So is anybody else tired of this whole jump out to a promising lead then fall flat on your face thing that Arizona State football has been up to lately?
For the third straight week, the Sun Devils were the first team on the board and for the third straight week, they were handed a devastating defeat. The Oregon State Beavers dominated the second half and although the score says 36-26, the deficit felt closer to four scores.
Here's my knee-jerk reactions from ASU's third consecutive loss:
- The defense looked inspired from the opening kickoff but that inspiration sure waned quickly. Will Sutton did provide somewhat of a spark in the pass-rushing department but it seemed like they were over-committing to the sack attack most of the time. The fact that Terron Ward shredded the Devils for 146 yards on 19 carries is absolutely unacceptable. Not only was this his first 100-yard game of the year but his breakout performance was nearly five times his total rushing production for all of 2012. Furthermore, this once disciplined defense spent most the day chasing streaking Beavers down the sidelines. The Devils are the team that's supposed to be scoring three touchdowns of 40+ yards, not the other way around.
- Speaking of Sutton, that behemoth of a man is just a plain warrior. You could tell most of the time he was playing at about 80% but he was still the definition of disruptive most the time. Cody Vaz entered the game with three straight games of a 60+ point completion percentage and Sutton was a huge reason he only connected on 42.4%. The entire team seemed more confident in his presence and I would be shocked if he wasn't a late first, early second round selection in next year's NFL Draft at this point.
- Although it may be a little harsh to state this with how ineffective his pass "protection" was, this was by far Taylor Kelly's worse game as the starting quarterback. After beginning the game with a blazing hot 9-for-12 first quarter, Kelly finished the game 13-of-29. That's not too bad for a batting average but Kelly was downright awful Saturday, looking jittery and apprehensive throughout. The Beavers snuffed out the run early, rendering Kelly ineffective and the entire offense downright putrid. Don't be surprised if more opponents begin to follow this formula. And honestly, I don't know what took them so long.
- It's official: ASU does not a have a single reliable wide receiver on their roster. I know Oregon States' secondary is ones one of the finest in all of the land but the routes the Sun Devil receivers were running were anything but precise and fluid. With that in mind, it's pretty shocking to me that Marion Grice wasn't on the line more or at least implemented as red zone weapon when they got there. Behind Chris Coyle, he's probably this teams most dependable option to find pay dirt inside the 20 so it's a shame his talents went to waste.
- Just because I need a bright spot, I'd like add that Josh Hubner has a clean made of gold. He stranded three of his eight punts inside the 20 while also chipping in another one of his remarkable 60+ yard bombs. Although he's not the sexy choice, Hubner has been this team's second best player behind Sutton. I sure hope he gets a chance with an NFL club next year because this kid deserves it with his boot.
I'd like to end my knee-jerk reaction piece with a very un-knee-jerky thought; although this game was a difficult pill to swallow, it wasn't that harmful to the Sun Devils' ultimate goal. With USC losing to Oregon, the Devils are still third in the South and remain basically in the driver's seat of their own destiny.
If ASU can take advantage of USC's frustration next week and upset the Trojans in the Colosseum, they'll be in great shape. The Bruins may be in first for now but they still have to close out their season with games against USC and Stanford. They should lose one, if not both of those meaning the Devils will be sitting pretty if they can handle their business.
But that's a big if at this point as the ASU team that showed up to play Saturday wasn't anywhere close to executing well enough to hang with the Trojans. Just to keep that flicker of a hope alive though, I'd like to pass along this fact: the Sun Devils have not lost to USC in any major men's sports since the Pac-12 was formed (and you can thank Jedi ASUf for that confidence-boosting loaded fact).