Redshirt junior Taylor Kelly had two costly interceptions at the end of the Notre Dame game, but he’s still proving himself to be a very explosive quarterback. Kelly threw for 362 yards and three touchdowns in the loss and helped erase an 11-point deficit in the second half. Oregon redshirt sophomore Marcus Mariota threw for five touchdowns against the Colorado defense last Saturday, so Kelly should have no problem putting points on the board.
Junior Connor Wood has thrown for 1,092 yards and eight touchdowns through the Buffaloes’ first four games this season, but he has also thrown six interceptions, including two last Saturday against Oregon. Wood certainly has the big play ability and aggressiveness, but that aggressiveness has gotten him into trouble this season.
Offensive coordinator Mike Norvell has abandoned the running game five games into the season. The Sun Devils passed 47 times compared to 25 rushes against Notre Dame, and senior Marion Grice is still only averaging 4.0 yards per carry. Redshirt junior Deantre Lewis and sophomore D.J. Foster didn’t see any action against the Fighting Irish after combining for over 100 yards against USC the week prior.
Like the Sun Devils, the Buffaloes haven’t been very good rushing the ball this season, averaging only 3.11 yards per carry. Sophomore Christian Powell leads the Buffaloes with 163 rushing yards on the season, and 81 of those came against the Ducks. The Buffaloes haven’t recorded a rushing touchdown through their four games this season. Colorado has been even less effective than ASU on the ground.
Redshirt sophomore Jaelen Strong continues to be the most viable option at receiver and his 36-yard touchdown grab on fourth down against Notre Dame was spectacular. Senior Kevin Ozier caught four passes for 63 yards and redshirt junior De’Marieya Nelson caught his second touchdown of the season against the Fighting Irish. Sophomore Rick Smith continues to struggle though, and his fumble turned into seven points for the Fighting Irish last Saturday.
Junior Paul Richardson is an elite receiver and the Buffaloes’ best player on offense. He already has 621 receiving yards and five touchdowns through four games, including 134 yards against Oregon. Sophomore Nelson Spruce is the other viable receiving option for the Buffaloes, and he has 206 yards and a touchdown this season.
The offensive line allowed six sacks against Notre Dame and countless other pressure throughout the game. It was a very poor performance for the group, especially considering the unit had its best game of the season the previous week against USC. The line will need to become more consistent if the Sun Devils want to win going forward.
The Sun Devils allowed six sacks last week, and that’s how many the Buffaloes have given up all season. Like ASU, the Buffaloes’ line hasn’t been able to get the run game in motion. The line allowed two sacks to Oregon though, and this could be the week the Sun Devils’ defensive line starts to turn things around.
The Sun Devils’ defense didn’t force a sack against Notre Dame, the first time a Todd Graham defense hadn’t done so since his final season at Tulsa, a span of 32 games. The line just couldn’t put pressure on Fighting Irish senior quarterback Tommy Rees, who threw for three touchdowns. It’s apparent how important sophomore Jaxon Hood is to the line, and if he can return this week or even next, it would be a big boost.
Senior defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe has been a force all season and his six tackles for loss leads the team. The rest of the defensive line has combined for only three sacks and three tackles for loss. The Sun Devils will most likely give another stab at their dormant rushing attack against the Buffaloes, but Uzo-Diribe is not the guy to do it against, and he had three tackles for loss against Oregon.
Redshirt freshman Salamo Fiso and senior senior Steffon Martin finished tied for third on the team with seven tackles each against Notre Dame. Both players have been competing for the SAM linebacker spot, but both saw the majority of game action against the Fighting Irish because of senior SPUR linebacker Anthony Jones’ struggles. Nothing too special from this group recently, but maybe the addition of Fiso to the starting rotation will start to make an impact.
Freshman Addison Gillam leads the team with 51 tackles and is second behind Uzo-Diribe with four tackles for loss this season. Senior Derrick Webb isn’t far behind Gillam, ranking second on the team with 32 tackles. Gilliam had 15 tackles, including two tackles for loss, against Oregon.
The secondary battled hard against the Notre Dame receivers and redshirt junior safety Damarious Randall had 17 tackles and played the most since his arrival in Tempe. Senior cornerback Osahon Irabor continues to be consistent, but fellow senior Robert Nelson struggled against the Fighting Irish. Senior safety Alden Darby didn’t play well either and had a pass interference called against him.
Junior safety Greg Henderson has four interceptions on the season and picked off Mariota twice last week. The secondary has recorded six total interceptions so far this season, which includes two that have been returned to the house. The secondary has also allowed 326.8 passing yards per game.
Freshman placekicker Zane Gonzalez hit both of his field goal attempts, including tying his career-long of 40 yards. Freshman Matt Haack (38.4 yards per punt) didn’t boom the ball, but he caught every one cleanly and there were no turnovers on special teams. The issues are still lingering, though. Fighting Irish senior receiver T.J. Jones had a nice punt return after multiple missed tackles and the Sun Devils went offside on a kickoff.
Junior placekicker Will Oliver is 9-10 on field goals this season, with his only miss coming from over 50 yards, but he’s also hit a 52-yarder. Junior punter Darragh O’Neill is averaging 36.9 yards per punt this season and placed 11 punts inside the 20-yard line.
Overall EDGE: ASU
The four-game stretch from hell is over for the Sun Devils, and the conference slate is finally here. First up is the Buffaloes, who are much improved but still aren’t on the level of the Sun Devils. Plus, the game is at Sun Devil Stadium, where the Sun Devils are 3-0 this season. Barring a complete collapse, the Sun Devils should pick up their second conference victory of the season.
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