who had over 1,500 yards for Utah last year—having just 18 yards on 14 carries.
Utah is not a throwing team, and they didn't do much of it on Saturday—just 16 attempts—but they do have several talented and dangerous threats on the outside who were held in check. Starting wide receivers DeVonte Christopher and Dres Anderson did not make a catch. Deveron Carr had a good game in coverage, and Keelan Johnson delivered several big hits and had the lone interception of the evening. As a group, the Utes managed just 117 yards through the air.
Special Teams: B+
After last week's disaster, the special teams performed well on Saturday. Alex Garoutte made a pair of 22-yard field goals and one from 43, and his lone miss was from 53 yards away. Jon Mora, getting a chance during the blowout, missed from 40. The team's first punt of the night came from Kelly, whose pooch punt was excellent, rolling out of bounds at the Utah five-yard line. Not to be outdone, both of Josh Hubner's kicks were pinned inside the 20. The return game continues to be ordinary, with Jamal Miles getting just 14 yards on the only kickoff return of the night, and the same total on a pair of punt returns. Garoutte managed six touchbacks on his eight kickoffs.
This was a crucial week for Todd Graham and staff. After the poor showing and heart-wrenching loss in Missouri, one in which Graham placed the blame on himself and his staff, how would his team respond? It took just two drives to find out. The defense swarmed to the ball and forced a turnover on downs to start, and Graham's offense drove the field and scored a touchdown in under 90 seconds the first time they had the ball, and both unit did not let up until the game was decided. It's an encouraging sign that, unlike in years past, this team will come back from a loss stronger and more focused on getting a win inside of letting it spiral out of control.