Friday, 6 September 2013

The Roundup: September 6

About Last Night:

Arizona State 55, Sacramento State 0. I thought it was insane that ASU was not a preseason Top 25 team (and USC and Oregon State were) and last night we saw a little bit of why. This game was a joke from the start as the Sun Devils flexed their muscle on both sides of the ball and prevented Sac State from pulling a three peat on the Pac-12. Things looked a little dicey for Sun Devils for about five minutes as the Hornets took the first possession of the game and put together a 15 play drive to get down to the ASU 16 yard line. The Hornets ended up missing a field goal and then ASU's group of alien death mongers in the front seven took over and the Hornets passed midfield just once for the rest of the game (that one drive past the 50 ended in an interception and a 67 yard return nearly for a touchdown for ASU by the way).

Offensively, ASU's first team was nearly perfect as the Sun Devils scored touchdowns on their first five possessions. All totaled, ASU's first team offense scored seven times on nine possessions (six touchdowns and a field goal) although that includes a three and out right before the end of the half that was hardly indicative of how ASU played. Junior QB Taylor Kelly picked up right where he left off demonstrating perfect command and feel for the offense and throwing as many incompletions (five) as he did touchdowns in the first half.
It also seems as though the ASU coaches listened to me and are going to get star tailback Marion Grice at least 20 touches per game. In a little more than half a game of work, Grice had 18 total touches for 124 yards and a pair of scores. He led ASU in receiving with 65 yards and scored both on the ground and through the air. We also had a good long look at highly touted JUCO transfer receiver Jaelen Strong. Strong used his tall and athletic frame to dominate Sac State's DBs all night and hauled in six passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. His house call might have been the play of the night (go to the 2:30 mark) as he fought through pass interference and was being tackled before the ball even arrived but he used his big physical frame and athletic ability to fight through the contact and haul it in on his way down.

In addition to Strong, Kevin Ozier, Richard Smith, and Chris Coyle all showed a lot of ability in the passing game. The interesting thing about Strong is that he wasn't cleared by the NCAA until a few weeks ago so unlike most JUCOs, Strong missed Spring Practice, the Spring Game, and most of the summer workouts. he was able to participate in Fall Camp but he is still behind on knowing the offense and building chemistry with Kelly. Basically, what you saw last night from Strong was done almost entirely on talent alone. Once Strong gets up to speed and finds his fit within this offense, he is going to be a terror to for Pac-12 DBs to cover.

Unfortunately, it's not all peaches and blue skies for ASU today. In these paycheck games against low-end competition, you want your starters to look sharp for a few series, get valuable reps for your freshman, and most importantly get out of the game without an injuries. Sadly for the Sun Devils, the latter failed to come to fruition as star senior linebacker/safety Chris Young went down with a leg injury in the 2nd quarter. He didn't need to be carted off or put in an air cast or anything but he needed help limping off the field and appeared to be in considerable pain. Head Coach Todd Graham acknowledged that the injury was a concern but also said he is hopeful Young will make a quick recovery. It would be paramount to get a healthy Young on the field next week against Wisconsin and its vaunted rushing attack.

On the subject of freshmen, ASU didn't really play any. Well, they actually did play one and he proved to be a bit of a concern as true freshman kicker Zane Gonzalez went two out of four on his field goal attempts (he was good from 40 and 29 but missed from 33 and 49). I'm willing to chalk up those two misses to first game jitters but it is a concern that he missed the easy kick from 33 and that there are no other scholarship kickers on the roster to challenge him. Take it from an Oregon fan, the last thing you want is your season coming down to a shaky kicker and ASU's kicking situation is one to keep a close eye on as the season progresses. Graham said that although he only played one freshman, he doesn't see things staying that way. I don't doubt him and I do expect him to burn a few redshirts and get some young guys out there in the future even if injuries don't necessitate it. However, if his 18 year-olds aren't good enough to get some second half reps against Sac State, I am doubtful any true freshmen will be able to contribute meaningfully in Pac-12 play.

All in all, this was a solid win for ASU as it doubled the point spread and did exactly what it should have done by blowing out an over matched opponent. With the tune up game out of the way, things get serious for the Sun Devils in a hurry as they begin a stretch of four ranked teams in four weeks starting with a huge non-conference matchup against the three time reigning Big Ten champs Wisconsin in Tempe next week.

No comments:

Post a Comment