Administrators at Washington State University canceled classes Thursday in preparation for that night’s game between the Cougars and the Arizona State Sun Devils.
That doesn’t mean there wasn’t any schooling going on in Pullman on Halloween. It just happened to be taking place on the football field at Martin Stadium.
The 25th-ranked Sun Devils (6-2, 4-1) educated the Cougars 55-21, racking up 557 yards of offense in the process. ASU posted 50 or more points for the third straight game — the first time that’s occurred since 1972 when Frank Kush’s Devils beat UTEP (55-14), New Mexico (60-7) and San Jose State (51-21) in succession.
But this kind of offensive efficiency hasn’t happened in the Pac-10/Pac-12 era for the Sun Devils. Sure, there have been outbursts, but this year’s ASU offense makes gigantic amounts of yards and points look almost methodical. You’d think a performance that included 55 points and nearly 600 yards of offense would have featured a dozen or more explosive plays.
You’d be wrong.
Taylor Kelly, who completed 22-of-31 passes for 275 yards and five touchdowns, while adding two more TDs on the ground, had only three passes of 20 or more yards against Wazzu.
ASU piled up 282 yards on the ground, yet only two plays — a 26-yard Kelly scramble and a 20-yard tote by linebacker Carl Bradford on a fake punt — measured 20 or more yards.
Yet, the Sun Devils are always moving forward in 7 to 16-yard chunks. Sixteen of Kelly’s 22 completions fell in that range. ASU lost yardage on only five of 88 offensive snaps Thursday night.
Imagine how frustrating it would be to play against ASU tailback Marion Grice. He doesn’t look like he’s moving very fast, but he still averaged 5.2 yards per carry and 15.5 yards per reception Thursday. And Washington State accomplished something no team had since last November — they kept Grice out of the end zone, ending his 10-game streak of scoring at least one touchdown. It didn’t matter.
Third-down conversions? ASU converted 50 percent (7-of-14) and was perfect on two fourth-down opportunities.
Arizona State held the ball for nearly 15 more minutes than the Cougars (37:22 to 22:33) and was perfect in seven red-zone opportunities (five touchdowns, two field goals.)
The Sun Devils’ defense has come to life in the last three games, but if this is the year that ASU does indeed win the Pac-12 South, it will be because of Kelly and this remarkably well-oiled offense.
There is plenty of football to be played in 2013, but I wouldn’t want to be a defensive coordinator at Utah, Oregon State, UCLA or Arizona in the next month.