The matchup on paper would show some exciting things to get ready for. An Arizona rushing attack that was one of the Nation’s best. A Sun Devil Defense that was among the most aggressive. Individual players that could break a game wide open. Yet, in the end it would be a late overall team effort of the Sun Devils that would bring home the Territorial Cup to Tempe and ignite the Sun Devil fan base moving forward into the bowl season.
At times the game was hard to watch and it seemed like chances were quickly slipping away with time running out and the Wildcats running all over. I personally was about to lose my mind in the 3rd Quarter there but things changed and in a big way with huge plays all over the field. The Sun Devil comeback will go down as one of biggest second half rallies the rivalry has ever seen. Only having 17 points heading into the 4th Quarter, the Devils exploded with 24 points to finish the game winning by one score. A great overall team effort won the game. Now let’s talk about how it went down.
Talking about the Offense:
269 Rushing Yards. This would prove to come on strong in the end of the game and be a clear determining factor in the Sun Devils late success on Offense.
1 Sack allowed. Very good considering the last stretch of games.
24 Fourth Quarter Points. Finishing strong!
5 for 5 in Red-Zone Chances. Huge!
16-29 Pass Attempts- 191 Yards- 0 Passing Touchdowns. The Arizona Defense was one of the worst in the country and yet ASU could not get the ball going through the air. Several key drops aided in these numbers, yet the lack of passing game really hurt the Offense at times.
Quarterback Grade: C+
Not the best game for Taylor Kelly passing the ball but as stated in the key stats, there were some major drops with the ball put spot on. Kelly did a much better job staying poised in the pocket and trusting the Offensive Line. Adding to his 191 yards passing, Kelly rushed for 42 yards.
Michael Eubank came up strong down on the goal line as he has several times this season with a big Quarterback sneak that everyone knew was coming. In the end, that was just one of the touchdowns that would allow the Sun Devils to win by one score. Solid job out of the Quarterbacks and this position group will definitely be fun to watch mature this bowl season and into spring football. Lots of discussion topics to come around our signal callers.
Running Backs Grade: A-
Marion Grice is one of the most dynamic backs in the country and once again he came up huge this season. This was his break out game on the ground rather than the receiving department which we have seen several times this season. Grice rushed for 156 yards and 3 scores on just 18 carries for a big average of 8.7 yards. Another topic of debate all season long that rang loud and clear about Marion was his need to have more touches. Friday night in Tucson he made the most of those opportunities.
D.J. Foster came up very strong to finish his 1,000 total yard freshman campaign. The Defense definitely keyed Foster at times when he was in the backfield and often sent run blitzes his way yet he still mustered 52 yards rushing. Foster also came up huge with two catches for 38 yards. The local freshman was everything advertised this season and watching him move forward into the end of this year and the future will be nothing but exciting for Sun Devil fans.
Cameron Marshall started the game early but it was clear that the fast flow of U of A’s 3-3 box would be too quick for Cam to do much damage on the ground. His 9 carries came early in the game for the most part and he only average 2.3 yards on those touches. Marshall came up huge on the goal line though recording a fourth quarter score that would put a huge dent in the Wildcats try for a comeback.
Wide Receivers/Tight End Grade: C+
There was not a lot of razzle dazzle out of this position group of receivers yet the big drops really put the hurt on that. Jamal Miles came up with 5 catches for 39 yards to lead the receiving crew. Rashad Ross had 2 catches for 26 yards but his play will be overshadowed by the sure touchdown drops. The great part about the receiving efforts though was to see how much the ball was spread hitting 8 different targets. Alonzo Agwuenu came up with 2 different first down grabs as did Kevin Ozier and Darwin Rogers.
Chris Coyle has one of his quietest games on the season catching the ball with only 2 catches for 20 yards but really was a work horse helping to get the running game going. Coyle this whole season has been a major reason for the success on the ground just as much as he has moved the chains through the air.
Offensive Line Grade: B+
Early in the game the Offensive Line was struggling to get to the second level in the run game, yet as time played out, the bigs settled down were able to establish their will on the Wildcats Defense. Only allowing 1 sack was huge and a big improvement from past games. Evan Finkenberg played one of his best games of the season both on the ground and in pass protection as did Andrew Sampson coming off of his ankle injury. The group up front really gelled in the second half.
This group will be very intriguing to watch moving forward into the off season and with some of the young potential in place, this group could be one of the strongest position groups in 2013.
The early struggles of the ASU Offense were enough to make any fan want to lose their mind. Only having 17 points heading into the fourth quarter had most of us going into panic mode. However, the Offense made the most of some late turnovers and key Defensive stops, converting those chances into points and that is what the game of Football is about. The dramatic comeback provided us all with enough emotion to carry over with excitement into the bowl season.
It was a great regular season for the ASU Offense and a big step in the right direction paving the 2012 season with a balanced attack as Coach Graham said he was going to do when he was hired. Improvement throughout the season was clear at so many position groups and that credit is due to all the hard work this coaching staff has put in since day 1. The learning curves were there for both the coaches and players and at times were very clear to see, but the end result has ASU moving forward in so many positive directions.
Talking about the Defense:
1 Fumble- 3 Interceptions. The turnovers allowed ASU to kill the momentum of the UofA Offense at several key times in the game.
43 yards lost rushing. Just 1 sack for the ASU Defense, yet 8 TFLs helped slow the strong rushing attack of Arizona.
19-39 Pass Attempts. The ASU game plan in the secondary was much similar to how they played against Washington State which allowed a lot of man coverage to work great for the secondary. Pressure on Matt Scott and man coverage equals turnovers.
292 allowed rushing yards. Something that everyone was worried about came true. Carey as well as Jenkins played very strong.
36 First Downs. I believe this is a season high against the Sun Devils Defense.
Defensive Line Grade: B
Will Sutton, Carl Bradford and Davon Coleman totaled for 20 tackles (4.5 for loss). The edge Defense and four man fronts where great to see, especially against Arizona’s rushing game. The Ends where playing running back on the read zone and thus there was usually two defenders accounting for the running back which is how you have to defend backs that are that talented. The game plan was clear, make Matt Scott pull the ball, play man free and keep the box tight.
For some reason though there is a point in the game, mostly during the third quarter, that ASU jumped into a two high safety look when Arizona had an H-Back or Tight End in the game. The Wildcats were really able to gain a majority of their yards rushing against the two high look of ASU. In the end, it would all work out because of the turnovers caused. The Defensive Line did a great job bringing the pressure on Scott and keeping pace with the hurry up tempo of the Cats. Late in the game you could tell that the boys up front were getting worn down from the tempo yet they prevailed.
One great note was the number of tacklers on each play and the pursuit to get to the ball carrier. The D-Line was a major contributor to that attack.
Linebackers Grade: B+
Brandon Magee had a game to remember and a career high in tackles (17 Total, 14 solo). Magee’s 3 for loss where well timed beauties that really showed how well he can read plays. The thing about Arizona’s Offense is that they are fairly simple in the run game and if you give them clear reads you know what is coming on nearly every run down. Chris Young tore it up at the Spur Backer as well on the stat sheet, recording 10 tackles on the night. Young and Magee where everywhere in the run game and although at times Arizona seemed to move the ball at will on the ground, the backers were pursuing everywhere and making solid very tremendous individual efforts from sideline to sideline.
It will be somber to see a leader like Brandon Magee leave this Defense moving forward. He has been a leader on and off the field and watching him through his career in Tempe has been painted a true picture of what being a college athlete is all about. The greatest thing about Magee from this season is that he leaves some big shoes to fill and the bar is only that much higher for Sun Devils to reach.
Secondary Grade: A-
One of the best performances of the year on the stat sheet and big contributions from nearly every member of the secondary group. Robert Nelson had his breakout game come in the biggest of the season. His giant interception and 3 pass breakups were huge on the night defending the Arizona pass game. Nelson has been a player full of talent all season long but has not always seen the playing time each week his skills deserve. Perhaps this surrounds play book knowledge or practicing well during the week, yet moving forward there will be a lot of upside having him in the secondary.
Joining the success in the secondary and having another solid game was Keelan Johnson who recorded 8 tackles, an interception and the caused fumble that seemed to change the game for good in the end. Keelan has come up huge in the last two games of the regular season and it will be great to see him one more time in Maroon and Gold during the bowl game.
Osahon Irabor and Deveron Carr have been two of the most improved players on this team from 2011 to 2012. Their improved play has reformed this Defense and is a big reason why the Sun Devils rank so high in pass defense categories. Friday night in Tucson they both came up huge. Irabor with his beautiful interception and Carr on his fumble recovery to get the ball back late. The secondary play this season has been one of the biggest surprises of the season. Hats off to them and their much improved play in 2012.
The Sun Devil Defense may have given up a ton of yards on Friday night but in the end their aggressive play would be the major different in the final score. The Defense has played up and down the whole season. Taking major gambles that often pay off but also come back to bite them in the butt at times.
The last two weeks of Defense against Washington State and Arizona showed the Devils playing a much “simpler” game plan if you will. Their man free coverages allowed the secondary to dial in on receivers while the box took care of the business it needed to. The edge Defense was set and the reads were made with more decisiveness than earlier in the season. That kind of play, and not getting over cute at times, will win you a lot of ball games if you play it all out with your athletes.
Great game plans to finish the season were very clear in my opinion and I like those X’s and O’s moving forward with this team.
Special Team Grades:
Kickoff Team: A
8 kickoffs with 5 for touchbacks. A big night for Alex Garoutte there. The coverage was solid and Arizona only had a long return of 21 yards.
Kickoff Return Team: A/Incomplete
Arizona kicked off 6 times. 4 went for touchbacks, 1 out of bounds and the late on sides recovered by Kyle Middlebrooks.
Punt Team: A
Josh Hubner averaged 50 yards on 5 kicks. His longest was 63 yards and he pinned 1 inside the 20. Taylor Kelly also came up big on the field position game pinned his punt of 27 yards inside the 20 as well.
Punt Return/Block Team: A
A huge punt block by Kevin Ayers would be game changer and momentum swinger with the game tied in the 4th Quarter. The return game was minimal but the group earns an A with their effort on the late block!
Field Goal Team: A
Jon Mora was 2 for 2 adding 6 points to the board which would be huge late, especially since Arizona missed an extra point.
Overall Team Grades:
Special Teams: A
This was the game of the season when it came down to it. Finish 7-5 and beat the team from down South or end up 6-6 barely bowl eligible. The individual efforts throughout this game came up time and time again on both sides of the ball and the Defensive game plan would ring clear in my opinion.
Beating Arizona is one for the greatest feelings a Sun Devil will have throughout their career. The four to five times you play them during your tenure in Tempe will be life long memories and what better way to send this senior class of Sun Devils out than to win this game the way they did down in Tucson.
Personally, I want to thank this coaching staff for truly understanding how important this game was to the fan base and to Coach Graham for doing all the right things in the community to get us fired up for such an event. The players have bought in all season long and with the bowl season here things are only going to get better in 2012.
Finishing out with a victory will be huge and moving forward into 2013 is only going to get more exciting for all of us Sun Devils with the leadership this team is under.
Defensive end Kyle Caldwell played for the Sun Devils from 2003-2006 and finished with Sun Devil career with 90 tackles and 10.5 sacks. He earned Pac-10 All-Freshman honors in 2003 and Honorable Mention All-Pac-10 recognition in 2006. A graduate of Scottsdale Saguaro High School, Caldwell is also a member of the Sabercats’ coaching staff who won the 2010 Class 4A Division I state championship.