The Sun Devils finished their home slate 5-1, and finish off the regular season next week in Tucson. It was a commanding second half, outscoring Washington State 31-7 in the third and fourth quarter. But what did we learn from the game?
1. Marcus Hardison has pro potential.
When rattling off names of potential future Sun Devil NFL players, Marcus Hardison was a not a name that frequently came up preseason. He certainly is one now. He had two sacks Saturday, bringing his total on the season to 10. That is more than anyone had last year, and that was a team that included Will Sutton and Carl Bradford. He also had a forced fumble and an interception. Hardison has reached the point that hearing his name called in the NFL Draft would surprise no one.
2. D.J. Foster can be the life of the offense.
On two separate drives, Foster appeared to be the reason Arizona State moved forward. He took a 42-yard catch in the first quarter and finished the drive with a score. When the team was floundering in the second quarter, down 21-7, he powered through for a 15-yard run to extend the drive that ended in a touchdown. He finished with three touchdowns on the afternoon. He pumped some life into the team and gave it a shot in the arm when it needed it most
3. The pass defense is very good.
It seems strange to laud a unit that gave up 601 passing yards, but that comes with the territory of playing Washington State. The Cougars passed the ball 74 times, which was eight yards per attempt. But when that same unit makes allows only three touchdown passes and only one in the second half in garbage time, it deserves the props. Then there's the interceptions, of which the team had four. In the second half, whenever Washington State got something going, the defense forced a takeaway.
4. Taylor Kelly is the starting quarterback, and it's going to stay that way.
Kelly has had his struggles this season, which have caused many to call for quarterback Mike Bercovici to start. He didn't do much to quiet that noise in the first half Saturday, starting the game 5-13 passing. But he turned it on, completing 10 of his next 12 passes and finished with 232 yards, four touchdowns and no turnovers. Kelly has done so much for the Sun Devil program, and he has one regular season game left next week against Arizona. He'll be starting, and a win would bring him to 3-0 against the Wildcats, something no Sun Devil fan will ever complain about.
5. The Sun Devils haven't given up.
Any thoughts that the Sun Devils would mail it in now that the hunt for the College Football Playoff were put to bed by the 52 points they hung on Washington State. It's almost a tone of desperation, now that they need UCLA to lose, but they aren't going down without a fight. Arizona State overcame a sluggish start to rout Washington State, and one more win will give the team a good feeling about itself heading into the postseason, even if UCLA wins out. While moral victories don't mean much, a win against Arizona does.