BOULDER–Much like last weekend in Albuquerque it wasn’t close to perfect but the Arizona State Sun Devils (3-0, 1-0) remain unbeaten starting Pac-12 play with a tougher-than-expected 38-24 win over Colorado (1-2, 0-1). Todd Graham’s team will now get a rest before their Thursday night showdown against UCLA (3-0) on September 25th. ASU is 3-0 for the first time since 2007.
Here are five things we learned in the win.
1. Foot Fetish…no bigger storyline than ASU playing the entire fourth quarter without starting quarterback Taylor Kelly who left with a right foot injury after landing awkwardly after being tackled late in the third quarter. He later returned to the sideline despondent, on crutches and his right foot in a boot. It ended another efficient night for the senior who completed 13-21 for 195 yards and three touchdowns. The Eagle, Idaho native added another 70 and a score on six carries. Kelly’s replacement Mike Bercovici struggled completing two of four for just eight yards. The Devils’ offense was shutout in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in [Mike] Bercovici,” Todd Graham said after the game. “He prepares like he is playing every week.”
ASU also lost their defensive captain Laiu Moeakiola in the game with an apparant shoulder injury. The status of both is unknown for the next game against UCLA.
2. CU Later…as has been the theme through the first three games of 2014 the Devils started fast jumping out to a quick 14-0 first-quarter lead out gaining the Buffaloes 222-22. Running back D.J. Foster tallied 130 total yards by himself as the Devils set the tone on both sides of the ball. History has shown good things happen when ASU leads at halftime: they’ve never lost in the Todd Graham Era. They’re 15-1 under Graham when holding opponents scoreless in the first quarter.
3. Simon(e) Says…redshirt junior safety Jordan Simone lost his starting job two weeks ago then bounced back with a solid game against New Mexico (seven tackles, fumble recovery). Saturday night the Washington State transfer intercepted a pass (the Devils’ first of the season) in ASU territory, forced a key fumble setting up a Kelly touchdown pass and made a number of potential touchdown-saving tackles in the second half, including a fourth-down stop in the ASU red zone. Simone (double-digit tackles) and in the second half, cornerback Lloyd Carrington’s efforts were the lone bright spots in an ASU secondary which missed tackles and allowed several chunk plays. CU out gained ASU 545-427.
“Every week you have to keep getting better,” said Simone after the game. “I am just doing what the coaches ask me to do. Our defense, the safety’s, are the playmakers. Without those ten other guys I’m nothing, so I have to give them all the credit in the world.”
4. Sloppy Sun Devils…the growing pains with a young team, especially on defense, were expected but besides the missed tackles and busted coverages, Graham won’t be pleased when he turns on the film and sees a handful of “critical errors” and an uncharacteristically high eight penalties for 59 yards.
“The biggest thing I didn’t like was the eight penalties which I think is a record in my tenure,” mentioned Graham. “And really, really dumb penalties. We cannot have those. That was the most penalties we’ve ever had and they were all legit penalties…That’s coaching. penalties are coaching, so we have to do a better job with that.”
5. Haack Eye…one area where ASU has struggled over the past year-plus is on special teams. Saturday night sophomore punter Matt Haack (pronounced “hawk”) had arguably his best game dropping three punts inside the Colorado 20, including one at the one-yard-line. He averaged over 48 yards per punt on seven attempts in the thin mountain air. His improved punting will be crucial as ASU enters the meat of their schedule in the coming weeks.