The Arizona State Sun Devils were blown out by UCLA on Thursday night. Here is how each position graded out:
Mike Bercovici had an average night for the first start of his career. What will be remembered by most is his interception returned for a touchdown to end the first half and his fumble that turned into another touchdown for UCLA shortly thereafter. But he did set a school record for completions and had three touchdown passes, one of them on a beautifully designed play that had Bercovici rolling out to his right and throwing across his body to a wide open Kody Kohl in the end zone. There are definitely things to work on, but blaming the loss on his play is foolish.
Running Backs: C-
The Bruins defense came in with the mindset that if they were going to be defeated, it would be by Bercovici beating them through the air. The ground game was completely shut down by the visitors. The usual electrifying D.J. Foster was kept out of the end zone and had a costly fumble early while only running for 30 yards. Senior Deantre Lewis did have a season high 46 yards on nine carries.
Wide Receivers: C
11 different players caught at least a single pass on Thursday, but some timely drops and a lot of miscommunication in route running is the reason the grade isn't any higher. Cameron Smith stepped up for eight receptions, 95 yards and touchdown. Jaelen Strong had 12 receptions for 146 yards, but it's tough when a new quarterback steps in. Still, Gary Chambers had a drop right near the end zone that should have been a touchdown and even Strong missed a ball on an easy crossing route.
Offensive Line: C+
The offensive line did a good job in pass protection, allowing only one sack. The run blocking has to improve, however. Foster and Kalen Ballage seemed to be swallowed up as soon as they touched the ball for the majority of the game. When the first time starting quarterback throws the ball 68 times and only gets sacked once? That's pretty good work.
Defensive Line: F
The Sun Devil line was rarely able to force quarterback Brett Hundley out of the pocket and only had one sack, eight less than they did in last year's meeting between these two teams. Hundley also ran for 72 yards and looked like he could have done even more damage on the ground if he wanted to. Between Tashon Smallwood, Marcus Hardison, Viliami Latu and Jaxon Hood, they recorded four total tackles, completely unacceptable for this group. Of any group that needed to step up against UCLA, it was these players, and they were nowhere to be seen.
Very similar to the defensive line. They did a good job of limiting the production from UCLA's full back and tight end, but Paul Perkins tore them apart for 137 rushing yards. Salamo Fiso and D.J. Calhoun had a combined four tackles. Antonio Longino and Laiu Moeakiola were hardly the best of the bunch with five tackles a piece. Any pressure from blitzes didn't effect Brett Hundley at all and he consistently was able to step up in the pocket and run for huge chunks of yardage. They were unable to keep contain most of the night.
The safety and corner play was by far the worst we have seen all season. Receivers running flats, comebacks, and curls were consistently left open, and once they made the catch they ran for miles due to terrible tackling or just flat out giving up on the play. Kweishi Brown and Lloyd Carrington were beat all night long, and twice the Bruins scored on 80 yard pass plays. They were gashed with both quick strikes and long, drawn out drives, and had given up 62 points by the time we reached the end.
Special Teams: D
Zane Gonzalez was perfect on all field goal and extra point tries, including one of nearly 50 yards. The reason for such a low grade, of course, is Ishmael Adams. He returned a kickoff for a touchdown and another out to the 44-yard line. Matt Haack somehow only punted once for 46 yards and it was downed inside the 20.
The staff gets a little leeway considering they had to work with a second string quarterback and that UCLA played its best game of the year, but the team was clearly out-coached and outplayed. There seemed to be no halftime adjustments, and there is no excuse for allowing 21 points on three plays from scrimmage coming out of the locker room. Todd Graham and Mike Norvell also elected not to take the points and go into the locker room tied at 20 which cost them dearly. While Division I football players should know how to tackle from playing almost their entire lives, it still falls squarely on the coaching staff to have them prepared and they weren't.