The UA’s report card for its 58-21 road loss at Arizona State
Quarterbacks: D-: Saturday night’s game was one of B.J. Denker’s worst this season. The senior, one week after a brilliant performance against Oregon, completed just 15 of 30 passes for 175 yards. He didn’t throw any touchdowns and was intercepted three times. His third quarter interception was the most damaging. Damarious Randall picked Denker off and returned it 64 yards for a touchdown. At that time, the UA was down just 16 and driving to score. It was Denker’s first three-interception game of the season. He did manage to rush for 87 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries in the lopsided loss.
Running backs: B: Ka’Deem Carey got his yards, rushing for 157 yards and a touchdown on 32 attempts. But he had just 23 yards on six carries in the first quarter when the UA offense had trouble getting going. The Arizona State defensive line had its way early with the UA’s offense line and was often in the backfield before Carey had a chance to do anything. The junior was a beast on Arizona’s first drive of the second half when the Wildcats cut it to 16, but didn’t get much help after that. Carey went over 4,000 career yards in the loss and had his 15th straight 100-yard game.
Wide receivers: C-: This group didn’t have any glaring mistakes, but also didn’t do much to help out Denker. Garic Wharton, who had been very quiet in recent weeks, had a surprisingly active game with four catches for 76 yards. Trey Griffey was also solid for the third straight week with four catches for 59 yards. Freshmen Nate Phillips and Samajie Grant, who were both big parts of the passing attack this season, combined for four catches for just 19 yards.
Offensive line: D: ASU’s defensive line and linebackers were all over the UA’s front five. The Sun Devils had eight tackles for loss and the UA’s line had trouble blocking linebacker Carl Bradford had four tackles for loss and a sack in the win. Twice in the second quarter, Carey was stuffed on fourth-and-1 and both times had nowhere to run when he got the ball from Denker. Coming off its strongest performance of the season, Saturday against the Sun Devils is surely a performance this group would like to have back.
Front six: C- End Sione Tuihalamaka had three sacks, but most came after ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly did most of his damage. The front six had trouble containing sophomore running back D.J. Foster, who was filling in for starter Marion Grice (leg injury). Foster had 124 yards on 23 carries and added two touchdowns. Kelly often had too much time to throw, despite an unimpressive line of 12 for 25 for 274 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. This group was hurt by the fact that five of ASU’s drives started in UA territory.
Back five: C-: Surrendering big passing plays was again a problem for the UA’s secondary. Jaelen Strong had a 61-yard touchdown catch and also had a 50-yard haul in the second quarter. Kelly also found Darwin Rogers for a 38-yard score. Kelly didn’t complete a lot of passes on this group, but the ones he did went for good chunks of yards. Cornerback Jonathan McKnight had a meaningless interception late. Safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant finished 1 ½ tackles for loss, but didn’t seem like a huge factor.
Special teams: D-: It was a pretty ugly performance from the special teams unit for the second time in three games. Drew Riggleman had a 12-yard punt in the first quarter, which gave ASU great field position early. He finished with an average of 41.2 yards per punt, but the 12-yarder is what will stick out. Jake Smith attempted only one field goal, a 42-yarder, but missed it left. Rich Rodriguez said after the game, he wished he would have gone for it, rather than try a field goal. Daniel Jenkins fumbled on a kickoff return in the second half.