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ASU Football: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly at USC

N’Keal Harry proved he was the real deal on Saturday, but did his performance cover up the blemishes of ASU’s first road victory?

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Southern California Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Devils did it. They pulled off their first road victory of the season, and when I say pulled off, I mean it. Every aspect of the team improved in this game, but they were not without their mistakes. No suggestions for a QB change this week.

The Good

Easy. N’Keal ‘Real Deal’ Harry.

We really should credit the whole offense in this but Harry is the highlight; literally.

It is what the entire country was talking about Saturday. It has been deemed to be Odell Beckham Jr. worthy, if not better.

On top of that, he took a punt return 92 yards for a touchdown and scored another through the air on a 44-yard strike from Manny Wilkins.

“Man he’s just a threat to do that at any time,” offensive coordinator Rob Likens said. “I’ll tell you now, right before his big catch he got on the headphones with me and said ‘coach, I’m telling you, just throw one up and I will catch it, I’m telling you, I promise you.’ I said ‘All right, it’s coming’ and that’s when we threw it. He called his shot, he told me he was going to do it.”

Eno Benjamin had another strong rushing performance, with 185 yards on 29 carries. He scored two touchdowns, one of which came on a 49-yard run.

Manny Wilkins also provided a good showing. Though low statistically, he led strong scoring drives and did his best after returning from his mid-game injury.

He also helped to (almost) put the game on ice with his late-game touchdown run to give the Devils their final score of 38.

Wilkins felt good getting the team’s first road win of the season.

“It’s almost like a monkey off your back,” Wilkins said. “I’m super proud of how we fought. There was a moment where they took the lead and we could’ve shut it off. But we stayed poised and made plays.”

The Bad

The defense in victories tends to get a bad rap, but this one is deserved.

There were several lead changes in this game, and the offense responded in strong fashion, but the defense struggled several times, and almost lost it for the offense at the very end.

They allowed 235 yards in the air to redshirt freshman Jack Sears and two touchdowns. More on the pass coverage later.

Defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales was specific on some of the mistakes made, but overall, he’ll take the win.

“Winning is not easy, so I hate losing more than I enjoy winning,” Gonzales said. “So, I’m probably not the greatest person in the world to talk to. But, we won and that’s not easy and they need to enjoy it.”

Again this is a case of another bad rap because the defense had its stars. Freshman linebacker Merlin Robertson had another sack and a tackle for loss. He continues to be a bright spot on a young defense.

The Ugly

It’s time the defensive backs learn how not to get beat on the deep pass.

One for 36 yards and another towards the end of the game for 48 yards. For most of the game they did their job but the amount of penalties and poor coverage on drives lands the defensive backs in ugly.

Two weeks ago against Stanford, the last touchdown pass to JJ Arcega-Whiteside went for 28 yards. The week before against Colorado, Laviska Shenault beat the defensive backs on a 30-yard pass from Steven Montez.

Gonzales broke down what he saw after Saturday’s contest.

“The touchdown is a coverage error, the first one, the two minute, Gonzales said. “That ball should probably be intercepted. We can get those things fixed, those things, they didn’t hurt us. We came out in the third quarter and we get another drive with some assignment mistakes and some penalties and then we don’t make a play in coverage.”

The road ahead for ASU doesn’t get easier. No. 16 Utah will come to Tempe for a 1 p.m. kickoff Saturday, but a win for ASU could drastically change the Pac-12 South standings.