(Photo: Sun Devil Athletics)
The game of the year turned out to be pretty uncompetitive, as No. 5 Stanford dominated No. 23 Arizona State, 42-28, in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score may suggest. The Cardinal were prepared for a war, but the Sun Devils rolled over and played dead from the opening kickoff.
It was over when: Todd Graham and the Sun Devils won the opening toss and deferred, thinking he could prove a point with his defense. That would’ve worked, except Stanford brought the opening kick out near the 50. The Sun Devils forced Stanford to kick a field goal, which the Cardinal missed, but Taylor Kelly threw an interception on his first series and the game was over at that point.
Player of the Game: Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan remained undefeated as a starter, and he looked like a big game quarterback tonight. Hogan completed 11 of 17 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns, and also made several big plays with his feet. While he wasn’t perfect, he made the plays when it mattered, including a great boot run to seal the game late.
Biggest Concern: The Sun Devils weren’t prepared for this one. Just like last year, when the first road game at Missouri ended with sloppy play, the Sun Devils looked lost across the field. Bad tackling, penalties, more miscues on special teams and an anemic offense meant Arizona State never had a chance Saturday night.
The biggest concern from a personnel standpoint has to be the injury to starting defensive tackle Jaxon Hood. The sophomore went down early with a leg injury and never came back. Senior Jake Sheffield replaced him, but Sheffield is not an adequate replacement. The Sun Devils are deep all over the defensive side of the ball, except at…wait for it…defensive tackle. Losing Hood would be problematic against USC and Notre Dame.
Unsung Hero: Can it be anyone other than Jaelen Strong? Once again, Strong was the only receiver to truly show up. He had a game-high 12 catches for 168 yards and a score. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Strong is the real deal, and he’s also likely gone after this year.
Stat of the Game: 50. The Sun Devils were held to just 50 yards on the ground. Stanford’s front seven dominated the line of scrimmage, not allowing Marion Grice any breathing room. Grice’s darkhorse Heisman candidacy, by the way, is history after tonight.
What’s Next? The Sun Devils return to Tempe to take on USC, who, despite being 3-1 on the season, have not looked good against anyone. On paper Arizona State should roll to a big win, and if the team rebounds from two bad performances in back-to-back weeks the way we all expect, it will be. But this Sun Devil team has been pretty bad the last two weeks at all of the little things, and if they do that again USC has a chance to pull one out. Plus, the Trojans have to have redemption on their minds after the walloping they took at Sun Devil Stadium in 2011.
You can reach Jason Galvin on Twitter @Jason_Galvin or by email email@example.com