Any lingering doubts as to whether Brock Osweiler can become a big-time quarterback were answered with a resounding "Hell yes!" against Missouri.
The junior was simply outstanding throughout the night, connecting on 24 of his 32 attempts for 353 yards and three touchdowns, and did not turn the ball over. He also added 34 yards on the ground, including a 12-yard touchdown.
He consistently stood strong in the pocket, went through his reads and progressions and then delivered the ball with outstanding accuracy and velocity. He showed off a developing gunslinging tendency, throwing into small windows and on the run with decisiveness. Osweiler never panicked even when his teammates seemed to go out of their way to find ways to lose. Instead, he led them to their biggest win since defeating Cal in 2007.
Running Backs: C-
It speaks to the effectiveness of the unit that the biggest play of the night from the group came from a player who isn't really a running back. Jamal Miles took a lateral from Osweiler in the third quarter and threw a touchdown pass to Aaron Pflugrad on the halfback option.
The Sun Devil running game was shut down all night, never able to break the big runs that Missouri's injury-weakened defense appeared vulnerable to. Cameron Marshall only gained 61 yards on 22 carries, a paltry 2.8 yard-per-carry average. Miles ran twice for 13 yards and Kyle Middlebrooks' lone carry lost two yards. Both Marshall and Middlebrooks had two receptions, but for only 33 total yards.
For their lack of effectiveness running, the group did a better job in pass protection. ASU ran an interesting version of the pistol formation, with backs flanking Osweiler with another behind him, and they did a fine job in picking up the Tiger pass rush.
Wide Receivers: A-
Saturday night was the Aaron Pflugrad show.
The senior, following up on his two touchdown effort from a week ago, matched his career high with eight receptions and set a new personal best with 180 yards. Oh, and he scored another pair of touchdowns. He was Osweiler's go-to target in every critical situation, evidenced by the fact that of his eight receptions, seven went for first downs or touchdowns. Whether it was working the deep routes for a 60-yard bomb or the tough routes in traffic over the middle for a key third down conversion, Pflugrad was clutch.
Utilityman Jamal Miles is officially listed as a wide receiver, so his contributions will come here. He made six catches for 50 yards and scored ASU's first and last touchdowns. As mentioned above, he also threw a perfect ball to Pflugrad on an option play for a score.
The Devils' other starting receivers had a relatively quiet night. Gerrell Robinson had a 51-yard catch to set up ASU's first touchdown, but only made one other catch for 15 yards the rest of the night. Mike Willie continues to be a forgotten man in the offense, making two grabs for 22 yards. Through two games, Willie has three grabs for 27 yards.
Offensive Line: B-
It was a tale of two phases for the offensive line.
The unit struggled mightily in the running game against a weakened front seven of the Missouri defense. They were unable to generate any push and leverage, which resulted in very few lanes for the ASU running backs. As a team, the Devils only ran for 104 yards on 31 carries, which amounted to a substandard 3.4 yard-per carry average.
However, they were outstanding in pass protection.
Osweiler had plenty of time on most of his throws, which gave him a chance to make the correct read and find the gaps in the Tiger defense. He was only sacked once during the game. That protection helped him have a career performance that resulted in a Sun Devils win.
However, the line did have problems with penalties. The most critical being a holding call that negated a first down pass and forced a Sun Devil punt, which the Tigers then took down the field for the tying touchdown.
Defensive Line: D
The Sun Devil defensive line had a night to forget.
Not a single player made a major contribution, and they were routinely pushed around by a Missouri offensive line that was missing two starters.
Highly touted end Junior Onyeali was a complete non-factor, making only three tackles. Davon Coleman was the marginal "star" of the group, making four tackles including one for a three-yard loss. Toa Tuitea did make one of the Devils' two sacks.
The most disappointing aspect was their lack of push against the Tiger running game. Missouri ran for 182 yards and averaged nearly five yards-per-carry. Their performance was certainly bad enough to cost ASU the win and they are fortunate in how the game ended.
If your name wasn't Colin Parker, your had a disappointing game.
Parker was outstanding, leading the team with 11 tackles, including 10 solo. He routinely made great open-field tackles, something the rest of the defense failed to do.
Vontaze Burfict notched another sack to give him four through two games, but on the national stage, he did very little to stand out. He and the other 'backers consistently were caught overpursuing which allowed for some big Tiger plays.
Tiger quarterback James Franklin took advantage of that failing to rush for 84 yards (he topped 100 yards if you eliminate the yardage lost on sacks). He often ran right past the ASU linebackers, who were unable to shed their blocks quickly.
Shelly Lyons did play well in coverage, and had a key breakup in the second half.
Had the Devils lost the game, that grade become an F.
Missouri is not a team that throws down the field with great regularity, and as such, the pressure was on the ASU secondary to wrap up and make the tackles. They did not do that in any capacity during the game, as Tiger players routine ran right by defenders trying to make a flashy tackle instead of a technically sound one.
Franklin, who struggled passing against the Miami of Ohio defense a week ago, had a career day against ASU. He dissected the ASU secondary for 319 yards and two touchdowns. Included in that total were pass completions of 49, 36, 25 and 20 yards.
Even in the rare event that they were in right position, the ASU secondary couldn't make the play. On the final drive of regulation, safety Eddie Elder stepped in front of a Franklin pass and had an easy interception and clear path to the end zone. Instead, he dropped the ball and Missouri had a chance at a game-winning field goal. Thankfully, they missed it.
Special Teams: C-
Kicker Alex Garoutte had his first miss of the season on a 42-yard attempt in the first quarter, but redeemed himself by making a 47-yarder in the second.
The low-point of the night surely made ASU fans everywhere scream in disgust when Garoutte had a second quarter extra point blocked. Given that the game went into overtime, it illustrates how costly the easiest play in the sport can be if botched.
The kickoff coverage team did not do a tremendous job, but they were better than they were last week. T.J. Moe gained 108 yards on his five returns, with a long of 29 yards.
On the return front, the Devils had a few decent returns by Kyle Middlebrooksand Rashad Ross of 32 and 31 on kickoffs, as Missouri kicked away from Miles all night. Miles did have a 27-yard punt return, but muffed a punt that was recovered by Missouri, who later scored.
12 for 110.
That is the number of penalties penalty yards the Sun Devils gave up on Friday night, many of which were simply stupid and almost all were costly. This is a problem that seemingly will never be remedied under the Dennis Erickson regime, and Devils were beyond lucky that the Tigers were as undisciplined as they were, committing 11 penalties of their own for 114 yards.
The inability of the Sun Devil defense to tackle properly is also a reflection of the coaching staff. That poor tackling was a major factor in the defense allowing 501 yards to a team that could only muster 291 last week against Miami of Ohio. With teams like Oregon, Utah, USC and Arizona on the schedule, this must be fixed immediately.
ASU was lucky to win on Friday night in spite of these inexcusable errors. If this continues, their luck will certainly run out quickly.