(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
In last week’s victory over then-No. 7 UCLA, Arizona State saw a dominant performance from the defense. It was one that carried the rest of the team to the promised land of upsets, and it seemed to revamp the entire Sun Devil football season.
Not to take credit from the defense’s head-hunting against Colorado, but it was the offense’s night to hog the spotlight in the 48-23 repression of the Buffaloes..
For starters, the Sun Devils came out of the gates better than they have all year. Sophomore running back Demario Richard’s fumble into the hands of junior tight end Kody Kohl which resulted in a 28-yard touchdown run was the first ASU touchdown on its opening possession of the season.
“Obviously, you never want to put the ball on the ground, but if it does, we practice those situations,” Bercovici said. “Fumble drills, hectic situations, and Kody (Kohl) is one of the smartest football players on our team.”
Kohl’s explosive first half wouldn’t end there though, as the ensuing ASU drive would result in Kohl finding the endzone for a second time on a four-yard touchdown reception following an interception by freshman safety Kareem Orr.
“It’s really important that we start fast,” Graham said. “Obviously, I think we’re a team that plays well from ahead.”
The tight end had three catches for 32 yards to go along with his two touchdowns in the first half, and if Kohl is rolling, then odds are the rest of the offense is as well.
ASU converted 3-of-4 third downs in the opening quarter compared to its typically mediocre conversion percentage of 39 percent. Redshirt senior quarterback Mike Bercovici had a near flawless quarter, completing 10-13 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown but also threw an interception.
While the second quarter may have been a different story where Bercovici ended the half 12-20 with 155 yards and two touchdowns, he got right back to where he left off after halftime.
Bercovici’s second completion of the half was to familiar target, redshirt junior wide receiver Tim White. The pass bounced off a Colorado defender and into White’s hands, and he slipped past the remaining Buffaloes in his way to find the endzone.
“Tim is one of the most selfless players on our football team,” Bercovici said. “He’s a team player, so you know you can count on him wherever he’s at on the football field.”
Although it may not have been how ASU drew it up, White found a way to get it done, which is something he has done all year. To go along with the 38-yard touchdown reception he caught in the first quarter, White put together a huge performance finishing with seven catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns and proved himself to be a real deep-threat for this offense after executing a lot of pitch-and-catch plays for most of the season.
“Wow, there’s lots of things I like about Tim White,” ASU head coach Todd Graham said. “Such a great young man, a guy that exemplifies what our program is about. And I think he’s improved every week as a returner. I think he’s getting better with his route running. He’s a guy that I love getting the ball quickly where he can have time to do things with it.”
There was one area of the Sun Devil offense that didn’t take off like it typically does in blowout wins, and that was on the ground.
Richard as well as fellow sophomore running back Kalen Ballage combined for 23 carries and 66 yards, and Richard’s carries seemed to be limited after his fumble in the first quarter. Bercovici and Kohl had actually combined for more rushing yards than Richard and Ballage for the game. Richard was seen after the game on crutches walking back to the locker room.
One can view the passing-running discrepancy as somewhat of an issue, but seeing a repeat performance through the air following last week’s passing attack is a great sign for things to come, as the Sun Devils passing game hasn’t been what we are used to seeing.
Similarly, the Sun Devils cashed in on all of their opportunities inside the redzone. This was an area that they have struggled with leading up to this game, scoring touchdowns on 13-of-23 trips inside the 20 yard line this season, and 18–for-23 overall.
ASU finished the game 5-for-5 inside the redzone and settled for field goals twice.
Bercovici finished 20-for-31 with 260 yards and five touchdowns (tying his career high) in his best individual performance of the year while leading the offensive unit in what was a collective season-best. The offense scored a season-high 48 points, and this onslaught through the air could not have come at a better time for ASU as it’ll look to keep things rolling against No. 5 Utah next week in Salt Lake City.