Don Hansen

Sun Devil Study Hall – Colorado

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A couple days have passed since the Sun Devils defeated the Colorado Buffaloes 38-24 in their first Pac-12 conference game of the 2014 football season. However, the only thing on anybody’s mind is the loss of quarterback and team captain Taylor Kelly and the health status of linebacker and newly appointed team captain Laiu Moeakiola. The news trickled out Sunday night (per Doug Haller) and then more Monday morning from ArizonaSports.com’s Paul Calvisi:

The next podcast will focus on what the loss of Taylor Kelly means to this Sun Devil football program, but there was a game played Saturday. As some time has passed and the game is watched again in the Digital Video Recorder (DVR), here are some on-the-field items that stood out:

  • The Sun Devils started the game on fire and jumped to a 17-0 lead. However, similar to last week against New Mexico, the Sun Devils let down and had a flat second quarter. The Buffaloes pulled to within three points, but a terrific effort by safety Jordan Simone, who forced a fumble, stopped the Colorado momentum and the Sun Devils went into the half up 24-14.
  • In the second and third quarters, the Buffaloes had the ball for 29 minutes and 55 seconds compared to the Sun Devils 10 minutes and five seconds.
  • Overall, the Colorado offense gained 545 yards in 91 total offensive plays, and the Arizona State offense gained 426 yards in 60 total offensive plays. Yes, the Buffs had more plays and more yards than the Sun Devils.
  • Speaking of Simone, he led the defense Saturday night. Simone had 13 tackles, one interception, and one forced fumble. His interception saved Lloyd Carrington who was beaten deep down the field, and the forced fumble was a terrific effort to help fuel the Sun Devils when the team needed the boost of energy.
  • When Moeakiola left the game, Ezekiel Bishop entered the game at spur linebacker. Bishop was burnt by a Colorado tight end on the next drive, so the Sun Devils turned to true freshman Christian Sam. Recently, Sam had been backing playing WILL inbacker behind DJ Calhoun, but Sam played spur linebacker during the pre-season. Sam, the fourth true freshman getting significant defensive snaps in the second half, had a very good second half finishing the game with five tackles, one sack and the game-clinching interception.
  • The Sun Devils might have found their devil linebacker in Antonio Longino. Longino was all over the field, from sideline to sideline and deep into the Buffalo backfield, and he finished the game with 10 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, and one pass break-up. The tremendously athletic and physical Longino was a bright spot for this defense.
  • Marcus Hardison might have had his best game as a Sun Devil. Even though he only had three tackles and one sack on the scorecard, Hardison played discipline football along the line, holding down his end position. However, where has the real Salamo Fiso been? Fiso had six tackles on the evening. As the defensive leader of the front-seven, Fiso has high expectations to continually be the leader on the field. The defense struggled throughout the game with alignment issues. Then, in a key red zone defensive series, Alani Latu was playing SAM linebacker and not Fiso.
  • The Sun Devil defense continues to give up big plays. The defense lost the Colorado fullback twice for huge gains when the fullback should have been stopped for short gains. The Sun Devil defense committed a lot of players to the line of scrimmage on a big third down, and they got burned. The young defense does not appear to improving week to week.
  • The Sun Devils committed eight penalties for 59 yards.
    • Vi Teofilo – ineligible downfield
    • Jaelen Strong – offensive pass interference
    • Antonio Longino – defensive holding
    • Carrington – defensive pass interference
    • Carrington – defensive pass interference
    • Chad Adams – offsides on a kickoff
    • Tashon Smallwood – personal foul for roughing the passer
    • Offensive holding late in game
    • There was also an illegal snap on an extra point and a substitution infraction on the defense later in the game.
  • Speaking of snapping, scholarship long snapper Easton Wahlstrom did not play. Walk-on Donnie Shields was the long snapper, and he had two very poor snaps to punter Matt Haack.
  • Haack, who overcame those poor snaps, had a huge game in the thin Colorado air. Haack punted seven times with a 48.1 yards per punt average, with three punts over 50 yards, and three punts inside the Colorado 20.
  • On offense, the Sun Devils had a hard time catching the ball. Cameron Smith had a big drop on a third down red zone play in the first quarter. Strong dropped a key third down pass in the second quarter which would have been a nice completion to help stop the Buffalo momentum. DJ Foster even dropped a screen in the first half which would have went for big yards.
  • After our first “Sun Devil Stats Notebook” where we noticed that Sun Devil tight ends had zero receptions in the first two games, the Sun Devils used two tight end sets throughout the first quarter, and tight ends De’Marieya Nelson and Kody Kohl each had one reception. Nelson and Kohl were able to block strongly for Foster, and the two tight ends would create space for Foster to work in the receiving game.
  • With Taylor Kelly out, the Sun Devils failed to score a point in the last 23 minutes of the game. Somewhere in that time, quarterback Mike Bercovici missed a wide open Foster who would have had another long touchdown reception.

What have we learned? The Sun Devils are 3-0, #15 in the AP Poll, and #13 in the Coaches Poll. However, this win feels like a loss! Why? Well, it feels like a punch to the stomach loss because the Sun Devil starting quarterback, a charismatic and vocal leader for the past two seasons and two and half games, came out of the locker room on crutches, with a walking boot on his right foot, and sat like a statue, with a steady look of deep sadness and pain even though the game was still close. The defense needs to regroup and refocus as a unit. The offense needs to get behind Bercovici and extra time must be spent on the timing between the skill position players and the new starting quarterback. These are necessary adjustments needed in order for the Sun Devils to achieve their program goals. The Sun Devils must respond with the best ten days of prepartion before the Thursday night blackout on FoxSports1.

About Don Hansen

Don Hansen

Don is a 2003 graduate of Arizona State University where he spent four years sitting in the front rows of many ASU athletic events leading the rowdy student section. Now, Don co-hosts the "ASU Devils Den" podcast covering every detail of ASU football. Don works and resides in Gilbert, Arizona with his beautiful Sun Devil wife and their two beautiful daughters!

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