The Sun Devils walked out of Husky Stadium Saturday perhaps with a few more questions than answers. Taylor Kelly's health is still up in the air after a possible concussion near the end of the game and the offense was out of sorts in the first half. The second half saw one poor drive but the defense held its own for the most part. What can we learn from the far from perfect win?
1. Demario Richard has a clearer role
He had a 49-yard touchdown run against New Mexico, but disappeared from the offense since that point. Richard made the most of his playing time Saturday, leading the team with nine rushes for 54 yards including a 23-yard gain that put Arizona State in good position inside the Washington 20-yard line. He was the best Saturday, but his power running doesn't fit squarely into the Sun Devils read-option style. It was, however, exactly what the Sun Devils needed against a strong Huskies' defensive line. Richard should be used more in these kinds of situations against more physical teams.
2. This team doesn't tend to panic
It would have been incredibly easy for this team to get flustered last night. It was 0-0 after a quarter of play, the windy conditions were horrendous and Taylor Kelly was clearly still shaking the rust off. They powered through the unfavorable set up and won in a fashion not necessarily typical of a Todd Graham Arizona State team. It took a lot more finessing to figure out what was going to work, it wasn't all tempo and fast paced, but the Sun Devils found enough of a formula by the end to pull out a win.
3. Time to lean on Laiu
When everything isn't operating at peak performance, the Sun Devils can look to Moeakiola to perform and keep the defense moving and in-check. 10 tackles, a forced fumble and two sacks shows he was all over the Husky Stadium field Saturday. He has an instinct that what he is going to do on each play is correct and doesn't over think, which is critical to operating well within Graham's defense.
4. The heavier line can crumble quickly
It's a game of pick your poison with the heavier defensive line sets which have Demetrius Cherry, Jaxon Hood and Mo Latu on the field at the same time. With the Sun Devils leading 10-7 in the second half, Washington drove nearly the length of the field behind Shaq Thompson which looked like it would end in six points if it weren't for some smart thinking by Salamo Fiso. Graham only had one timeout left at the time, so he couldn't stop it to reset and substitute quick enough. If this bigger group gets stuck out there again, it may not end nearly as well for Arizona State.
5. The Sun Devils are determined to stay balanced and the red zone issues need to be worked out immediately
Arizona State ran the ball 43 times Saturday against Washington. It shows the Sun Devils tried their best to remain balanced running and passing the ball. It kept the Huskies on their toes and allowed Taylor Kelly to complete passes when it really mattered. It's not a good sign, however, that Arizona State struggled in the red zone in the second half. The Sun Devils got down to the one and five yard line and couldn't come away with any points. Whether or not a dive play to D.J. Foster is the right play is another question, but the Sun Devils have to come away with points on both of those possessions and they didn't. Stanford has suffered mightily this year for that exact reason, the Sun Devils got lucky Saturday to not capitalize in those situations and still come away with the win. That won't be the case against better teams.