It was a good thing that Saturday's Arizona State-Washington State game was not televised, because as bad as it sounded on the radio, I am sure, that the game was even less appealing to watch in person. However, as Dennis Erickson said following his Sun Devils' 27-14 victory, "it's a win, not too pretty, but it is a win."
Now when I say, that this game sounded ugly, it was. The two teams combined for nine turnovers, and 14 punts. Not exactly an offensive firework show.
Now, the question coming into this game revolved around the ASU quarterback situation. The ASU offense committed six turnovers, three fumbles and three interceptions. Far from the improvement that the Sun Devil coaching staff was striving for.
In the first quarter, Senior quarterback, Danny Sullivan threw a touchdown pass, to Kyle Williams from nine yards out, that looked like the spark that ASU needed on offense. Although, as we found out, that was far from the truth.
The Maroon and Gold offense sputtered their next three drives with offensive miscues, that resulted in turnovers and punts by Trevor Hankins.
Then, what most ASU fans were waiting for: the entrance of Brock Osweiler. The 6 foot 8 inch quarterback came into the game in the second quarter, to try and spark the Sun Devils. Well, instead it was more of the same for Erickson's squad. Another turnover, this time a botched snap that Osweiler dropped. Then the next two series resulted in two punts by Hankins.
So, with the score at Martin Stadium still reading ASU 7 WSU 0, Erickson went back to Sullivan, to let the Senior engineer a nice "Two Minute Drill."
Sullivan connected with Kyle Williams on two, big 19 yard receptions, that would later set up ASU's second score of the game. Sullivan ended up finishing off the drive himself with a seven yard touchdown run.
With that being said, the two touchdown drives that ASU managed during the first half, Sullivan did exactly that. He managed the football game, amid turnovers, miscues, and penalties. So, why the controversy?
In the second half, the offense seemed like they might be making strides towards the offensive unit fans expected, when Sullivan guided a four-play 74 yard drive, capped off by a Dimitri Nance rushing touchdown, from nine yards out. Nance ended the game with 113 yards rushing, a career high for the Senior running back.
The offense showed a spark during that particular drive, while utilizing some creativity with a 54 yard reverse play by Kyle Williams.
However, from that point on, the offense slouched back into their miserable form. Osweiler did not return to the game, while Sullivan finished the day with 169 yards on 19 of 29 passes with one touchdown and three interceptions. Sullivan only threw two interceptions in his first four games this season.
Well, if the offense continued to struggle, while committing six turnovers, then their must have been something note worthy about this victory.
Although, this game was won against a dreadful Washington State squad, the ASU defense dominated the Cougars. Defensive Coordinator Craig Bray, had to pleased with the effort and determination that his unit possessed. When the ASU offense stalled, countless times, the Sun Devil defense put their helmets back on, and went back to work.
ASU came into this game with only three sacks on the season. Well, that number increased by nine following the Maroon and Gold's performance Saturday.
Dexter Davis led the defensive unit with two sacks and one interception. His fellow lineman, Lawrence Guy, James Brooks, and Sai'a Falahola all contributed with at least one sack. Brooks and Guy had a combined five sacks to shutdown the WSU offense.
The Sun Devil defense held Washington State to only 181 total yards. That number is even more staggering, with the fact that ASU gave up a 99 yard touchdown pass, early in the fourth quarter.
But once again, it was not all bad for Arizona State. The defense held the Cougar rushing attack to negative 54 yards on the ground. YES! Negative fifty-four yards on the ground.
Clearly, with those numbers the defense has been holding up their end of the bargain. However, Erickson's offense has sputtered near the red zone, turning the ball over, and shooting themselves in the foot with penalties. With all that being said, the offense did post 410 total yards. However, the third down efficiency is still woeful at best. ASU converted just three of 12 third down opportunities.
Whether it was pretty or ugly, the Sun Devils still notched a win on the road. Now that Arizona State is back in the win column, the Sun Devils can turn their attention towards the revitalized Washington Huskies.
The talk heading into this match up, will continue to be the quarterback situation in Tempe. No matter if it is Sullivan or Osweiler, the offense will have to rise to the productivity level of their defensive counterparts, if the Sun Devils want this season to be a successful one.