While last night might have been less of surprise last season, it was a welcome sight for the 2014 Sun Devils. It was the most complete game this team has put together this season and that's reflected in the high grades below. Here is how each position group graded out against Stanford.
Let's put aside any controversy of who deserves to or should start and just focus in on the game Mike Bercovici had Saturday. He was 23 of 33 for 245 yards and a touchdown. This isn't anywhere close to the production from his first two games, but that's a positive because it means the Sun Devils also found more balance in the ground game. He missed Jaelen Strong late in the game on what would have been another touchdown and overthrew Cameron Smith on a throw that could have gained a huge chunk of yards which is why he gets downgraded slightly. Anytime a quarterback doesn't turn the ball over is huge, he clearly learned his lesson from the UCLA game and made some impressive reads and progressions on certain passes.
If Bercovici needs to work on anything its keeping his heart rate down a little more when he sees a big play developing. Whether it was the overthrow or something further down the field, he got happy feet a few times because he saw what was coming. When he gets excited in the pocket, he tends to lose some of that fundamental throwing ability which may hurt him going forward
Running backs: B
It was better, but far from perfect. Remember that this was against what was widely regarded as the best defense in the country. Averaging 2.5 yards per carry for 114 yards and a touchdown between D.J. Foster and Deantre Lewis is a stat line most people probably would have taken before the game started. Still, Foster has the ability to get himself up over 100 yards and there were times when he just couldn't hit the hole quick enough. For such a stout defense, this group did what they could and had a valiant effort.
Wide receivers: B+
When Alex Carter and Wayne Lyons are covering you, it's not going to be easy to get open. Jaelen Strong still managed to make two spectacular grabs and finish with eight receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown. Foster had more receiving yards (92) on fewer catches (7) and did a solid job making something out of nothing on a few crossing routes and catches out of the backfield. This group took what Stanford gave them when they could get it and that's part of why they had some success.
Offensive line: B
Allowing three sacks isn't exactly the best, but it's definitely a solid performance against Stanford. They were having some trouble early in the game with the run blocking and getting pushed back at the line, but as the game progressed, they gave Bercovici plenty of time to throw when it mattered the most.
Defensive line: B-
They got some pressure on Kevin Hogan, but it was mediocre at best, most of the tackles for loss and all of the sacks came from pressure provided by the secondary or linebackers. Hogan was hurried a few times, but the Stanford offense was still pretty awful to begin with. This groups jump into the "B" range because they only allowed 76 yards on the ground which was their best performance of the season against a Pac-12 team. It wasn't incredible, but the line play wasn't awful either. With that being said, if Saturday's performance can be a baseline for the rest of the season for them to improve upon, then they can only go up from here.
The starters combined for 18 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble against the Cardinal. Antonio Longino had his best game of the season and the Sun Devils were able to recognize anything the Cardinal threw their way. Laiu Moeakiola and Salamo Fiso both had some beautiful pursuits and wrap ups from behind and Todd Graham mixed up the blitzes enough to help this group have success.
Damarious Randall, Lloyd Carrington, Kweishi Brown and Jordan Simone were all over the field on Saturday. Randall had a sack, a tackle for loss as well as the forced fumble and recovery on the muffed punt. Brown had six tackles and five pass break ups, Carrington had three tackles and a monster sack and Simone had five tackles and a hit to remember too. They created a ton of pressure on Hogan off the edge and held Ty Montgomery to 82 yards receiving with no other Cardinal connecting with Kevin Hogan for more than 25 yards
Special teams: A-
Maat Haack had two punts totaling 90 yards and Bercovici even deadened one of his two punts at the 1-yard line. Ty Montgomery was held to 57 yards on three kickoff returns and Kyle Middlebrooks returned his only kickoff 32 yards. The Sun Devils couldn't have won the game without the consistency of field goal kicker Zane Gonzalez, who made four of five field goals, his longest coming from 47 yards out.