In a 63-6 victory, the list of negatives is typically short. It's quite difficult to win by eight touchdowns based mostly on luck or by accident.
Arizona State needed no such fortuitous bounces to dispatch NAU last Thursday. From the opening drive, the Sun Devils' superior talent overwhelmed the Lumberjacks in every area.
Well, almost every area.
In a game with nine rushing touchdowns, it would be easy to assume that the ASU offense dominated in goal line situations. Oh, but they did not.
Let's focus on the first half, when each team was playing their starters. ASU had four possessions in which they had the ball inside the NAU five-yard line.
Here's how those four possessions transpired:
|False start||DJ Foster run stopped||Marion Grice run stopped||Eubank stopped|
|Cameron Marshall run stopped||Michael Eubank run stopped||Grice TD||Eubank TD|
|Marshall TD||Foster TD|
Big picture, each ended with a score, so who cares, right?
While this isn't a red flag or a cause for panic, it's something worth keeping an eye on, and here's why.
Arizona State was playing an NAU team that they should have had no problem throwing around. The Sun Devil offensive line had nearly a 40 pound-per-player advantage on the NAU defensive line, yet often failed to get any push off of the line. Several times, NAU defenders found their way into the Sun Devil backfield.
Most times, ASU lined up in a traditional goal line set and ran straight ahead, as seen here. On other occasions, they ran their traditional offensive look in a three-wide, shotgun sets. Twice they were stopped, and once they got in.
Their playcalling was very basic. Most every play was a power run straight ahead or off tackle, although they did run one misdirection play, in which Eubank faked a handoff going right and bootlegged around left. But that didn't work and nearly resulted in a turnover. They did not attempt a pass within the five-yard line. Against a lesser opponent, Coach Graham did not want to show off the more elaborate goal line plays, so hopefully in the coming weeks we'll see more variety.
ASU was giving the ball to powerful runners like Marshall (215 pounds), Eubank (233) and Grice (200), and in their goal line package, 282-pound defensive end Davon Coleman was the lead fullback. When it worked, it worked very well, as seen here. The line got a push, Coleman sealed an edge, and Foster walks in easily. Textbook stuff.
While the Sun Devils could get away with this against NAU, they will have a significantly tougher time in the coming weeks against the tough defenses of Illinois, Missouri and Utah. They cannot expect to perform as they did against NAU and come away with valuable touchdowns against this much higher level of opposition.
The talent is there, it's just a matter of execution.