The No. 19 Arizona State Sun Devils took care of business on Thursday night, defeating FCS bottom feeder Weber State, 45-14. An argument could be made that the Sun Devils let up late in the game, but a win is a win. Here's how each position group graded out:
Taylor Kelly was good enough, but he didn't take over the game when opportunities presented themselves. His sole touchdown pass was an easy read on a mesh route to Gary Chambers, and I'm not sure any Pac-12 team would've allowed that easy score. Kelly tried to force the ball to Jaelen Strong a few too many times for my liking. Mike Bercovici was fine, although he wasn't given many chances to shine.
Running Backs: A+
Holy D.J. Foster, Batman...Weber State is not a good team, but Foster shredded the Wildcats, rushing for 147 yards, 3 touchdowns and 9.8 yards per carry. Foster looks like he's more than capable of replacing Marion Grice. His 57-yard touchdown in the third quarter was a thing of beauty.
Wide Receivers: A
Jaelen Strong was the best football player on the field on Thursday night, and it's going to be that way often this season. This game was a classic example of why touchdowns are an overrated stat amongst receivers. Strong had 10 receptions and 146 yards...at halftime. Gary Chambers ran beautiful routes on both of his catches, and Ellis Jefferson did a nice job extending his touchdown play.
Offensive Line: A
Foster was running for days, and the offensive line played a huge part in that. Kelly also faced little pressure, as the Wildcats managed a sole sack in this one.
Defensive Line: C+
This unit has work to do. Jaxon Hood was rendered useless by Weber State's offensive line, and nobody else stepped up. True freshman Tashon Smallwood, who started, was called for a penalty on his first snap and failed to record a tackle or even register on the defensive statistics sheet. Both sacks came from linebackers, as did the only ball swatted at the line of scrimmage.
The linebackers played well, for the most part. Salamo Fiso was a stud, leading the team with seven tackles and picking up the first sack of the season for the Sun Devils. Laiu Moeakiola and De'Marieya Nelson combined on the other sack. D.J. Calhoun was solid if unspectacular. The blitzing backers bit hard on Zach Smith's 60-yard touchdown run off of a draw play in the fourth quarter.
Lloyd Carrington struggled with Weber State's top receiver, Shaydon Kehano. The 19-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter was particularly worrisome, as Kehano ran a fade route behind Carrington, who was in man coverage. The Sun Devils' top corner failed to even compete for the ball, instead letting Kehano make an uncontested catch for a touchdown. Not forcing a turnover is a bit of a disappointment for this group, too, but overall the night wasn't bad.
Special Teams: B-
Matt Haack had a really solid game punting the ball, Zane Gonzalez was money on his only attempt and Taylor Kelly even added a perfect punt. That's where the good ended, though, as Damarious Randall couldn't pick up a yard on his only punt return, and the coverage units consistently allowed Weber State to pick up big chunks of yards, both on punt and kick coverage. This was a problem for Arizona State last year, and was thought to be rectified in the offseason.
It was a good game for Todd Graham and his staff, but it should've been better. The offense started timid. The defense didn't force a turnover. Even the 60-yard touchdown by Weber State's Zach Smith was the result of a bad defensive play call: an all-out blitz with only the receivers in man-to-man coverage. Four penalties sounds right, and the Devils won. But it could have, and should have been by more.