What we learned: Sutton tough, Kelly raw
NOV 04, 2012 12:11p ET
The road to the Pac-12 title game Nov. 30 got a whole lot tougher with the loss, as ASU sits a game behind South division leader UCLA, which also holds the tiebreaker over ASU thanks to its win in Tempe last week.
That road also goes through Los Angeles, where ASU will try to keeps its season alive next weekend against USC. But before we look ahead, we look back at the loss to Oregon State and what we learned.
WHAT WE LEARNED
1. Will Sutton is as tough as he is talented. Sutton took his place on ASU's defensive line Saturday after missing the previous two games (except the first play against Oregon) with a bone bruise on his knee. He was less than 100 percent, but it hardly showed. On the game's second play, Sutton's pressure contributed to Oregon State quarterback Cody Vaz's fumble, which ASU defensive end Junior Onyeali picked up for an easy touchdown. Sutton finished with two tackles and a sack in limited snaps. At one point, Sutton left the game after coming up slow and having his knee checked out on the field, but he returned later. Only Sutton, and perhaps coaches, knows what his pain level was Saturday, but anybody could see how his presence changed ASU's defense. Almost every time the Beavers made a big play, such as Terron Ward's 53-yard touchdown run, Sutton was on the sidelines. Even at less than 100 percent, Sutton's presence is a game changer.
2. Taylor Kelly is still a little raw. ASU's 5-1 start, which was partially the product of a favorable schedule, might have created an inflated perception of Taylor Kelly. He had not started a Division I game prior to this year, and ASU's schedule offered a relatively easy transition while he gained experience and confidence. However, as ASU's opponents have gotten tougher, Kelly has come back to Earth. He struggled mightily Saturday, finishing 22 of 41 passing with 153 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Kelly's decision-making at times looked like that of an inexperienced quarterback, but that's not necessarily surprising considering that the past few games have been Kelly's first tests against good teams. We're not saying Kelly should lose his starting job -- he was impressive rallying ASU back against UCLA -- or that he's not the answer at quarterback, just that we are seeing a more realistic version of Kelly, albeit one that should learn from this experience.
3. Mistakes are still killing ASU. Early in the season, the Sun Devils could get away with some mistakes, but at this time of the year and against the recent caliber of opponents, mistakes will prove costly. They did against UCLA and again against Oregon State, though coach Todd Graham admitted the Beavers were just the better team Saturday. For the second straight week, Onyeali kept an opponent's drive alive with a roughing-the-passer penalty. Again, the opponent took advantage by putting points on the board. There were also a number of missed tackles and blown coverages, which more than once led to big plays for Oregon State. Mistakes happen, but if the frequency with which they have occurred for ASU lately continues, it will be hard to overcome them.
-- ASU scored on three of four red-zone chances Saturday. Two of those scores were touchdowns. Still, ASU's red-zone ineffectiveness has been a problem. The Sun Devils rank 86th nationally in red-zone offense with 40 scores in 52 chances. On the other side, ASU's red-zone defense ranks 93rd nationally, having allowed scores on 25 of opponents' 29 red-zone chances.
-- With a punt blocked out the back of the end zone, Kevin Ayers gave ASU its first safety since Sept 4, 2010, against Portland State.
-- Cameron Marshall's first-quarter touchdown Saturday gave him 35 for his ASU career, putting him alone in second place on the school's all-time rushing touchdowns list. He is eight behind Woody Green, who holds the school record. Marshall also surpassed 2,500 career rushing yards, moving into 10th on ASU's all-time rushing list with 2,508 yards.
-- Junior Chris Coyle had five receptions Saturday to bring his team-best total to 43. With three games remaining, Coyle is 13 receptions shy of Zach Miller's school record of 56.
-- Five different players recorded sacks for ASU on Saturday, including linebacker Steffon Martin for the first time in his career. Carl Bradford also recorded a sack, his third in the past two games. ASU ranks second in the nation with 4.22 sacks per game and second in tackles for loss with 9.11 per game. ASU trails Stanford in both categories.
-- Josh Hubner had another big night punting, booting it eight times for an average of 47.2 yards and a long of 66. With a punt average of 47.42 on the season, Hubner ranks third in the nation.
ASU on Sunday announced next week's game, on Saturday against USC at the Coliseum, will kick off at 1 p.m. Arizona time, noon in Los Angeles.