The dust has settled from the Sun Devils' stomping out of the Cougars Thursday night in Pullman. The weather played no issue as some thought it would and the defense picked up right where it left off against Washington. The Sun Devils seem to have found a groove but as Todd Graham said post game, the season is far from over. Now let's bring out the red pen and give out some positional grades.
Defensive line: B
This was a very typical showing for the Sun Devils defensive line this season. Marcus Hardison and Davon Coleman each had a sack but most of the pressure on Connor Halliday was coming off the edges or up the middle courtesy of linebackers and corners. While the Arizona State rush defense is clearly much improved giving up a total of two yards rushing last night, it wasn't necessary indicative of how the line played because the Cougars only tried rushing the ball 11 times. If Washington State tried to run the ball more, the defensive line's grade would have likely been better.
Carl Bradford played like a man possessed against Washington State. He recorded two tackles, a sack, forced two fumbles and hurried Connor Halliday three times (officially) not to mention his run on fourth down on an indirect snap. He also was solid in coverage. Anthony Jones played one of his better games this year recording two tackles and his number could be seen around the ball on most plays. Salamo Fiso and Steffon Martin were somewhat absent but the only true critique of the Arizona State linebackers has to be their inability to defend the wide receiver screen pass over the middle of the field to Gabe Marks. It was the Cougars' only effective play for most of the night and it's how they scored the touchdown to open the second half.
This is the toughest grade to give out because Osahon Irabor was out of the game for a period of time. The only reason this isn't an "A" is because Connor Halliday still threw for 300 yards and completed more than 50 percent of his passes. ASU gets a pass here because Washington State threw the ball an obscenely large amount. The secondary had to be tired by the end of the night so its effort is certainly to be commended. Alden Darby laid out some huge hits recording eight tackles, forcing a fumble, and breaking up three passes and Lloyd Carrington had a surprisingly good game as well getting eight tackles of his own. When the Cougars did complete a pass, the tackling woes continued which is something to watch out for going forward.
Special teams: A
It seems as if ASU has found the second coming of Thomas Weber, perhaps even better. The "Zane Train" is leaving the station and a case of "inZaneity" has taken Sun Devil nation by storm. Kicker Zane Gonzalez is now 17 of 20 and has made his last 13 field goals in a row. Another upside was Robert Nelson's ability to cleanly catch and field all eight Washington State punts after struggling against Washington. Kick and punt coverage was solid with unusual standout De'Marieya Nelson coming up big. Don't forget, two flawlessly executed fakes helped this position group to its best showing of the year.