The Sun Devils continued Todd Graham's flawless record as the Sun Devils' head coach Saturday evening, putting up memorable performances on both sides of the ball en route to a 45-14 victory over the visiting Illinois Fighting Illini. Quarterbacks Taylor Kelly and Michael Eubank combined to complete 23-of-29 passes for 318 yards and three touchdowns through the air.
It seemed the Sun Devils might be their own undoing in the early going after Cameron Marshall (12 carries, 54 yards, one touchdown) coughed up the football on the one-yard line following an effective 68-yard opening drive. Instead, Arizona State showed some serious resiliency, capping off their next four drives with four touchdowns including two Eubank to tight end Chirs Coyle connections. Coyle would finish the game as the game's leading receiver with 10 receptions for 131 yards plus the two aforementioned touchdowns.
The quarterback rotation would combine to complete their first 14 attempts before Kelly overthrew Rashad Ross on a deep fly route in the middle of the second quarter. But for the second straight week, Kelly (18-of-24, 249 yards, one touchdown) instilled confidence in the Sun Devil faithful, showing an impressive poise in the pocket to go along with that sound decision making that was as impeccable as Graham advertised.
Eubank (5-of-5 passing, 69 yards, two touchdowns) would also add a touchdown on the ground late in the fourth quarter from seven yards out. The dual-threat quarterback would finish the evening with 36 yards on seven carries out of jumbo formation.
The Devils defense was equally as threatening, nabbing three interceptions including two from linebacker Carlos Mendoza. Mendoza would later leave the game with a shoulder injury but not before proving to everyone that he's just another one of the many talented freshmen this team has to offer.
Linebacker Carl Bradford also turned in a performance that was equally as memorable, contributing 2.5 of the team's six sacks and 2.5 of their 12 tackles for loss. Junior Chris Young spent most of the game in the opponent's backfield as well, chipping in 2.5 tackles for loss of his own while showing impressive anticipation and timing.
Probably the most encouraging stat to take away from this one though was the fact that the Sun Devils had only one penalty: an intentional delay of game to give Josh Hubner more room to punt.
From the complaints department, the only real blemish to take away from this one was the two red zone fumbles from Marshall and Jamal Miles. Other than that, Arizona State put on a masterful performance on both sides of the ball, putting away any doubts that last week's performance against Northern Arizona was purely based on the caliber of opponent.
The Sun Devils (2-0) now head to Colombia to take on the Missouri Tigers (1-1), who are coming off their first SEC conference game in which they were steamrolled, 41-20, by Georgia. Still, Graham would be wise to have his team ready for a fierce battle as Mizzou is sure to be thirsty for revenge following last season's 37-30 overtime loss to the Devils.
But if these first two games are any indication of this team's level of preparation on a week-to-week basis, fans of the maroon and gold could very well see their Devils turn in their first 3-0 start since 2007.
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