They are the forgotten ones. The unsung heroes. The faceless giants the casual fan could not pick out of a crowd. The quarterback’s security blanket. The “slow, fat guys” who often hold a team’s offensive success and failure in their massive hands. They are the offensive line. And Arizona State’s shield as they navigate one of the toughest schedules in college football and a huge factor in putting up a record 62 points on USC last Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium.
The unit kept quarterback Taylor Kelly upright, not surrendering a sack, allowing just three tackles for loss and paving the way for a 6.5 yard average on the ground. A statement game for a position that was criticized following the loss against Stanford, allowing three sacks and gaining just 50 yards on the ground.
“It started off with these five,” said Kelly of the line when they joined him for the post-game news conference. “They came to work all week and they didn’t allow a sack tonight. They’re doing a great job. They’re starting to come together. I believe in these guys. We’re going to keep working, establish our running game, and then our offense starts going.”
The first team, lead by seniors Evan Finkenberg and Kody Koebensky, have started to come together with 2012 holdover Jamil Douglas and new starters Tyler Sulka and Vi Teofilo to form an energetic, aggressive group that has balanced ability in run and pass blocking, as well as the athleticism to get upfield on screens. They have also keyed Marion Grice’s strong season, providing the assist on his 12 total touchdowns in the first four games.
Head Coach Todd Graham has taken notice of their ability.
“I am really proud (of the offensive line). Our kids deserve all the credit. They got after it,” said Graham after the USC game. “I challenged them and I said we have got to come off the football and knock these guys off the ball. We felt like we could.”
The line will face another big test as the Devils travel to Dallas this Saturday to face Notre Dame; another team with a talented defensive front, including senior tackle Louis Nix III and 2012 Freshman All-American end Stephon Tuitt
“Obviously their defense is the strength of their team and their program,” said Graham of the Irish. “They are very big and very physical. It will be a big challenge for us.”
A big-time opponent on national television on the biggest stage imaginable. If ASU’s offensive line is looking to make a statement on their team’s behalf, this is their chance.