Well now that the dust has almost settled from last night's final play, and Sun Devil fans have had the chance to digest what the saw Saturday night. Let's give out some position grades.
Once again, the onus fell on Taylor Kelly for much of the night. The Sun Devils were able to rush for only 116 yards, including 24 from Kelly. The junior signal caller was 29/51 for 352 yards. Kelly did not throw for a touchdown and had one interception. The reason I grade Kelly's performance so high was he was the one making plays for the Sun Devils all night.
The touch on some of Kelly's passes last night was remarkable, especially those back shoulder throws to Jaelen Strong. Kelly was also plagued by drops from his receivers. Richard Smith dropped at least three passes and the number of total drops last night for Arizona State numbered at least half a dozen. Kelly's 29 completions were spread out among eight different receivers. He was asked to carry the load last night, and he was up to the challenge.
Running backs: B-
We haven't seen much from the Sun Devil running game through two games of the season. Arizona State ran for just 116 yards against Wisconsin, with 88 of those yards coming from Marion Grice. However, it took Grice 22 carries to rush for those 84 yards, that is a mark of just 3.8 yards per carry. Last season, Grice averaged 6.6 YPC.
One player who has seemingly been absent from the Sun Devil running game has been DJ Foster. Arizona State has been using Foster more in the slot and sending him out more in the passing game and it shows in his ground stats. Last night, Foster had five carries for 27 yards, Foster only had one rush against Sacramento State.
The Sun Devils averaged just 2.8 YPC (total includes yards lost on muffed punt) as a team and the longest rush of the night was 18 yards. The longest rush against Sacramento State was 16 yards. The big plays on the ground aren't there for the Sun Devils yet.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B-
Most of this grade is attributed to the play of Jaelen Strong. His first game in front of a national audience and he shined. Strong finished with six catches for 104 yards. Where Strong excelled last night was in his body control and his hands. Strong hauled in difficult catches in traffic and was draped by Wisconsin defensive backs all night. Foster and Grice were the next leading receivers behind Strong.
Kevin Ozier caught two passes, Richard Smith caught three passes and Chris Coyle caught three passes last night. What hurt Arizona State last night was drops. The Sun Devils dropped at least six passes yesterday. Those are the type of mental errors that Todd Graham hates. The ASU wide receivers also had a hard time creating separation and getting open against the Wisconsin secondary.
Offensive Line: C
The offensive line had a hard time creating holes for the running game all night. Even though Kelly was only sacked one time, he was pressured numerous times and had to evade the rush and use his legs for positive gains. It was an average game for the offensive line, they were not great and they were not terrible.
Defensive Line: B-
For the second straight game the Arizona State defensive line did not record a sack, however they did a good job pressuring Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave and batting down Stave's passes at the line of scrimmage. Where the defensive line struggled was against the run. Wisconsin finished with 231 yards rushing and a staggering 7.3 yards per rush. It is a bit surprising that through two games, Arizona State does not have a sack from Will Sutton, Jaxon Hood or any of its defensive linemen.
Chris Young and Steffon Martin were all over the field Saturday night. Young finished with six tackles and Martin with five. Carl Bradford was able to put pressure on Stave multiple times last night, including hitting him on Wisconsin's failed 2-PT conversion attempt in the fourth quarter. However, like the defensive line, Wisconsin's rushing output puts this grade a little lower.
The secondary was the group on defense that stood out. The only sack of the game for Arizona State came on an Osahon Irabor corner blitz. Alden Darby broke up two passes and was all of the field (as usual). Stave finished 15/30 for 187 yards and a touchdown. Irabor led the team with seven tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. ASU was physical in coverage and did not allow a Wisconsin receiver to reach 100 yards.
Special Teams: C+
The biggest mishap last night (aside from the final play) was the botched punt that cost Arizona State seven points. Dom Vizzare panicked when the snap was low and allowed Wisconsin to pick the ball up in the end zone instead of kicking it out of bounds for a safety. Besides that, the special teams unit played well. Vizzare averaged 37.3 yards per punt and nailed two inside the 20-yard line.
Zane Gonzales was a perfect 2-2 on field goals Saturday night. Even though his longest was just 34 yards, he hit every kick that was asked of him. Alex Garoutte did a nice job on kickoffs, putting four in the endzone for touchbacks. Both coverage teams did well yesterday as Wisconsin did not get any big plays on special teams and the Badgers even turned the ball over on a punt.