(Photo: ASU Athletics)
For the first time all year, the Arizona State Sun Devils played a complete game against a quality opponent, dismantling Washington 53-24.
The Sun Devils fell behind early, but midway through the first quarter the light bulb seemed to turn on, and the Sun Devils dominated the next 50 minutes of football. Arizona State was good on offense and great on defense, shutting down the Huskies ninth ranked offense. This win should help propel Arizona State back into the national rankings.
It was over when: Taylor Kelly found Chris Coyle for a 14-yard touchdown with 14 seconds remaining in the first half to put the Sun Devils up 29-7. The Huskies needed to get into the half and regroup, but a fumbled punt setup the final score of the first half and the Sun Devils finally started scoring touchdowns instead of field goals.
Player of the Game: Marion Grice finally eclipsed the 100-yard mark, rushing for 158 yards on 21 carries and finding the end zone three times (one receiving). It was a career day for the junior-college transfer, as his 158 yards set his second-best performance on the ground in his time at ASU, one yard behind his 159-yard performance in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against Navy at the end of last season. Grice was fantastic from the start, finding huge running lanes and making Washington defenders miss in space. The play of the game was an incredible touchdown catch by Grice early in the second quarter that really seemed to set the Sun Devils on their way.
Biggest Concern: The health of Jaelen Strong. The Sun Devils’ leading receiver had three receptions for 7 yards and left the game early in the third quarter with an undisclosed injury. Several other Sun Devils stepped up in his absence, but Arizona State can ill afford to lose Strong for an extended period of time. Having an extra five days off between games should help.
Unsung Hero: Gannon Conway was incredible for the Sun Devils, setting the edge all night and serving as a key cog in stopping Washington stud running back Bishop Sankey. Sankey ran for just 22 yards on 13 carries, despite entering the game with 899 yards on the season. This was easily the worst game of the season for Sankey, and a lot of that had to do with the job Conway did from the defensive end position.
Stat of the Game: -5. That’s how many yards the Huskies ran for as a team. Sankey had just 22 yards, while quarterback Keith Price, usually a dual threat, was sacked at will and held without a big run, rushing for -26 yards. The Sun Devils have struggled against the run since Todd Graham arrived, but that changed today. If Arizona State can continue this type of performance going forward, they will be a tough team for anyone to beat.
What’s Next? The Sun Devils get an extended break before traveling to Pullman, WA to take on the Washington State Cougars. The Cougars had a huge win against USC earlier this year, but have struggled in other big games. The Cougars are 4-3 entering tonight’s tilt with Oregon.
Editor: Updated to accurately reflect Grice’s adjusted rushing yards, which was released following the end of the game