On Saturday night, Arizona State picked up a huge 32-30 win over No. 20 ranked Wisconsin to advance to 2-0 on the season. But more than just a single win over a very good team, this game displayed to the Pac 12 that Arizona State will not roll over easily in 2013, and in fact, are prepared to challenge for a berth in the league championship game at the end of the season.
The team’s defense was able to do enough, stopping Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave; their famous running game was not able to burn them, holding him to 15 of 30 for 187 yards. While they did rush for 231 yards and average 7.2 yards per carry on Saturday, this total was really not much of a surprise after the Badgers rushed for an average of 236 yards in 2012 and 390 per game during their first two games in 2013. What was surprising, however, was that despite this high total of rushing yards, Wisconsin was only able to get 15 first downs for the entirety of the game, while Arizona State had 32. In the process, they showed that the defense is prepared to weather the storm that will come with offenses that have big time potential, such as UCLA, Stanford and Oregon.
Meanwhile on offense, quarterback Taylor Kelly did not have a great game on Saturday, completing 29 of 51 passes for 352 yards and one interception, but he was able to keep Arizona State’s offense on the field for 31:58 of the game, which is remarkable considering how dominant Wisconsin’s running game was. This possession game came despite Arizona State’s rushing attack only being able to manage 2.8 yards per carry over 42 rushing attempts, a lousy total that would make it seem that the team was not able to get anything done. Instead, Arizona State actually ran 93 offensive plays, a significant amount more than Wisconsin, and instrumental as it kept their vaunted running attack off of the field.
Doing all of this against a very stout talented team in Wisconsin bodes well for the next three weeks when Arizona plays Stanford, USC and Notre Dame, who are all very tough on both ends of the ball and will try to develop their games through both passing and rushing, similar to the way Wisconsin did. None of these games will be easy, but Arizona State looks up to the challenge during the 2013 season, and it would be no surprise to see them win at least two out of three of these games and set the table for a run at the Pac 12 title.