ASU Football: Analysis of Loss to the Aggies


In Houston, the ASU Football team fell short by 21 points to the Aggies of Texas A&M.  Though the final score may be a bit misleading, the truth is that ASU was out-played in this game.  Some analytical points from the 38-17 loss:

1) Protection Issues

As stated by Devils in Detail, this was the number 1 key to victory for ASU.  Sun Devil quarterback Mike Bercovici was sacked 9 times and hurried all night.  Not once did Bercovici truly get to drop back comfortably in the pocket and look for receivers.  Aggies defensive end Myles Garrett wreaked havoc on the ASU passing game.  True, the noise factor didn’t allow ASU to make changes to the cadence, allowing Garrett to time his get-off.  Even when  double-teaming (and sometimes triple-teaming) Garrett, Bercovici just couldn’t get into a rhythm and pose a vertical threat.  The two new offensive tackles for ASU, Evan Goodman and Billy McGehee got a rude welcome to the business of pass protection.

2)  Average Running Attack

All during the pre-season, the buzz around the ASU offense was how strong the running game was going to be.  Behind returning offensive linemen Nick Kelly, Christian Westerman and Vi Teofilo, along with proven running backs DeMario Richard and De’Chavon Hayes, the ASU rushing attack was supposed to be a new and improved weapon.  They were nothing of the sort.  Communication issues and blown assignments caused the ASU rushing attack to be largely irrelevant.  Hayes’ big play ability was impressive during spring ball and camp.  But on Saturday against the Aggies, Hayes looked quite average.

3)  Special Teams Woes Continue

This issue is probably getting old for ASU fans.  It’s definitely getting old for Coach Todd Graham.  For the third year in a row, special teams units are the only part of the game that ASU does not excel at.  It has vexed coach Graham more than any part of his football program, to the point of hiring his third Special Teams coach in four seasons this last winter in Shawn Slocum.  Slocum was supposed to help put a stop to this trend and turn things around in the kicking game.  It clearly hasn’t happened yet.  Against the Aggies on Saturday, the punt team allowed a 66-yard return for a touchdown that put ASU in the hole, 14-0.  A roughing the punter penalty on ASU’s Coltin Gerhart gave the ball back to A&M.  At the time, the score was 17-14 and ASU had some momentum going.  That penalty and possession allowed the Aggies to score.  This penalty came after a 5-yard penalty for running into the kicker earlier in the game.

On top of that, the punt and kickoff return game was non-existent.  ASU punter Matt Haack got plenty of work Saturday, but his punts were nothing impressive.  For head coach Todd Graham and special teams coach Shawn Slocum, it’s back to the drawing board with personnel and schemes to fix the kicking game.

4)  Uncharacteristic Penalties

When head coach Todd Graham took the reins of this ASU program, the discipline he instilled was immediately measurable on the field.  Penalties decreased sharply.  ASU went from being one of the most penalized teams in the country to one of the least penalized.  But that was hard to see on Saturday.  For the first time that Devils in Detail can recall in the Todd Graham era, the Sun Devils had two 15 yard personal fouls in the same game.  Both of those penalties led to scores.  Add the handful of false starts and this did not look like a typical Todd Graham coached team.  That will have to get fixed if ASU wants to win games this year.

All hope is not lost for this ASU Football team.  But to a degree, it’s back to square one with the Sun Devils.  They got knocked down, but they can still get up.  But they’ll have to do it themselves.  Their character will truly be tested.

Check back with Devils in Detail later in the week for reasons to be hopeful.