Well, the first half wasn't exactly a very inspiring performance from Arizona State. It felt as though it was going to be another week of a stagnate offense, hoping to just survive one more time. In the second quarter, however, the ASU offense came alive and showed signs of its 2014 form.
That was all they needed to get the train to leave the station, beating New Mexico 34-10. It was the first time all year that the ASU offense looked like they were supposed to, and with a second chance, the defense showed they could handle the triple-option.
Now let's get to the position grades from the victory.
Quarterbacks: A - This wasn't a game Mike Bercovici wanted, it was a game he absolutely needed. The confidence in his ability to lead this ASU offense was waning, and it was going to take an inspiring performance in order to instill that confidence once again. After a lack-luster first quarter, Bercovici found himself after hitting Tim White for a 14-yard score to put ASU up 10-0 heading into the half.
Then in the second half, we saw last year's version of the Sun Devil offense. On the first drive of that second half, Bercovici hit Demario Richard for a 33-yard score. Later, he showed off his footwork, keeping a read option for an eight-yard score. To top his night off, the Sun Devil quarterback would hit Richard again for a 93-yard score. It was an inspiring performance, and would have gotten a higher grade if not for his struggles in the first quarter.
Running Backs: A+ - Demario Richard established himself last night. He tallied 105 rushing yards to go with 151 receiving yards, a school record for a running back, and two touchdowns was exactly what the Sun Devils expect from Richard on a weekly basis.
Without Kalen Ballage and 'Gump' Hayes, ASU really needed Richard to breakout and he did. There was nothing negative about Richard's performance, and he was able to kick-start the offense at a very important time.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A- With the offense getting in motion, the ASU wide receivers and tight ends needed to step up and help out their quarterback. The Sun Devils got hit with the injury bug once again, losing receiver Devin Lucien for the game. In his place, Tim White stepped up in a huge way, catching a touchdown to help the Sun Devils go up 10-0.
Offensive Line: B+ This unit was an underlying key to the Sun Devils success. They had to Protect Bercovici and help Richard out to get the ASU offense moving. Another shaky start had everybody in Sun Devil Stadium concerned, but they righted the ship and look solid in the second half.
The protection gave Bercovici time in the pocket, able to extend the play when he needed to and they gave Richard some excellent holes to run through, one of which in the first half was the first signs of life we saw from the Sun Devils.
Defensive Line: B+ Another week to prepare for the triple option can always help, and it showed Saturday night. Early on, the ASU defensive line made itself known. They were quick off of the snap and were able to push back the New Mexico offensive line. In that first half, the ASU defensive line seemingly had at least one guy in the backfield at all times.
Linebackers: B- This is where the biggest improvement came for the Sun Devils. Defending the triple option means linebackers know their responsibilities and they stick to their assignments. The ASU linebacker core did just that on Friday night. Salamo Fiso led the way with 10 tackles, five of which he got early in the game.
They were quick, they read the quarterback well. It was an all-around great performance. The third down defense was the only blunder that this core, and the entire defense had all night.
Defensive Backs: B- This was a different triple option for the ASU defensive backs this week. New Mexico used two quarterbacks in their system, Lamar Jordan and Austin Apodoca. The former didn't last long as New Mexico made this switch to Apodoca early in the first half.
Apodoca is more of a thrower than Jordan and he showed that last night, making the ASU defensive backs work a little harder than Cal Poly did. It was a rough start, but lead by Jordan Simone, they were able to stifle the New Mexico offense in the second half. Their performance was capped off by a Simone interception in the fourth quarter.
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