Following a sloppy 24-20 loss against Missouri, Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly and the Sun Devil offense got back on track tonight at Sun Devil Stadium. The sophomore completed 19 of 26 passes for a career-high 326 yards and three TDs, earning a quarterback rating of 216.5.
“We got off to a great start on offense,” Kelly said.” Once we got the ball we came out strong. We got in a good rhythm quick and we just came after them.”
Kelly attributed the Sun Devils’ success tonight to the team’s commitment to focus during practice this week.
“We had a great week of practice and we used our preparation to come out strong,” Kelly commented. “Following the Missouri loss we knew that we needed to be more disciplined during practice. We changed that this week and it showed at game time. For me personally I knew I needed to work on my reads this week and watch more film.”
Last week’s defeat showcased a bad performance by the wide receiving corps. Therefore, players such as Rashad Ross and the rest of his group took this matchup against Utah as a personal challenge.
“We all had bad practices last week, and our focus wasn’t there,” Ross admitted. “This week we came in as a group, and we showed better focus and practiced harder because we knew we had something to prove.”
After dropping three passes versus the Tigers, the senior was eager to get his first catch tonight and build his confidence back up.
“Oh, it meant a lot, because that’s all I was focusing on,” Ross noted, “catching the ball. That’s what coach was telling us to do. You have to catch the ball, see the ball, and look it in.”
The defense dominated once again today limiting the Utah offense to only one score and 209 total yards. Defensive captain Brandon Magee wasn’t shocked by his unit’s performance and has come to expect this type of effort from his teammates.
“We watched film, we studied and everybody did their assignments,” Magee remarked. “I’m surprised we gave up that touchdown, but that happens when you play good teams. We felt like we should shut them out and that’s what happened.”
With eight more tackles tonight including 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for a loss, Chris Young is quickly becoming a force on the defense. As a junior college transfer the linebacker came into the season somewhat under the radar, but due to his familiarity with the scheme he has been able to enjoy early success.
“I think the biggest thing for me was the similarities between this defense the scheme I ran at my junior college,” Young explained. “It gave me a lot of confidence coming into this season that I already had an idea of the defensive scheme.”
Magee believes that Young is one of the main keys to the defense’s dominating start this season, and that the Sun Devils will need him to keep performing at a high level to continue and fuel this group’s success.
“He plays SPUR. That’s one of the most important positions on the defense,” Magee said. “We blitz him all the time. He’s always on the field making plays. He’s a ball hog. He means a lot to this team. If he keeps doing what he’s doing, we’re going to be just fine.”
Will Sutton, perhaps the most influential member of the defense and quite possibly the team’s MVP so far, had another impressive performance recording four tackles including a half of a sack and a tackle for loss. The defensive lineman though is not satisfied with his play and contends that he has a lot of room for improvement.
“The game started out really well,” Sutton recalled. “It felt like I kind of went down after the first half. I guess they game planned for me and I need to work on handling double teams better. I’m starting to become known out there. I go out there and work hard every day with the goal to get better.”
Sutton’s energy on the field and on the sideline is driven by his passion and respect for the game and from his “team first” attitude.
“I just love this game,” Sutton confessed. “We’re trying to get this Pac-12 championship. It started today. It’s a whole new season for us. We have to go out there and keep everybody up. When you’re winning by a lot, you have to keep everybody up because they start to lose focus and start to think about other things. I had to stay on the sideline and keep everybody up.”
Even though Sutton was too modest to comment on his success so far this season, Magee described his teammate with one word.
“Will Sutton is being too humble, he’s a monster point blank.” Magee quipped, “Nobody can block him, the rest of the defense doesn’t have to do anything we just let him make all the plays.”
ASU will now switch its attention to Cal with the goal of earning their first road win of the year as well as remaining undefeated in Pac-12 play. After playing below their standards in their game against Missouri, Magee expects his squad to be prepared both mentally and physically.
“It’s just focus,” Magee claimed. “We have another tough game against Cal this week. We’re going to prepare for it just like we do for the home games. We’re going to go out there and show them what we can do.
“We just have to bring it home and away. Especially in the Pac-12, we have to bring it every game. I honestly don’t think it’s a big difference between home and away. We will be just fine.”