Plain and simple, the Arizona State defense won the game for the Sun Devils on Saturday. In the fourth quarter, the defense forced four straight three and outs followed by two interceptions to give the struggling offense a chance to come through at the end of the game.
Defensive line: A-
The defensive line came up huge holding Bubba Poole to just 43 yards rushing on 17 attempts. Leading the way was none other than Will Sutton who gave a truly All-American performance recording nine tackles, a season-high, alongside his interception. Gannon Conway and Davon Coleman combined for another 11 tackles and two and a half sacks on the night. Among the negatives in the first three quarters were the holes allowing Travis Wilson to nearly run at will. Utah did have 126 yards rushing but on 46 attempts good for only 2.7 yards per carry. It seems as if the defensive line has finally hit its stride and can carry the momentum of the fourth quarter back home against Oregon State next week.
Carl Bradford and Salamo Fiso both had very quiet but solid games combining for 13 tackles and a sack. Any screen plays or passes underneath did not work most of the afternoon and both men worked well sideline to sideline executing some shoestring tackles when Poole or Wilson did get into the second level. Although Utah's Trevor Reilly had a better game on paper than Bradford, it was the ASU defense that held the Utes scoreless in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
Robert Nelson had an impressive interception late but the secondary didn't have a lot of opportunities to flash its skill. Wilson only threw the ball 21 times completing six throws for 121 yards and two touchdowns, both on incredibly accurate throws. The only large slip up was the coverage of Dres Anderson who had four catches for 100 yards. Although they came through when necessary, 121 yards passing is a lot to give up on only six completed passes.
Special teams: C-
Alex Garoutte's punting skills were subpar averaging only 37.5 yards per punt on ten punts for 375 yards, compared to Utah's Tom Hackett who had nine punts for 455 yards. Marion Grice and Robert Nelson combined for only four total punt return yards and Nelson's punt catching woes continued as he fumbled yet another catch that luckily went out of bounds. Garoutte's poor punting cost ASU precious field position numerous times and if it weren't for the stout defense most of the night, the special teams could have cost ASU the game.