From Zane Gonzalez's hooked field goal to Mike Bercovici's miss of Jaelen Strong on fourth down with just over a minute remaining to seal the win for Arizona, the Sun Devils were just far enough off in too many facets not to come away victorious. As they usually do, turnovers, poor tackling and decision making all played a role in Friday's loss to the Wilidcats. Let's take a look at how each position group fared.
Taylor Kelly and Mike Bercovici had very similar stat lines. Each threw the ball 22 times, completing 13 and 14 passes respectively. Each quarterback also threw two touchdowns and Bercovici threw an interception as well. Both men played within themselves for the most part and while they each overthrew a couple of passes, nothing was forced by either quarterback. They couldn't complete the comeback and Kelly also fumbled early in the game for an Arizona scoop and score which gave the Wildcats all the momentum. While their were points left on the board for the maroon and gold, it was more a result of play calling and not execution of the play itself.
Running backs: C+
Demario Richard and D.J. Foster split the carries evenly with 13 a piece, but it was Richard who got more yards with 68 compared to Foster with just 34. The most glaring issue came in the first quarter when the Sun Devils couldn't find the end zone at the goal line. As is often the case when playing from behind as the Sun Devils were for most of the game, it becomes harder to run the ball, and the run game didn't really exist after Bercovici entered the ball game.
Wide receivers: B+
It was a better day than normal for the wide receivers, as is usually the case when Bercovici enters the game. Jaelen Strong led the way with four catches for 80 yards and a touchdown, but was limited by a nagging shoulder issue suffered on a 50-yard bomb from Taylor Kelly. D.J. Foster and Cameron Smith each had seven catches each for 60 and 55 yards a piece. The group as a whole didn't have many drops, and most balls thrown their way simply ended up out of reach. Strong had another impressive one handed grab and the tight ends De'Marieya Nelson and Kody Kohl each had a touchdown as well. It certainly wasn't the play of the wide receivers that cost ASU the game.
Offensive line: D
The line as a whole allowed seven sacks combined of Kelly and Bercovici and another 15 tackles for loss. ASU struggled to pick up blitzes as Arizona found their way to the quarterback and into the backfield all afternoon. It makes the skill players jobs' a lot tougher when they're not sure whether or not the line can handle the impending pressure. Scooby Wright in particular had two sacks, 13 tackles and five tackles for loss. The Sun Devils needed to start keying on him at some point in the afternoon and failed to do so.
Defensive line: C-
No sacks with only two tackles by Marcus Hardison, on top of 185 yards rushing with three touchdowns for Arizona running back Nick Wilson made it a rough afternoon for the ASU front. They struggled to get pressure on Anu Solomon, only tallying 3.5 of the nine tackles for loss for the Sun Devils. Demetrius Cherry had the fumble recovery for the touchdown early in the game, but as a whole it was slow going throughout and the defensive line didn't answer the call like they needed to.
The Sun Devils lost Laiu Moeakiola for the second half, which may have been the single biggest blow to ASU in this game. it was evident on the first drive of the second half when Arizona drove 75 yards in nine plays for a touchdown and then would quickly score again to open up a two-score lead. Antonio Longino led the way for this group with nine tackles and Salamo Fiso added six tackles, a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. Forced into an unfamiliar nickel package without Moeakiola available, the Sun Devils struggled mightily with DJ Calhoun playing and the necessary shifting that took place with him out.
Damarious Randall had glaring struggles without Jordan Simone not on the field and James Johnson couldn't replace his production with just five tackles a sack and a tackle for loss. Randall had just six tackles and most noticeably easily got taken out of the Nick Wilson 72-yard touchdown run by a simple kick-out block and had his consecutive games with an interception streak ended at three. The corners did a better job in context with no huge plays allowed over the top, but did an atrocious job tackling on the 69-yard pass from Solomon to Samajie Grant for a touchdown. They also gave a poor effort with Solomon flowing right and he was still able to find Grant again on a 20-yard touchdown strike. The corners did a decent job limiting Solomon's effectiveness, but it didn't translate into effective blitzes either