The Arizona State Sun Devils' offense was shut down for a majority of the game by the Utah Utes' defense. Although ASU's defense and special teams gave them a 18-14 lead in the fourth quarter, the Devils were unable to match 20 unanswered points by the Utes and fell 34-18. Let's grade each positional group and take a closer look at the performances.
Mike Bercovici did not have his best outing Saturday, but he was able to move the ball in the second half a little better. Bercovici finished with 242 yards and didn't complete half of his passes, some of which were drops that were placed exactly where they needed to be. His interception was from desperation late in the game, but the fumble during a read option play was a crucial mistake and a turning point in the game where the momentum was throttled in favor of Utah. It still seems like Berco just isn't suited for this scheme.
Running Backs: D-
The only reason that this grade isn't an 'F' is because Demario Richard was sidelined for the entirety of the game due to injury. Kallen Ballage got banged up during the game and D.J. Foster was not a factor in the Sun Devil rushing attack. The five sacks by the Utah defense certainly didn't help with the totals as ASU finished with a net 15 yards out of the backfield. With a bye week on the horizon, ASU should get Richard back in time for Oregon with the other backs having a chance to heal up.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: C+
Devin Lucien had himself a nice game and really bolstered this grade.
Outside of his performance, there wasn't a lot to be happy about with the Sun Devil receiver group.
D.J. Foster dropped a passed that was placed perfectly in his arms in the endzone from Bercovici and Kody Kohl dropped a pass from Lucien on a trick play that also would have been a touchdown. Lucien seems to have the best hands on the team — it's just unfortunate that the Devils only have Lucien for a limited amount of time with him being a graduate transfer. Wide receiver is one of the positions most in need of improvement, and it would be huge for ASU to land in-state recruit N'keal Harry. Securing Harry should be a priority for the Sun Devil coaching staff.
Offensive Line: D-
Five sacks for 32 yards, 10.5 tackles for loss for 45 yards from the Utah defense, versus 15 net rushing yards for ASU, no touchdowns equal troubling statistics for an any offensive line.
The worrisome part is that this is mainly a veteran group, the optimistic part is that Utah's defense is probably the best defense that they'll play against for the rest of the season.
With little room to run and with Bercovici facing constant pressure, the line struggled to help Arizona State get anything going on offense. Again, this week will be incredibly important for this group to get healed up and focus on improving fundamentals.
Defensive Line: B
No sacks from the line, but they were incredibly important to shutting down Devontae Booker for the majority of the game. Tashon Smallwood and Demetrius Cherry were bright spots, but having no turnovers and no sacks from the defensive line brings the grade down to a 'B.'
The line was solid and really played impressively in ways that don't show up on a stat sheet. If they can force a couple fumbles and improve on getting to the quarterback, ASU will have a great shot at beating anybody remaining on their schedule.
Salamo Fiso is playing at an all-conference level. The redshirt junior finished with nine tackles, three for loss and he continues to be the leader of the Sun Devil front seven. D.J. Calhoun did a fantastic job at coming into the game and pressuring Travis Wilson, sacking him twice.
They were on the field too long against the Utes and only gave up 14 points through three quarters. The fourth quarter was not evident of how well the linebackers played in this game. The exciting part is that most of these players will be back next year. Fiso, Christian Sam (who has played outsanding this year), Viliami Moeakiola, and Calhoun will all most likely be back.
Wilson looked crisp against the Sun Devil secondary. He was able to spread the ball out and move the Utes downfield late in the game. The Sun Devils' secondary was decent, but it was nothing special. ASU only gave up one big pass, a 42-yard catch by Kenneth Scott, but the Sun Devils were never able to make a play on the ball and pick Wilson off.
The secondary played a big part at helping the front seven contain Booker, and Jordan Simone had two sacks from the safety blitz.
Same knock as the defensive line: pretty good performance, but no turnovers.
Special Teams: A-
Tim White is a special talent for Arizona State. As I've mentioned before, he's eerily similar to former ASU receiver Rudy Burgess. White is as dangerous as they come when returning kicks and this showed when he took one back 100 yards to tie the game up in the first quarter. De'Chavon Hayes had a 48-yard punt return that was close to being another special teams touchdown as well.
Matt Haack was tremendous up until his last few punts when he was backed up deep into his own territory. His improvement over the course of his career has really shown and as college punters go, he's solid. Zane Gonzalez had four touchbacks and was 3-for-3 on field goal attempts, a good outing for the junior kicker from Texas.
The special teams was superb in ASU in the game for most of the time, but those last few punts that went out of bounds put Utah in great field position late in the game to help the Utes came back and haunt the Sun Devils.