Arizona State Football: Grading the Sun Devils' Game Against Washington State
Here it is. Rock bottom.
Arizona State's loss to Washington State on Saturday was the lowest point in the Dennis Erickson era. The Devils were 13-point favorites over the perennial conference doormats, yet allowed a third-string quarterback to carve them up for nearly 500 yards, while the offense was unable to sustain any attack for long.
Simply put, it was a disaster.
Here now are the team's positional grades for those with strong stomachs.
Quarterback Grade: B
One of the few bright spots for the team was the play of quarterback Brock Osweiler, yet even then he was well below his usual standard.
His numbers were good, as he threw for 351 yards and a touchdown and did not commit a turnover.
Yet something was off with Osweiler for most of the game. His usual velocity and accuracy suffered in the chilly Pullman weather, which resulted in several missed opportunities.
Most damning was the lack of offense in the fourth quarter, a period that saw the Devils get shut out. While there were mitigating circumstances that were not Osweiler's fault, the overall performance was sub-par facing a defense that was 111th in the nation in pass efficiency defense.
Running Back Grade: D
Coming off a career-high 168 yards against UCLA and facing a poor run defense, the expectations were high for Cameron Marshall to have another huge game. With the snowy conditions, it only heightened those hopes.
The end result was simply awful.
Marshall ran only 16 times for a paltry 37 yards. He was never able to find the lanes that he did against UCLA, most often because they simply were not there. His burst, vision and acceleration all were not up to his usual levels. Marshall was also hobbled with some ankle issues that forced backup Kyle Middlebrooks into the game, but he was no more successful. He carried five times for only 17 yards.
As a team, the Sun Devils only averaged 2.4 yards-per-carry, a woeful average that speaks volumes about the offense's inconsistency.
Wide Receiver Grade: B
Gerell Robinson was fantastic again on Saturday, setting a new career-high in receiving yards for the second straight week. He caught eight passes for 158 yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. Robinson consistently dominated the middle of the field and has emerged as one of the top receivers in the conference.
Other than that, it was a mixed and overall disappointing bag.
Jamal Miles continues to be the short option on swing passes, as he caught seven for only 27 yards. Aaron Pflugrad and Mike Willie each caught four passes for 53 and 52 yards, respectively, and showed sure hands on third down.
However, the biggest play by a wide receiver was also the most costly.
With under six minutes left in the fourth quarter, and ASU trailing 30-27, the Sun Devils had the ball on a third down from the Cougar 4-yard line. Osweiler found a wide open George Bell in the end one, who had the pass go right through his hands. The incompletion forced a 21-yard field goal attempt that was missed.
Offensive Line Grade: D+
After their two strongest games of the season, the ASU offensive line was riding high.
The line was dominated by an inferior and undersized defensive front of Washington State for all four quarters.
They got no push off the ball in the running game and couldn't open holes for Cameron Marshall all night long. The team average of 2.4 yards-per-rush was simply pathetic.
Pass protection wasn't nearly as bad, as Osweiler was only sacked once. However, he was pressured throughout the night and looked uncomfortable and jittery in the pocket, something rarely seen with him.
The success of a team starts up front, and with the play of the offensive line, it is no wonder ASU lost in Pullman.
Defensive Line Grade: F
One thing, of many, that Washington State had been terrible at was pass protection. Coming into the game, they had allowed 28 sacks, which ranked 111th in the nation.
On the game's second drive, they inserted Connor Halliday in at quarterback, he of only 19 career pass attempts. Surely, this would be a field day for the defensive line?
Yes, the stat sheet will show two sacks by the line, but their performance on Saturday was nothing short of atrocious.
Halliday had all day to throw on almost every attempt, and he was given more than enough time to pick apart the ASU secondary to the tune of 494 yards.
They did better against the run, shedding blocks decently, but that can in no way offset the embarrassing effort they gave in harassing a third-string quarterback seeing his first meaningful game action.
Linebacker Grade: C-
The linebackers were not the "bright spot" for the defense. Rather, they were the least awful.
They did a reasonable job limiting the Cougars running game, as the two Washington State backs combined for only 90 yards and a 3.1 yard average. They just couldnt' make the key stops in the fourth quarter when it counted most and it allowed the Cougars to eat away significant amounts of clock.
However, they simply didn't make enough plays. Vontaze Burfict recovered a fumble, but the top four linebackers on the team—Burfict, Shelly Lyons, Colin Parker and Oliver Aaron—combined for just 15 tackles. They did not make any tackles for loss, register any sacks or defend any passes.
It was generally a lifeless effort, yet it was the defense's best. Yikes.
Secondary Grade: Z-
Yes, an "F" doesn't begin to describe the play of the secondary...so let's give them a "Z". Oh, and add a minus.
The secondary was torched from the beginning and it only got worse. The stat sheet showed not a single pass defended or broken up by the ASU secondary in one of the most accurate depictions of reality from a stat sheet ever.
Cornerbacks Deveron Carr, Osahon Irabor and Alden Darby were beaten severely all night long and in embarrassing fashion. Yes, Marquess Wilson is an excellent receiver, but there is no excuse to allow him to haul in eight passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns. Nor is there one to allow Isiah Barton to go for 155 yards on seven receptions and a score.
The fact that they were carved up by a third-string quarterback is simply inexcusable. This was among the worst efforts of any position that ASU has seen in a decade. In fact, the 503 passing yards allowed are the sixth most in school history.
Safeties Keelan Johnson, Clint Floyd and Eddie Elder were consistently beaten downfield, caught out of position and missed tackles.
To add injury to insult, cornerback Rashad Wadood tore his ACL and will miss the rest of the season.
In total, it was a 60-minute nightmare whose ramifications will be felt for a long time.
Special Teams Grade: C
The high point of the game for ASU came on the opening kickoff.
Jamal Miles ran it back 95 yards for the touchdown, his second of the season. That return forced the Cougars into squib kicks for much of the game as they feared Miles' might.
On the flip side was the goat of the UCLA loss, Alex Garoutte.
The redshirt freshman kicker seemed to get back on track after his three misses from last week, as he connected 39 and 22 yards.
Yet when it mattered most, he folded.
Late in the fourth quarter, he was in a position to kick a chip shot 21-yard field goal to tie the game. Instead, he shanked it wide left.
Sadly, most ASU fans expected it.
Coaching Grade: F
Two weeks ago, the talk about Dennis Erickson circled around when he would receive a contract extension.
Now, it's who will be his replacement.
Yet again, ASU came out flat on the road against an inferior opponent. They were unable to make adjustments to stop the Cougars' passing game, and generally played without any fire or passion.
Sadly, this has become habitual under Erickson.
When he took the job, he said he had a five-year plan. This is year five.
What once was a surefire division championship team now has lost two straight games and has hit rock bottom this week.
Regardless of what transpires down the stretch, this loss may have sealed his fate.
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