October 7, 2007

WSU Report Card

With its close 23-20 win over Washington State, the Sun Devils are 2-0 to start the Pac-10 and 6-0 overall for the first time since going to the Rose Bowl following the 1996 season. Arizona State's offensive line had trouble with pass protection against the Cougars, but did come up big with its run blocking on a drive that allowed what would prove to be the game winning field goal. Here are our game grades.

Quarterback:

Despite completing 21-of-29 passes for 217 yards, it was a pretty poor performance for junior quarterback Rudy Carpenter against the Cougars Saturday afternoon. His two touchdown passes were negated by two interceptions. Carpenter struggled for most of the game to avoid the pressure from the Cougars, as he was sacked seven times. The emotional Carpenter looked extremely upset with himself in the first half, especially after an under-thrown ball to a wide-open senior tight end Tyrice Thompson on third down. It's hard to tell whether Carpenter was surprised by the blitzing schemes put into action by Washington State or whether the gameplan didn't appropriately account for what the ASU offense would be up against, or whether it was a combination of both. We didn't see Carpenter hitting "hot route" receivers in the spots where blitzers were coming from. Carpenter was able to keep his emotions in check in the second half, leading his team down the field for a game-winning field goal, but much of that had to do with the run game finally taking shape. If sophomore wide receiver Kyle Williams had not made a few spectacular catches to save Carpenter's poorly thrown pass on a couple of occasions, the Sun Devils might have turned the ball over a few more times in the game. Considering the sloppy play on the road, the game-winning drive and overall execution in the second half will only be enough to keep the grade around average, Carpenter earned a C.

Running Back:

Ryan Torain proved his nickname to be true against Washington State. His short-yardage talent was on display in a crucial fourth down in the second half. Not only did the "Train" run-over two Cougars on his way to picking up the first down, he literally de-cleated them, as he hit each of them helmet-to-helmet. When Torain collided with a defensive back around the right edge, and then another one in the flat, the ASU sideline went nuts. Torain racked up 121 yards on 24 carries and did a solid job -- much improved from last week versus Stanford -- in pass-protection against the blitz-happy Cougars. Torain proved again how reliable he can be in a close game by picking up large chunks of yards in the game-winning drive. When he wasn't in the game, the ASU offense was not the same. While some of his teammates struggled, Torain has been Mr. Consistent. Only a week without a rushing touchdown prevents the running backs from acing the test. The group earned an A-.

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