Bumped - P
The Trojans got the win in a crazy game at the Coliseum, but how did they score in the report card?
Statistically, Matt Barkley didn't have a bad day. He completed 70% of his passes. He threw three touchdowns. His passer rating was 135. But stats don't tell the whole story and the whole story is this: Barkley's two costly interceptions kept the Sun Devils in the game. The first was a bad read and an example of red zone greed. He forced a throw into the end zone instead taking the safe option and hitting Stanley Havili underneath (made more devastating because it killed the momentum of a blocked punt). The second was just a poor throw over the head of David Ausberry which was tipped right into the hands of an ASU defender who took it to the house.
Running backs: B+
The Trojan running backs had a decent day against the very good rush defense of ASU. Dillon Baxter did an admirable job in his first start, but it was Marc Tyler who stole the show with 119 yards on 12 carries, 5 catches for 32 yards and a pretty little run-after-catch touchdown. Unfortunately, injuries seem determined to limit Tyler's chance to really shine. Havili also had a nice touchdown catch.
Ausberry and Brice Butler deserve credit for stepping up and putting in solid performances. But the relative silence of Robert Woods and Ronald Johnson was deafening. After the game Kiffin revealed that Woods had been in the hospital with back pain and vomiting (apparently unrelated to each other) so his absence was understandable. What's more, it explained why he couldn't close on Barkley's opening pass for an easy touchdown (Given Wood's usual speed, it was not overthrown). But Johnson was also notably and surprisingly quiet.
Offensive Line: B-
Against a strong Sun Devil defensive line, the Trojan offensive line did a fairly good job of opening up holes. But they also gave up four sacks. And on most of those sacks Barkley had no chance to avoid them from the get go.
Individually no one on offense had a truly terrible game, but collectively the offense just wasn't clicking. The play calling seemed much less creative and the execution was clearly lacking. This grade is a product of knowing that this offense is capable of so much more.
Marshall Jones may not have earned the start, but he certainly earned more playing time with his performance. Just his presence seemed to make a difference and he had a couple key pass break ups. TJ McDonald led the team in tackles and just seemed "on" all night in every arena. This was by far the best performance by the safeties this year.
Shareece Wright turned in a strong performance with two passes broken up and all around the pass coverage was much tighter. Just the fact that Steven Threet didn't tear apart the secondary like others have this season is reason to celebrate. Having said that, Arizona State found way too much success with their bubble screens. Also Torin Harris was exposed on several occasions and missed far too many tackles. Still, this squad avoids the C+ because they exceeded expectations.
What a way to return from injury. Malcolm Smith showed us what we were missing the past few weeks, logging a 74 yard pick six, a sack, a tackle for loss, and a forced fumble. All in all, the combination of Smith, Galippo and Kennard seemed to work well. One question: where was Shane Horton?
Defensive Line: B+
Nick Perry had two tackles for loss. Jurrell Casey and DaJohn Harris were in the fray each with half a sack. Wes Horton had a pass break up. And throughout the game Steven Threet was harassed by the line. But the best moment of the game for this group was the caravan of D Linemen running the full 74 yards with Malcolm Smith on his interception, with Casey lending the final block to get the linebacker in the end zone.
The Sun Devils have a potent offense but the defense kept up with them logging one of their best performances of the season. The same defense that seemed like it could get lit up by a high school team no longer looks like such a liability.
Special Teams: ???
Is it possible to have your best and worst special teams game simultaneously? Apparently it is because that's what we saw from the Trojans last night. In the bad category there were two missed field goals from make-able range and some awful kick coverage that led to a 100 yard kick off return. In the good category there was a blocked punt (and a couple more than may have been tipped), a blocked extra kick that was returned for an incredibly important two points, four punts fielded inside the 20 for Jacob Harfman and a clutch game winning field goal (followed by a not clutch ASU miss). TJ McDonald's great night on defense was bolstered by a great night on special teams. Torin Harris' terrible night on defense was redeemed by his blocked kick return (with an asterisk for his unsportsmanlike conduct at the end). And Joe Houston, the early goat, somehow emerged the hero. What a game.