SALT LAKE CITY - Just when the ASU offense was making strides on offense, they run into the buzzsaw that is the Utah defense. The Utes swarmed Mike Bercovici and ASU's skill position players all game in route to a 34-18 victory in Salt Lake City.
The Utes now hold a two-game lead over every team in the South, the Sun Devils would need to win out and have Utah finish 6-3 in conference in order to win the Pac-12 South. Here are my takeaways from Saturday night's contest.
1. Utah is Really Good: This should be the overlying theme of the game. Yes, the Sun Devils shot themselves in the foot and they could have played better, but Utah looked faster, stronger and more physical. They controlled the ASU offensive line and quarterback Travis Wilson made all the plays he needed to.
The Utah crowd was fantastic and the conditions did not help the Sun Devils - neither did not having sophomore running back Demario Richard. The ASU defense made it clear they were going to stop Utah's star running back Devontae Booker and make Wilson beat them. The senior threw for 297 yards and had two touchdown passes in the first half.
The ASU offense was held to a season-low 15 rushing yards and Mike Bercovici was sacked five times. It was not a pretty night for the ASU offense but most of that has to do with how good the Utah defense played. Their defensive line wrecked havoc and their secondary did not allow any big plays for touchdowns. When their backs were against the wall, the Utah defense surrendered field goals instead of touchdowns.
I would be surprised if the Utes lost two games in the Pac-12 and I expect them to be in contention for the College Football Playoff for the rest of the season.
2. Something is Wrong with D.J. Foster: Foster may go down as the most dynamic football player to play at ASU. He is surely bound for the school's Hall of Fame and will likely be playing on Sundays pretty soon. That being said, something is just not the same this year with ASU's explosive wide receiver.
Or his he a running back? Foster caught just three passes against Utah for a measly 11 yards. He carried the ball one time for a five-yard loss. That means that on the road against the No. 4 team in the country, Foster touched the ball four times for a total of six yards.
At first I just thought he was having a difficult time transitioning to wide receiver, however is looks as if there is something more to the story.
I asked both ASU coach Todd Graham and Mike Norvell if DJ Foster is 100 percent. They said he was banged up, nothing more.— Doug Haller (@DougHaller) October 18, 2015
It is quite possible that Foster is dealing with a nagging injury that is not bad enough to keep him out of games, but is bad enough to hinder his play. After amassing over 1,700 yards from scrimmage last year, Foster is on pace for less than 1,000 total yards in his senior season.
After catching six passes in three of the first four games of the season, Foster has six catches for 32 yards combined in ASU's last two.
3. Tim White is ASU's Best Offensive Player: Right now ASU's offensive gameplan should just be to get the ball in Tim White's hands and see what happens. If only football was that simple, right?
The redshirt junior returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and caught two passes for 25 yards in ASU's defeat. While Bercovici struggled and Kalen Ballage averaged just 2.7 yards per carry, it seems like every time White gets the ball something good happens.
Following Saturday night's game, White leads ASU in receiving yards (278) and receiving touchdowns (5) - keep in mind he missed ASU's game against Texas A&M and was hindered a good amount of preseason camp with a wrist injury. Personally (and I know this is not as easy as it sounds), I would like to see White more involved in the offense.
4. ASU's Offensive Line was Dominated: A lot of people point directly to Bercovici or offensive coordinator Mike Norvell when they discuss ASU's offensive woes. Saturday night, the ASU offensive line was equally responsible for the loss. The Utah defense had a field day in the ASU backfield, racking up 11 tackles for loss and five sacks. The offensive line was allowing less than two sacks a game since the season opening loss to Texas A&M.
ASU has two new tackles, however it was the three seniors along the interior of the offensive line that were dominated against Utah. The Sun Devils averaged just 0.5 yards per carry as a team Saturday night and the bulk of that responsibility falls on the offensive line.
5. ASU is Not Winning the Pac-12 South: Utah is in the driver's seat in the division and the bad news for ASU is they are now the long shot, Every team in the division has two conference losses except for Utah, who are 3-0. While it is possible for Utah to lose twice, the Utes own the tie-breaker over the Sun Devils because of their head-to-head win so ASU needs to win their next five games and Utah needs to go 3-3 for ASU to win the South.
What could be potentially more trouble for ASU fans is the fact that this team will likely not go undefeated over their last five games. Yes, ASU does have a bye week but a week off isn't going to fix all of the offensive issues that this team has. The Sun Devils still have Oregon, Washington, Cal, Washington State and Arizona left on the schedule. If they go 3-2 in that stretch they finish the regular season 7-5.