Arizona State caught a break in Saturday’s 32-30 victory over Wisconsin, but lost amidst the controversial finish was the Sun Devils’ ability to move the football over the final 15 minutes of play against the reigning Big Ten champions.
Through the first three quarters of play, ASU’s offense looked like a shell of the unit that dismantled Sacramento State to the tune of 55-0 nine days earlier.
There were several badly thrown balls — including an early third quarter interception in Wisconsin territory — by quarterback Taylor Kelly, a handful of dropped passes by the receiving corps and a lack of production (2.9 yards per carry) outside of Marion Grice in the backfield.
Simply put, it was ugly offensive football.
“I think we looked back at the game when we were done, and we probably had four balls that were overthrown, four balls that weren’t on point in the first half, first three quarters,” ASU offensive coordinator Mike Norvell told Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and Wolf Monday. “I think we had six or seven drops in the game. Any time you miss 10-plus opportunities, that is going to hurt you a little bit.”
It definitely hurt, as the Sun Devils found themselves trailing 21-19 into the fourth quarter, but Kelly and Co. found their groove when it mattered most.
In the fourth quarter, the junior quarterback led two touchdown drives and completed seven of his 12 passes for 127 yards.
The recipient on four of those seven completions was sophomore wideout Jaelen Strong, who led the way with 104 yards receiving in just his second collegiate game.
“Taylor is a tremendous competitor, and our receivers stepped up big time at the end of the game,” said Norvell. “That’s what you want to see in your football team. When it gets down to crunch time at the end of the game, they stepped up to make plays to win it.”
While the journey was bumpy to say the least, Norvell admitted he wasn’t all that surprised about the end result.
“I talk to our guys all the time that we have to win the fourth quarter,” said Norvell. “That’s something I know being with these guys over the last year-and-a-half, and I told them yesterday, I know how we’re going to play in the fourth. That’s when those guys shine, and I was very proud of how they did that.”
In the victory, ASU became just the third opponent to amass over 400 yards against Wisconsin’s defense since the start of the 2012 season.