All during the week, ASU head coach Todd Graham downplayed the perils of traveling to a strange location, with inclement weather, to play a critical Pac-12 Conference game.
Graham proclaimed: “If you want to be a champion…there are no excuses. You can go play in rain, sleet, snow, Alaska, Maine; it doesn’t matter…you go to win.”
Graham’s words may have sounded like “coach-speak” to skeptics, but he obviously meant what he said.
ASU dominated Mike Leach’s Washington State Cougars from the get-go on a nippy night on the Palouse. The Sun Devils (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12) employed a combination of sound play calling, stout run blocking and relentless defense to overwhelm the Cougars. The final score: 55-21 in favor of ASU.
Did we mention quarterback Taylor Kelly?
Playing in his native Northwest, Kelly put on a performance that was reminiscent of his days as a star QB at Eagle High School near Boise, Idaho. Overall, he had a hand in seven touchdowns against Wazzu. Kelly completed 22 of 31 for 275 yards and five touchdowns. He also demonstrated his skills carrying the ball, rushing for 66 yards and two scores.
As in the Washington game, Kelly was the “x-factor” for the Sun Devil offense, finding open receivers, improvising on the run, and making the kind of smart decisions that are only possible with a championship-quality quarterback.
The ASU defense also showed why it is one of the most formidable units in the Pac-12 Conference. It held Washington State (4-5, 2-4 Pac-12) to 302 yards with just two coming on the ground. Linebacker Carl Bradford, in particular, made Martin Stadium a house of horrors for WSU quarterback Connor Halliday during this Halloween night contest.
Last, but not least, ASU dove deep into its special teams playbook to kill potential Cougar rallies. Two successful fake punts sustained key drives and maintained momentum for the Sun Devils.
ASU now travels to Salt Lake City to meet the Utah Utes. This Nov. 9 match-up will be another test of the Devils’ resolve on a critical road swing that could sway the outcome of the Pac-12 South race.
So far, so good.