ASU came into their Week 3 matchup as heavy underdogs to the 11th ranked Wisconsin Badgers but showed the nation that this young squad could be a force to be reckoned with. They played well enough to win, but ultimately did just enough to lose in a heartbreaking 20-19 thriller. Here is the Week 3 Report Card for the Sun Devils.
(Last week: B, Season GPA: 3.25)
Having already defeated the Badgers in 2008 when he was at Michigan, Steven Threet showed tremendous poise in leading the Sun Devil attack in Madison. He was 21 of 33 for the day for 211 yards and had a would-be touchdown dropped by George Bell. While he did not throw a score, he avoided any costly mistakes and was a model of efficiency throughout the game. This was never more evident than on ASU’s final drive, in which Threet led the Devils 77 yards on 9 plays that ended with them scoring the should-have-been-tying touchdown. Threet was 4 for 4 for 42 yards on that drive, including a crucial 3rd down conversion to Cameron Marshall that took the ball to the Badger 2. He did take two sacks that arguably were the result of him hanging on to the ball for too long.
Running Backs: A+
(Last week: C-, Season GPA: 3.33)
Coming off a 56 yard game against NAU a week ago and facing a formidable Wisconsin front, the ASU running game rightfully faced significant questions. Those were erased early on, as ASU was able to establish their ground game on the first drive. True freshman Deantre Lewis stole the show against the Badgers, breaking off runs of 17, 23, 32 and 38 yards, and Cameron Marshall ran hard between the tackles, picking up several first downs and scoring ASU’s final touchdown. Marshall and Jamal Miles combined for 4 receptions for another 31 yards. As a group, the backs combined for 167 yards and averaged 7.2 yards a carry. Adding Miles’ contributions in the return game, and this group clearly earned the team’s highest grade.
Wide Receivers: B-
(Last Week: A-, Season GPA: 2.58)
The receiving corps put in a solid yet unspectacular effort on Saturday. Kerry Taylor equaled his career high in receptions (set last week) with 6 for 71 yards. After breaking out with 8 catches and 114 yards last week, Mike Willie was held to 3 catches for 29 yards. Threet was content to test the underneath of the Wisconsin defense, and no ASU receiver made a reception for more than 18 yards. They did make progress on their season long issue of dropped passes, yet their one drop was critical. After Threet made a slippery escape from pressure during the second quarter, he scrambled to his right and fired a pass to George Bell, who dropped the sure score. On the very next play, he hauled in a pass in the end zone but could not tap his toes in bounds, which forced ASU into a field goal.
Offensive Line: A-
(Last week: C-, Season GPA: 3.17)
Much like the running game they block for, the offensive line was expected to struggle in Madison, yet played quite well. They paved the way for 169 yards rushing and an excellent 6.0 yards per carry. They managed to limit Wisconsin’s star defensive end J.J. Watt to a single tackle, and gave Threet a comfortable pocket from which to operate.
Defensive Line: C-
(Last week: B, Season GPA: 2.58)
The defensive line had their hands full against the massive Badger offensive line, that averaged 6’5” 320 pounds. The Devils held firm early, limiting Badger running back and Heisman hopeful John Clay to 42 first half yards. However, they weakened as the game went on, and by the end they had been gashed for 196 yards on the ground. They didn’t generate much pressure on Badger quarterback Scott Tolzien, getting only a single sack, courtesy of Lawrence Guy. Defensive end James Brooks made a critical mistake when he received a unnecessary roughness penalty on the game’s final drive that gave the Badgers a first down instead of facing a 3rd and 5.
(Last week: B-, Season GPA: 3.00)
With the defensive line getting bullied, the task of the linebackers became all the more difficult. Vontaze Burfict was more than up to the task. He flew all over the field and was equal to the task of handling the 255 pound Clay. He made 10 tackles, 2 for loss, and broke up two passes. Perhaps his most important stat was the zero penalties he committed. After Brandon Magee left the game with an injury, Oliver Aaron stepped in to register 9 tackles. The linebackers did suffer in coverage, principally biting hard on play action fakes. As a result, Badger tight Lance Kendricks end set career highs with 7 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown.
Defensive Backs: C+
(Last week: B, Season GPA: 3.08)
Both of Wisconsin’s starting wide receivers, Nick Toon and David Gilreath, missed the game due to injury, and most expected that the Badgers would further lean on their power running game. That was not the case early on, as Tolzien took to the air. He was efficient, and found great success off of play action passes to Kendricks. The ASU secondary was unable to close off the seams, and it cost them. Safeties Eddie Elder and Clint Floyd combined for 12 tackles, but cornerback Omar Bolden was hit with consecutive pass interference penalties late in the second quarter, the final one coming on Kendricks’ touchdown catch.
Special Teams: C+
(Last week: A, Season GPA 3.00)
Talk about peaks and valleys. One on hand, there were numerous outstanding plays. Bolden had a 97 yard kickoff return touchdown, Kyle Middlebrooks had a 95 yard return to the one at the end of the half and Miles was great on punt returns. However, there were three massive blunders on special teams, and a reversal of any one of them would likely have resulted in an ASU win. Miles had an 80 yard punt return touchdown called back due to a block in the back by Brandon Smith, Thomas Weber missed a chip shot 25 yard field goal in the first quarter, and of course there was James Morrison’s missed block that resulted in the blocked PAT. With several examples of both A and F worthy plays, the average is a C. Good coverage on Badger returns gives it the plus.
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