Like a majority of the games this season, I anticipated the worst. The Devils only had one victory on the road this season and had not won in Tucson since 2012 heading into Saturday afternoon’s contest.
ASU’s fourth quarter helped to bolster their bowl selection and play spoiler to Arizona with a 41-40 comeback victory. But with three quarters of play prior to the comeback, what do the Devils need to focus on before their final game of the 2018 season?
As much as I want to just give credit to Eno Benjamin, it’d be unfair to not even mention the performances of the ASU offense as a whole.
Manny Wilkins had a complete bounce back after the Oregonian collapse. He completed 18-of-31 passes for 265 yards and a 58-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Aiyuk in the first quarter.
Wilkins additionally had nine carries for 57 yards and the first of the two fourth-quarter TD’s on an 11-yard run.
He shined in the fourth quarter, putting together four scoring drives which led to the eventual victory.
In comparison to last week, the defense was able to shut down the opponent and give great field position for the offense to capitalize. Last week the offense failed, this week they succeeded.
Benjamin had another strong rushing game. The only big miss for him in his three-touchdown performance was he was 20 yards short of 100 yards. He totaled 80 yards in 21 attempts.
Aiyuk totaled the most receiving yards with 106 while N’Keal Harry caught four passes for 55 yards.
In the fourth quarter it was a near outstanding performance from the defense as well as the offense. But the first three? Not so pretty.
The defense set the offense pretty far back allowing 40 points in the first three quarters. Another 400 plus yards were allowed by the defense and about 300 of those yards came from Khalil Tate.
The defense only committed three penalties but they were for 15 yards each. Two of them on pass interference.
U of A scored on five of its first six drives as well totaling 22 points.
Like last week they turned it around late and got clutch takeaways, but a more complete performance is necessary to end their season on a higher note in whatever bowl game they are assigned.
It’s not often I talk about the third group, so to speak, but my goodness, what happened to the special teams?
First, Brandon Ruiz is safe, as usual. Moving on.
Michael Sleep-Dalton didn’t always have the best field position to punt from but the ten guys with him didn’t make upon Arizona’s returns.
Shun Brown of Arizona had one return of 19 yards on a punt Sleep-Dalton that crossed midfield that Brown got back close to ASU territory.
J.J. Taylor even had a 66-yard kickoff return and Gary Brightwell had a return of 32 yards.
Weak coverage and inability to tackle allowed U of A great field position off of returns, and special teams is more often than not the difference in several games, including this one.
Who could the Devils’ next opponent be? With a week of games left ASU will have to wait, but it is plenty of time to fix and prepare for whoever they may come helmet-to-helmet with.