Overall Opining-In a game where you are playing the only team that most people have said are better than you, and you beat them, that is reason to celebrate. What I have a hard time swallowing is that this could have been a much more potent win in so many ways. I have always said that my analysis is based on facts and I try to use stats to confirm those facts, but at the end of the day my opinion is just that, opinion. Some of what I say is not going to be all sunshine and roses, and many would ask why would I speak in any negative light regarding a win against a team that many thought we would lose to? My answer is simple, we are the vastly better team and we played like it for the first half and the second half decided to sit on a lead and let our defense carry the entire load. I will get into this later, but first grade time.
Our offense performed well last night when they were allowed to actually play. Harrison Stewart had another good night going 17/27 for 212 yards and one TD toss to Seth Smith. He really showed how much better his touch on the deep ball is and his arm strength was a big key to moving the ball last night. Now, two knocks on Harrison. First, he took way too many sacks that he had could have easily avoided by just throwing the ball away, and this is not what he usually does. In the past if he does find a guy open he lets it fly where either his intended receiver can catch it or it is going out of bounds, very uncharacteristic of him, and his line did not help the cause by making him run for life on many of those sacks, but unlike a previous QB we had that need not be mentioned, I believe he will work to break that and learn to roll out and if a play breaks down just hit some fat guy in the east side stands with his pass and die another down. The second thing is that he needs to learn to trust his arm on the short screens that he throws into the ground. His arm is so strong I think he tries to compensate for it by under throwing it when he just needs to just fire it in there. He can throw it a mile with good touch so don’t tell me he can’t throw a catch-able ball 10 yards away. Overall though, he was very efficient and when he did get sacked, he held onto the ball. The running backs both played very well but when the speed sweeps and off tackle lead plays were working, why were we forcing the issue up the middle when that was not working? Cooper and Theo did what they do, gashed and moved the chains. The receivers also played very well, no drops and they did get open. Lance Evans had a great catch to set up the first offensive score of the game.
B Plus A Minus.
I would have given this group an A, especially when you shut down a Harlon Hill candidate winner. The defense made life very uncomfortable for Kyle Washington and ASU did not run the ball well on us at all, it was all through the air. Also, the D-Line was constantly putting the pressure on Washington as well and forcing him to make quick throws. The reason I cannot give an A out is simply due to this…..you cannot give up two late scores, and what makes it worse is that is not their fault. The offense was going three and out or 4 and out and the defense was having to go back out there after maybe about 2-3 mins of rest and putting the load on them. If the legs had been fresh, that would not have happened. Again, this was on the coaching staff by sitting on a lead and making the defense so tired they gave up two scores. This was against the best offense in the country. They hit hard, hit fast and punished ASU. Oh what the heck, give these guys an A. Pick six, fumble recovery, and you held one of the best players in the nation at bay. That is an A effort and an A performance. I do grade on a curve.
Special Teams- A Plus
Oh special teams, I have to give this group an A. Forced two huge turnovers, gave us good field position on punts and kickoffs, played amazing coverage and Chase Thrasher was under pressure all night long and his punts just got bigger and better the more he was out there. They went full speed ahead on the coverage delivered some serious hits, and Kris Martinez was 5 for 5 on PAT’s and hit a chip shot FG that proved to be the game winner. This game was won because of special teams. and their exceptional play, and the return for a TD was much needed.
I only gave a C because we won, and HC Carthel did a great job of preparing this group to make a statement on national TV. The play calling at the end of the game was horrendous and could have easily cost us the game. I have no idea if there were circumstances that were forcing us to play so conservatively, but if this was plan to get a lead and then do nothing on offense, I do not like that. Forget that, keep the foot on the gas and fire everything you have at them. You have an efficient and good QB, fast and explosive receivers, a line that blocks well, and two great backs. Why would you not trust them to keep scoring when all season that is what they have done? Also, if you are going to run, why not the run the plays that were getting you the yards? The timing of the play calling was also head scratching. I hate to question the game plan of a very good staff, probably the best in the conference, but I just have to ask those questions.
Richard Cooper and Darby Smith for Co-MVP’s. Cooper did his thing getting the chains moving, and Darby Smith caught 7 of Stewart’s completions. They were both equally important and neither made mistakes.
The entire defensive line. They kept ASU from getting anything going on the ground offensively and with the exception of one or two Washington runs, they whipped ASU’s O line and made life very unpleasant for the ASU backfield.
Chase Thrasher. ASU tried their best to come after him on punts and every time they did, just would outdo himself on his previous punt by knocking them high and long. He needed those and he delivered, I have no reservation had he not kicked the ball as well as he did and avoided the blitzes to block him we probably would not have won.