CFN Take: Arizona State Loses Kelly In CU Win
2014 Arizona State Sun Devils ...
Head Coach: Todd Graham
2014 Arizona State
Sept. 13 Arizona State 38, at Colorado 24
2014 Schedule |
Aug. 28 Weber State W 45-14
Sep. 6 at New Mexico W 58-23
Sep. 13 at Colorado W 38-24
Sep. 20 OPEN DATE
Sep. 25 UCLA
Oct. 4 at USC
Oct. 11 OPEN DATE
Oct. 18 Stanford
Oct. 25 at Washington
Nov. 1 Utah
Nov. 8 Notre Dame
Nov. 15 at Oregon State
Nov. 22 Washington St
Nov. 28 at Arizona
And You Care Because … Arizona State won the battle, but might have lost a key part with QB Taylor Kelly getting knocked out with a foot injury. The Sun Devils had a fight after getting up 17-0, with Colorado getting back in the game with two Sefo Liufau touchdown passes, but D.J. Foster scored his second touchdown of the day, and Kelly ran for a 50-yard score and hit Jaelen Strong on a one-yard touchdown pass before getting knocked out for the game.
What Else? Colorado outgained Arizona State 545 yards to 426, but turned the ball over three times. ASU didn’t give it away.
- Arizona State RB D.J. Foster ran 20 times for 147 yards and a score. Taylor Kelly completed 13-of-21 passes for 195 yards and three scores, and ran six times for 70 yards and a touchdown.
- Colorado QB Sefo Liufau completed 31-of-46 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns with two picks.
- Colorado RB Christian Powell ran 11 times for 118 yards.
Game Rating: B-
Sept. 6 Arizona State 58, at New Mexico 23
And You Care Because … Arizona State jumped out to a 22-0 first quarter lead on one-yard runs from Deante Lewis and Kalen Ballage and a 12-yard Taylor Kelly scoring dash. New Mexico fought its way back with touchdown runs from Jhurell Pressley and Crusoe Gongbay and a 32-yard Teriyon Gipson scoring grab to pull within eight, but ASU pulled away with 17 straight points helped by a 41-yard Cameron Smith touchdown catch.
What Else? Arizona State might have suffered a little bit of a lull, but it finished with 621 yards of total offense. New Mexico ended with 337.
- New Mexico isn’t built to comeback, but it did. Lamar Jordan completed 7-of-11 passes for 130 yards and a score, and the ground game ran for 207 yards and two scores averaging 3.6 yards per carry.
- Arizona State RB D.J. Foster ran 19 times for 216 yards and a score. The Sun Devil offensive line was terrific, pounding away for 423 yards and six touchdowns for a ground game that averaged 8.8 yards per carry.
- New Mexico held on to the ball for almost 35 minutes, but Arizona State kept striking quickly.
Game Rating: C
Aug. 28 at Arizona State 45, Weber State 14
And You Care Because … Arizona State jumped all over Weber State for a 31-0 halftime lead and was up 38-0 before finally giving up a touchdown late in the third. D.J. Foster ran for three scores and Taylor Kelly combined with Gary Chambers for an eight-yard scoring pass.
What Else? This was hardly a proper test for the Arizona State defense, but it was a chance to get in some live reps and start to figure out what it has. Salamo Fiso led the way with seven tackles and a sack.
- What will the Sun Devils do without Marion Grice? D.J. Foster ran 15 times for 147 yards and three scores. The passing game was terrific with Jaelen Strong catching ten passes for 146 yards.
- With New Mexico’s running game up next, there won’t be any worries about the secondary, but there can’t be a better performance – the offense did just about everything right.
Game Rating: D-
For the first time since becoming the head coach, Todd Graham needs to do a little rebuilding in Tempe.
Arizona State is coming off a breakthrough season in which it won 10 games, finished ranked No. 20 and represented the South Division in the Pac-12 title game. Staying hot, though, won’t be so easy for the Sun Devils, which are parting with a handful of their top players, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Under Graham, ASU has attacked on defense, creating a constant flow of sacks, turnovers and big plays. The approach will be the same, especially after Graham hired longtime friend Keith Patterson to coordinate the D. The players carrying out the blueprint for mayhem, though, will be very different. Eight Sun Devils earned some level of All-Pac-12 honors in 2013. All eight are gone, including Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton, which will force the staff to develop a whole new set of regulars between now and opening day.
ASU has excelled at signing and quickly implementing JUCO transfers into the system. It’s a good thing, too, because the Sun Devils will need immediate reinforcements to complement returning veterans, such as DE Marcus Hardison, DT Jaxon Hood, LB Salamo Fiso and FS Damarious Randall. With so many newcomers set to descend upon campus, it’s going to be a crucial summer for the defensive staff and the defensive personnel.
As the defense is busy finding its rhythm, the offense will be fine-tuning one of the Pac-12’s elite attacks. No drop-off is expected from a Mike Norvell-coordinated attack that averaged almost 40 points a game last season. Dual-threat QB Taylor Kelly is back to commandeer the offense, with ample support from top receiver Jaelen Strong and versatile RB D.J. Foster. Plus, the O-line has a higher than usual ceiling now that Auburn transfer Christian Westerman has joined all-star Jamil Douglas on the left side.
The Sun Devils have momentum; first 10-win season in six years. First Pac-12 title game appearance. Back-to-back wins over rival Arizona, including last November’s 58-21 rout. Keeping the momentum going in 2014, though, will require some heavy lifting on the defensive side of the ball. The D is essentially starting over, a year after allowing at least 30 points to seven different opponents. As Patterson’s unit goes, so goes ASU’s chances of repeating as the South Division champ in 2014.
What to watch for on offense: Full Nelson. QB Taylor Kelly doesn’t possess a cannon, so he’s at his best throwing quick slants that allow his playmakers to make plays. The quarterback is going to love working on a more extensive basis with senior TE De’Marieya Nelson, a second-year transfer from San Joaquin (Calif.) Delta Community College. Nelson debuted with seven catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns, two rushing scores and enough big plays on special teams to earn honorable mention All-Pac-12. Now that starter Chris Coyle has graduated, Nelson is eyeing a more prominent role that’ll earn him additional touches and a groundswell of attention from NFL scouts.
What to watch for on defense: Welcome, newcomers. Get a good look at the post-spring depth chart. And then crumple it up and throw it out. The competition for jobs won’t get serious until everyone arrives, especially the junior-college standouts, DT Dalvon Stuckey, DE Darrius Caldwell and CB Kweishi Brown. True freshmen defensive linemen Connor Humphreys and Tashon Smallwood will also have the training wheels ripped off in August. One rookie who’s gotten a head start on everyone else is precocious LB D.J. Calhoun. The gifted four-star recruit participated in spring, and is in the hunt for the starting job at weakside.
The team will be far better if … it becomes more effective in the red zone. Arizona State was a marginal red-zone team in 2013, both offensively and defensively. With Kelly, a seasoned veteran at the controls, the Sun Devils surprisingly ranked ninth in Pac-12 touchdown efficiency, a central reason PK Zane Gonzalez led the nation in field goals. The D also ranked No. 9 in the league, a standing that could worsen in 2014 considering the wholesale changes the unit is facing this season.
The Schedule: The Sun Devils have an easy start with Weber State and going to New Mexico, and they need it. Starting out the Pac-12 season against Colorado is good, but it’s on the road before getting a week off to prepare for a huge two-game, South-making stretch against UCLA and at USC. They get another week off to prepare for a run of three home games in four weeks hosting Stanford, Utah and Notre Dame and going to Washington. The biggest plus? There’s no Oregon from the North. There’s another great stretch of three home games in four, and the team only leaves the state of Arizona once over the final give games with Notre Dame and Washington State coming to Tempe and the regular season finale at Arizona.
Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Taylor Kelly. Kelly has been an improbable gem for the ASU program as the starter the past two years. Sure, he’s put up terrific numbers worthy of All-Pac-12 honors. But it’s been his leadership that’s really helped to elevate the offense—and the program—to higher ground. Kelly possesses most of the characteristics that a coaching staff seeks in its quarterback; he’s poised, smart, versatile and commands the respect of his teammates. In a word, Kelly is a winner, who can beat defenses with his arm, his feet and his head.
Best Defensive Player: Senior FS Damarious Randall. At this time last year, Randall was a newcomer from the junior-college ranks, a luxury coming off the bench. As the 2014 season approaches, he’s one of the Sun Devils’ most instrumental defenders. Randall is the lone returning regular from a depleted secondary and the only projected senior starter at the conclusion of spring drills. His best attribute is his versatility and range. He’ll ball-hawk from one sideline to the other, whether he stays at field safety or moves to cornerback this summer.
Key player to a successful season: Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. Yeah, yeah, Patterson’s eligibility ran out almost three decades ago. But there’s little doubt he’s a key person to a successful season. Todd Graham hired his former college roommate to help rebuild a defense that’ll be the Sun Devils’ biggest stumbling block this season. With so many first-time players set to crack the two-deep this summer, it’ll be up to Patterson and his assistants to coach the kids up and make sure they’re gelling as a cohesive unit prior to the opener. Both will be tall orders considering the tight window the staff and players will have together.
The season will be a success if ... the Sun Devils win nine games. Of course, the bar is set at returning to the Pac-12 title game. But it’s a lofty pursuit in a year that the defense has been gutted to the foundation. Arizona State hasn’t won as many as 19 games in consecutive seasons since 1996-97. If the program can achieve that milestone this season, it’ll confirm the direction that it’s headed under Todd Graham. With UCLA, USC and even Arizona from the South Division on upward swings, ASU wants to be sure not lose any ground in 2014.
Key game: Sept. 25 vs. UCLA. In all likelihood, the Sun Devils will be 3-0 by the time the Bruins visit Tempe for the first in a handful of pivotal games that’ll decide the South Division crown. Arizona State will get a visit from Weber State and trips to New Mexico and Colorado to fine-tune the rebuilt D. If the staff was successful in the offseason with the defensive makeover, fans will know it in Week 4. If not, Bruin QB Brett Hundley is going to exploit the Devils in front of their home crowd.
2013 Fun Stats:
- Takeaways: Arizona State 33 – Opponents 18
- Red-zone touchdown %: Arizona State 61% – Opponents 65%
- Sacks: Arizona State 40 - Opponents 41
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