Defensive line: A+
This just in: Will Sutton still has it. With Jaxon Hood's 300-pound frame back in the rotation, Sutton and the rest of the gang wreaked havoc. All the proper lanes were clogged and the nation's leading rusher, Bishop Sankey, didn't see an ounce of daylight (13 carries, 22 yards). Sutton finished his finest performance of 2013 with one sack, three tackles for loss and a pass breakup. And if there's a statistic for putting his teammates in a position to succeed, Sutton would have led the Sun Devils by leaps and bounds. Sutton routinely overpowered a much improved Huskies offensive line paving the way for Davon Coleman and Gannon Conway to combine for two sacks and four tackles for loss. So can we shut up about the "bad weight" now?
At first, I had the linebackers at an A+ as well and you could certainly make a case they deserve a perfect grade. The trio of Anthony Jones, Salamo Fiso and Carl Bradford compiled a total of four sacks and five tackles for loss and Chris Young recovered a fumble. But upon further evaluation, much of their success was due to the smack-down the defensive line laid on the Huskies. The Washington blockers never stood a chance against Sutton and company, which allowed these linebackers to run wild. While they certainly took care of business, a replacement level player at their position could have likely done similar damage with the pass rush opportunities they were handed. That said, Bradford might have had more QB hurries than he has fingers. And the unit as a whole hardly ever seemed out of place (especially on the edges). Chalk this up to one hell of a building block for the entire front seven.
Those box score enthusiasts, A.K.A. the same folks making the "bad weight" claims, probably are going to disagree with me on this one. But the 16-for-39 line from Keith "Happy Feet" Price wasn't due to lock down coverage as much as it was a continually collapsing pocket. Even on the few occasions that Price did get the necessary time, he'd respond with a painful overthrow or a missed read. Overall, I think the Devils secondary played an average game and caught a few breaks. There's little doubt that Price left a few plays on the field. Even if he makes those plays, the Sun Devils still likely win comfortably but I think this unit has some room to grow. Without the incredible pass rush working in front of them, they would have likely been exposed.
So this is what it feels like to have a successful kicking game. Zane Gonzalez was named the Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week after going 4-for-4 on Saturday. Gonzalez has nailed his last 12 field goals and is second in the nation with 2.1 field goals per game. Averaging 11.4 points per game, Gonzalez has quietly converted to Arizona State's safest scoring option behind Marion Grice. Obviously their positions are quite different but this fan base should be parading Gonzalez down Palm Walk after all the kicking game horrors they've seen recently.
As for Arizona State's punting, Alex Garoutte's rugby technique is solid but far from spectacular. Garoutte averaged 39.8 yards on his four attempts and the unique spin he puts on a ball resulted in a fumble. While he remains inconsistent, Garoutte showed some promise on his 47-yard punt and is gradually improving.