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ASU Football: Grading the Sun Devils’ loss to No. 21 USC

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It wasn’t pretty

USC v Arizona State Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The Arizona State Sun Devils had the chance Saturday to make their mark in the Pac-12 South race.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, ASU fell to 4-4 with a blowout loss at home, 48-17. Here’s how each position group looked.

Quarterbacks: C

While redshirt junior Manny Wilkins never put the ball in jeopardy, he was far from his usual self. Aside from a 70-yard catch and run for sophomore N’Keal Harry and the Hail Mary to sophomore Kyle Williams before halftime, he only registered 142 yards on 27 attempts and missed open receivers in key spots. That’s not going to be good enough against a team like USC. Then redshirt sophomore Blake Barnett came in and was promptly intercepted.

Running backs: B+

With senior Kalen Ballage limited with illness, the burden fell almost exclusively on fellow senior Demario Richard. The big back ran the ball 15 times for 70 yards, but most of that came with the Sun Devils down big. ASU didn’t have much of a chance to establish the run with the Trojans jumping on them early.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B-

With Harry basically taken out of the game by double teams, the Sun Devils needed someone else to step up. That person became Kyle Williams, who caught seven passes for 121 yards. It took too long to find him, though, as he didn’t catch a pass until the past play of the first half.

Offensive Line: C-

After a couple steps forward, the line play took a step back against the Trojans. The o-line allowed Wilkins to be sacked six times, three of which came on consecutive plays. The group did a better job creating room for Richard, but the scoreboard dictated a smaller dose of running the ball from the second quarter on.

Defensive Line: F

Between senior Tashon Smallwood’s three 15-yard penalties and Ronald Jones gashing through the line, it was a tough day for the Sun Devil linemen. No down lineman collected a TFL and the unit seemed to get pushed off the line of scrimmage every play, giving Jones and company plenty of room to get to the second and third levels.

Linebackers: C-

If a play came down to the linebackers to stop it, they did for the most part. Redshirt junior Christian Sam collected 15 tackles, though just three came after halftime. Senior DJ Calhoun missed his first tackle of the season, but made nine stops, including sacking Darnold on the first play from scrimmage. It’s tough to give them anything higher than this, though, when the Trojans picked up 341 yards on the ground, forcing their will on the ASU defense.

Secondary: F

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold missed some throws, but the ASU secondary kept him in it. The issues ASU seemed to have fixed against Washington and Utah sprung back up, once again. USC converted on nearly half of its third downs and Darnold completed three passes of over 20 yards. Senior safety Das Tautalatasi was ejected for targeting on a touchdown, forcing freshman Evan Fields into action. Overall, a night to forget for the backfield.

Special Teams: B+

By far the best unit on the field for ASU. Redshirt sophomore punter Michael Sleep-Dalton had the best game of his Sun Devil career, notching 42.1 yards per punt and keeping USC with long fields, for the most part. Freshman Brandon Ruiz made his only field goal attempt, a 39-yarder in the first quarter. The return game was OK, with Williams and Ballage combining to average over 18 yards on three kickoff returns.