Arizona State Football: Stanford's Dominance on Both Lines Was Difference Saturday

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Stanford Cardinal Football, Pac 12 Football
Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

In the only game between ranked teams in week four, Arizona State, ranked No.23 in the nation,  traveled to “The Farm” Saturday, coming short of a possible big-time comeback in the fourth quarter, losing to No. 5 Stanford 42-28  on Saturday.

Arizona State trailed 39-7 in the third quarter and marched to a string of 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter Saturday, only to fall a tad bit short in the closing moments.

A week after Arizona State stole a two-point decision in against Wisconsin, Sun Devils head coach Todd Graham couldn’t rob Stanford’s potential BCS Championship run. The difference in the game came from both lines of scrimmage from Stanford, compared to ASU’s in the first half.

The well-balanced ability on offense, both passing and running, and the limited numbers rushing the ball on the Cardinal defensive line, led to the Sun Devils first offensive shutout output at halftime since 2009, coming from Stanford that year.

Stanford took a 29-0 lead at intermission, generating 259 total yards offensively, limiting the entire Arizona State run threat to just 13 yards and a total of 71 for the game. Stanford’s defensive line was sitting on the read-option of Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly and his running back Marion Grice, as their 11 combined carries went for only 13 yards in the first half. Grice came into Saturday as the nation’s scoring leader with six touchdowns.

The Sun Devils defensive line in back-to-back weeks saw some of America’s most physical offensive lines. Stanford, like Wisconsin last week, used twin tight ends to overpower the front of Arizona State, and used double teams on defensive tackle Will Sutton. Stanford was suppose to achieve physicality and they did with what most believe was the best offensive front left from last season.

Stanford tackles David Yankey and the extremely athletic Andrus Peat took on an ASU defense in general that led the nation in tackles for loss to begin Saturday’s game. The efficiency of the Stanford offensive line sent the Devils down early in the first quarter, 13-0, in which played in Stanford’s hand. Stanford swallowed up ASU’s ability to blitz on every down with their punch you in the mouth and overrun you with their physicality running style. Before this weekend, the Cardinal had a rushing average of 197 yards per game this season, they ended up with 238 yards. Arizona State forced Wisconsin to 231 yards defending the run, while Stanford, the Rose Bowl champions last season, kept the Badgers to 218 yards.

The Cardinal 3-4 defense headed by outside linebacker Trent Murphy and defensive end Ben Gardner, led the nation in sacks before this week, creating three in Saturday’s game. Kelly was under constant duress for a lot of the game, completing 30 of his 55 passes for 368 yards, tossing a pair of scores and interceptions for this week. The Stanford pass rush screeched to a stop for awhile late in the game, as ASU scored on passes to receivers Chris Coyle and Jaelon Strong to cut it to 39-21 in the fourth quarter, after Stanford had their biggest lead of the game, 39-7 in the third quarter.

With tremendous pressure at the goalline, ASU scored a passing touchdown from a screen for the final score of the game. The ASU quick-strike offense controlled the ball for over 11 minutes of the second half, scoring on three passing touchdowns in a span of eight minutes in the fourth quarter.

Arizona State will play USC and Notre Dame in their next two weeks, trying to put their foot on the gas pedal a little bit earlier in games after Week 4.

 

Zach Virnig is a SEC Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZacharyVirnig, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.