8-0. That is the Sun Devils' record in games in which Taylor Kelly does not throw an interception. The sophomore signal caller was sensational on Saturday afternoon passing for 268 yards and four touchdowns. Of Kelly's 19 attempted passes, 17 were completed, one was a bad drop, and another was just past the outstretched arms of a diving Chris Coyle. When a quarterback can provide that kind of efficiency, there's no limit on the potential of an offense. Aside from his brilliant aerial performance, Kelly scored his first rushing touchdown of the season and averaged over 11 yards per carry en route to an 81-yard day on the ground. The only drawback at the quarterback position came when Michael Eubank fumbled with the game well decided, but the backup performed well in mop-up duty. All in all, Taylor Kelly proved he will be a force in 2013.
Running Backs: A+
It's hard to imagine a better outing than Marion Grice's 156-yard effort in the Territorial Cup, but the junior outdid himself in Saturday's bowl game. Grice rushed for a season-high 159 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns, and earned a spot on the 2012 All-Heart team. Grice lost his brother just a week ago, but he overcame his emotions to deliver a game his teammates will never forget. Cameron Marshall added 58 yards including a spectacular 33-yard touchdown burst, and Deantre Lewis and R.J. Robinson saw time in the fourth quarter as well. Grice received the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Outstanding Offensive Player Award, and his coaches and teammates could not be prouder of this remarkable young man.
Wide Receivers: A
Two words: Rashad. Ross. After a rough evening in Tucson that nearly cost the Sun Devils the Territorial Cup, Ross rebounded in a huge way. The Bay Area native put up the biggest numbers of his career in his final game as a Sun Devil and showed the Navy secondary exactly what the word fast really means. Ross raced up and down the field and caught two 50-yard scoring bombs from Taylor Kelly after he racked up a 16-yard touchdown on his first reception. Jamal Miles added two catches, Alonzo Agwuenu scored his first career touchdown, and the receiving corps made Taylor Kelly's job easy all afternoon. If not for Miles' lone drop, this might have been a flawless day for the group.
Offensive Line: A+
The most impressive part of the offensive line's performance on Saturday is not that the Sun Devils averaged 7.8 yards per carry or that Taylor Kelly wasn't sacked. Instead, a closer review of Saturday's game will reveal that Taylor Kelly was barely breathed on. The men inside the trenches plowed the way for a rushing attack that gouged the Midshipmen for 380 rushing yards, but they also prevented a hard-nosed defense from coming anywhere close to Taylor Kelly. If not for his read-option carries, the Arizona State quarterback might have returned to the locker room with a spotless jersey. The Sun Devils' biggest advantage was their size on the line of scrimmage, and the offensive line pummeled their counterparts.
Defensive Line: A
Normally, when a team rushes for 313 yards, it's impossible to say the defensive line had a profoundly positive impact on the defense. However, when facing the triple option of the Naval Academy, an unusually high total on the ground is not so uncommon. Led by the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Outstanding Defensive Player Will Sutton (5 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks), the Arizona State defensive line had a stellar game. Davon Coleman took up residency in the Navy backfield and finished with 9 tackles on the day. Though Coleman only registered 0.5 tackles for loss, his presence deterred the Midshipmen from running between the tackles. Between Sutton, Coleman, and Jaxon Hood, the defensive line wreaked plenty of havoc on the Navy attack.
If a defense surrenders 28 points, somebody has to take the fall. By no means is a B+ a failing effort, but the linebackers were not as effective as the defensive line in shutting down the triple option. Yes, Brandon Magee tallied nine tackles and Carl Bradford added eight including three for loss, but the glamorous statistics don't tell the whole story for the linebackers. Some of Navy's biggest gains came on outside runs and while many of Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds' late pitches were unbelievably risky, there is no excuse for missing assignments when defending the option. When playing a team like Navy, the linebackers are charged with the most difficult tasks as it feels like they must make every play. Today's effort was certainly admirable, and the linebacker unit deserves a ton of credit for limiting Navy when the outcome was still undetermined.
When Robert Nelson intercepted Keelan Reynolds' first pass attempt of the second half, the memories of Sun Devil fans sparked immediately. Maybe, just maybe, Nelson's return would provide a flair for the dramatic that we saw in the Territorial Cup, but the scoreboard didn't call for it and Nelson was brought down soon after his pick. The secondary made two mistakes on the afternoon. No. 1 came on a crucial fourth down play when slot back Gee Gee Greene slipped past the Arizona State coverage in the end zone. The second came when Brandon Turner streaked down the field late in the game. The first mistake could have been disastrous and the second mistake didn't matter. Fortunately for the secondary, Navy dropped the first and capitalized on the second. Chris Young and Keelan Johnson were solid in run support, and that's what the defense needed the most.
Special Teams: C
When the Sun Devils win in a blowout, this portion of the article can be devoted to celebrating the unheralded up-backs on the punt team or the second line on the kickoff return, but unfortunately, the special teams units made some costly mistakes. Gee Gee Greene's 95-yard kick return touchdown showed a lack of focus and Alex Garoutte's missed extra point was the result of a botched snap, but Jamal Miles' returns were the saving grace. Ultimately, the mistakes didn't cost the Devils, and Josh Hunber solidified his place in the record books by completing his workout in warm-ups today.