The first half looked bleak, very bleak in fact as Washington State jumped out to a 21-7 lead. Following two interceptions, the Sun Devils found themselves within striking distance at halftime down just 24-21 and pulled away in the second half. As the team awoke from its slumber, they found better rhythm on offense and pulled away to a 52-31 victory, keeping their Pac-12 South and Pac-12 Championship hopes alive. Here's how the positional groups graded out.
For as worrisome as Kelly's play looked in the first half, it was nearly flawless in the second half. He finished 15 of 25, throwing for 232 yards and four touchdowns. He had some very peculiar throws in the early going which were completely off target and the other half were drops by wide receivers. While this was definitely a step up from Kelly's play against Oregon State, it's still not a complete 60 minutes. He also didn't have Jaelen Strong and it took him awhile to adjust to that and probably overcome the emotions of senior day as well. For what Kelly was up against he did his job and more importantly made good decisions without throwing any interceptions.
Running backs: A-
It's hard to argue with the kind of stat line D.J. Foster put up Saturday, rushing 15 times for 96 yards and three touchdowns. His efficiency came in especially handy in the first half when the passing game couldn't get going. Foster was the only offensive presence the Sun Devils had for a while and he kept them in it in the first half and for that alone he gets into the A-range. Deantre Lewis also had eight rushes for 24 yards.
Offensive line: C+
Tyler Sulka was consistently getting beat off the edge and not picking up blitzes well in the first half. It improved as the game went on, but that was also part of the adjusted play calling. Taylor Kelly was sacked five times and while Xavier Cooper is a decent lineman, he and the rest of Cougars' front four should have been handled with a lot more ease than the team showed Saturday. Their second half performance is the only reason this grade slides up in the C-range.
Wide receivers: B
It's hard to give this group a true grade without Jaelen Strong in the game. Cameron Smith was clearly the star of the show with six catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns, but D.J. Foster was the only player behind him with notable numbers adding five catches for 59 yards. This group did what they could without Strong but also dropped a lot of balls and Ellis Jefferson did nothing at the X-spot as Strong's true replacement.
Defensive line: B+
It's tough to have a consistent pass rush with Washington State dropping back so pass so many times, but the Sun Devils kept fighting. Marcus Hardison played a phenomenal game again with two sacks, an interception, three tackles and a forced fumble. Viliami Latu and Tashon Smallwood also recorded sacks and Latu also had a 51-yard fumble return. This group has come an awfully long way since the beginning of the season.
DJ Calhoun, Antonio Longino, Laiu Moeakiola and Salamo Fiso accounted for 23 of the teams' 73 total tackles. While they were part of the group that gave up 601 yards passing and three touchdowns to freshman Cougar quarterback Luke Falk, they also had a lot of good coverages that allowed the defensive line to get to the quarterback and force quick throws which resulted in turnovers.
Yes, this is probably a higher grade than most might expect, but three interceptions was impressive once again. For as many times as Kweishi Brown and Lloyd Carrington had no help over the top because of blitz packages, they did all they could and limited Falk's ability on huge plays. It was just those 15-20 yard chunks they occasionally allowed that allowed his passing yardage to soar to 601 yards. They hardly had any plays off at all and the job they did on that front is to be commended. Damarious Randall led the way with 11 tackles and an interception. Carrington had seven tackles while Brown added five and an interception for the second time in three games. Jordan Simone had five tackles but continues to deal with a stinger. Sure, 601 yards is a lot, but so is 74 drop backs. For as hard as this group had to work, they got the job done.