Arizona State vs. Utah: Offensive positional grades

Gene Sweeney Jr.

The Sun Devils found a way to win on the road for the second straight week. This time, it involved far less offensive fire power.

Arizona State marched down the field to a 7-0 lead to start the game but after that, the offense stalled. That is, until the fourth quarter rolled around. With an explosive final frame, the Sun Devils fought through their struggles to earn the win thanks to late game heroics from Marion Grice and Richard Smith.

But how did the rest of the offense fair? Well, let's take a look and hand out some positional grades in the process:

Quarterbacks: B-

Taylor Kelly produced all three of ASU's touchdowns but he was indecisive with his throws throughout the afternoon. The Idaho native completed 19-of-31 passes for 144 yards and one touchdown pass while adding another two touchdowns on the ground. While Kelly did step up when it mattered most, rifling a 14-yard touchdown pass to Richard Smith for the game winner, he also decided tried to escape the pocket far too often without completing his reads. He was sacked six times on the day Even when he was (rarely) given the necessary time, he didn't exactly help his own cause, finishing the day with six sacks. What saved this from being worse was the way he spread the ball around and the fact that he managed to avoid a turnover.

Running Backs: A-

If it weren't for Grice's performance in the fourth quarter, and on the last drive in particular, this grade would be considerably lower. Grice was ineffective for most of the day but never gave up, diving for first downs and making Utah miss tackles with impressive cuts. He ended the day with 136 yards rushing on 20 carries including 84 yards in the fourth quarter. Earning 6.8 yards per carry should earn you an A, especially with ineffective blocking he was asked to work with. But what's keeping this from a perfect score is Deantre Lewis' fumble.

Wide Receivers: C+

While no receiver had more than five catches, four receivers had at least 20 yards receiving in the game, which is solid considering Kelly finished with 144 passing yards. Richard Smith continued his momentum, hauling in four catches for 36 yards including the game winning touchdown. It's worth noting that most of Taylor Kelly's sacks were coverage sacks meaning the wide receivers just failed to get open. Longer routes were most often dropped as the passing game struggled most of the day. It's interesting to note that the dynamic of the wide receiving core has changed as the season progresses. Richard Smith has found his groove and the burden does not lay nearly as heavily on Jaelen Strong, who looks to be at less than 100 percent.

Offensive line: C-

All six sacks were not entirely the fault of the offensive line as previously stated but it is still their job to protect the quarterback at all costs. On Saturday, they failed miserably. Running lanes actually opening up for Marion Grice were a rare occurrence in Salt Lake City. Grice only had 40 yards rushing at halftime and Kelly wasn't granted enough time to get the vertical strikes going either. The line struggled to pick up blitzes from Trevor Reilly who quickly became Grice and Kelly's worst nightmare. But like the rest of the unit, the offense line buckled down when they needed to the most. The struggles for the offensive line continue to be somewhat of an issue but a home game next week in a friendly environment may be just what the doctor ordered.

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