Arizona State State left no doubt Thursday night in Pullman, Washington jumping out to an early 21-0 lead and rolling to a 55-21 win over Washington State to improve to 6-2, 4-1 in Pac-12 play. ASU is now bowl eligible. Here are five things we learned from the Devils blowout in the Palouse, their first road win of the season.
1. The bye week was big: Head coach Todd Graham said the week off was much-needed after their brutal stretch of games the past month or so. He even kept the players out of pads all week in hopes of keeping them fresh Thursday. Smart move. The offense and defense was so dominant early, the game was essentially over before the end of the first quarter. Taylor Kelly was brilliant (again) and the defense forced three-straight three-and-outs (again) as the Devils jumped out to a 21-0 lead and never looked back. TK accounted for six touchdowns (four passing, two rushing) by halftime. They were 5-6 on third down and averaged nearly six yards a carry in the first half. Kelly finished 22-31, 275 yards and five touchdown passes (seven total). He was intercepted once.
2. Trick and treat…twice: Graham and the Devils played keep away twice when it appeared the Wazzu defense forced stops and momentum had swung towards the Cougars in the third quarter. First, former high school fullback Carl Bradford sprinted 20 yards setting up a Kelly to D.J. Foster 23-yard touchdown. Later, kickoff specialist and punter Alex Garoutte patiently let the play unfold rolling to his right and streaking 19 yards upfield towards the WSU sidelines on fourth and four. A tip of the cap to Graham for having the guts to call the first and Garoutte for taking what was given when it didn’t appear to be a straight fake. Both plays demoralized the Cougs defense and the crowd.
3. Nifty 50: It’s easy to see why Graham called offensive coordinator Mike Norvell the best play-caller he’s ever worked with and why many inside the program and out believe the 31-year old will be a head coach soon. ASU scored 50+ for the fifth time in eight games and fourth time in conference play. Scary to think how many points the Devils could have scored had they not taken their foot off the gas against both Washington schools in the fourth quarter with the games out of reach. They also went over 500 total yards for the third-straight game and fifth time in 2013.
4. The Rich Get Richard: Sophomore wide receiver Richard Smith, who has struggled with drops and confidence issues, led the Sun Devils with 79 receiving yards on three receptions. He adjusted nicely to an under thrown Kelly deep ball and reeled it in for a 51-yard score. Smith’s progression would allow the Devils to spread the field even more and keep defenses honest with his speed. Adding Smith to the mix of Jaelen Strong, Chris Coyle, Grice, Foster and others is downright scary with Kelly pulling the trigger.
5. Staying on Schedule: Graham said after the Washington win on October 19 the Devils control their own destiny as long as they continue to win. Thursday’s romp gives confidence to a team which has struggled away from Tempe. ASU had no problems in chilly but clear Pullman and may very well see similar weather in Salt Lake City next weekend. It appears ASU and UCLA are heading for a collision course at the Rose Bowl on November 23 which will likely decide the Pac-12 South.