The Arizona State Sun Devils picked up a comfortable win over Colorado on Saturday night. Here is how each position graded out:
Taylor Kelly was simply fantastic in this one before going down with an injury in the third quarter. His passes were on point all night, and his receivers did little to help him. Kelly continues to be one of the best read-option quarterbacks in the country, not because of his great athleticism (he's a good athlete), but because he seems to always make the correct read. The offense went stagnant when Mike Bercovici came in, mainly because Bercovici was far less decisive on the read and poses almost no threat as a runner.
Running Backs: A+
Sun Devil fans are witnessing something special right now. What D.J. Foster is doing with the football in his hands is incredible. He's lightening, almost a guarantee for a first down when he touches the ball and he's learned how to run through defenders, too. Foster could be the best running back in the conference. Kalen Ballage continues to impress, as well, as the giant back showed impressive open field speed on a first quarter touchdown.
Wide Receivers: C+
Jaelen Strong did his thing, getting open consistently and scoring a touchdown. But Strong also dropped a pass he should have caught that ended a Sun Devil drive. Cameron Smith dropped a touchdown on third down, leading to Zane Gonzalez's first field goal, and in general nobody but Strong was open for Kelly throughout the night. That needs to change.
Offensive Line: A-
The line pass protected well for the most part, never being beat one-on-one, only when Colorado came with a blitz. That's acceptable. This line has also developed into the best screen blocking line in the nation. They get to the second level so quickly, opposing defenses just can't seem to adjust and get off blocks.
Defensive Line: B
The Sun Devils got pressure on Sefo Liufau at times, and Marcus Hardison played his best game as a Sun Devil on Saturday night. Tashon Smallwood took a poor roughing the passer penalty late, and the Sun Devils gave up a few big runs on dive plays, which is poor gap control more than anything. There's room for improvement.
Pretty much the same as the defensive line here. Losing Laiu Moeakiola at the Spur position reared its head pretty quickly. Colorado immediately went to work over the middle and with the tight end, and the Sun Devils didn't have a response. D.J. Calhoun had another good game.
The safety play Arizona State received was great all night. Jordan Simone was all over the place, with an interception, forced fumble and a tackle on fourth down that kept Colorado off the scoreboard. But the corners were dreadful. Lloyd Carrington was beat early and often, Kweishi Brown missed a pair of crucial tackles, and Armand Perry couldn't get a hand in Nelson Spruce's face to break up a touchdown late in the game. Colorado has decent receivers, but the Sun Devils are going to see much better groups as the season goes on, and play like this will be hard to overcome.
Special Teams: B+
The Sun Devils only allowed one truly long kick return, an improvement for sure. Zane Gonzalez and Matt Haack were solid as well. The unit played well all night, not making any major mistakes.
Todd Graham and company had Arizona State well prepared. The team didn't make any big mental errors, and the game plan seemed well executed.