Arizona State Edges Wisconsin Despite Bizarre Finishby Tyler Pollard on Sep. 15, 2013, under Arizona State Sun Devils
Tempe, Ariz.– It wasn’t the way Arizona State head coach Todd Graham and his Arizona State Sun Devils thought they would win it and it wasn’t the way they would have liked to have won it but they will certainly take it.
In a game that ended in a very controversial call, the Sun Devils overcame a late Wisconsin push in the fourth quarter to win 32-30 on national television in Tempe.
The controversy came in the fact that Wisconsin sophomore quarterback Joel Stave, after taking a knee, placed the ball on the ground with 14 seconds left in what ASU players thought was a fumble. In a veteran move, ASU outside linebacker Anthony Jones jumped on the ball with the idea that it was a fumble. This caused the ref enough confusion that by the time he had picked up the ball and set it down for Wisconsin to spike it and a field goal to win it, the clock had already run out and Arizona State had won the game, leaving the whole Wisconsin team confused and angered.
In a play that certainly will be talked about all week, in the end it was Stave who made a mistake that cost Wisconsin the game by putting the ball on the ground.
Heading into the game the key for Arizona State was slowing down Wisconsin’s power running attack. They did a much better job of that then the box score indicated. While giving up 231 yards on the ground, the defense did a great job of limiting the Wisconsin’s run game.
“It makes me mad to look at 231 yards rushing because thats not indicative of what tonight was,” Todd Graham said.
Offensively, junior quarterback Taylor Kelly, completed 29-51 passes for 352 yards and no touchdowns. Kelly’s lone mistake was early in the third quarter in which he lobbed a ball over the middle into triple coverage that was picked off. Kelly’s wide receivers weren’t helping him that much either, as they dropped a total of five balls throughout the game.
Kellys’ biggest target on offense was sophomore wide receiver Jaelen Strong. Strong, a junior college transfer in his first year at Arizona State, caught six passes for 104 yards receiving.
Strong showed the difference he can make for Arizona State tonight, in that in one one coverage he came through with a catch time and time again on the back shoulder, the type of threat Taylor Kelly and Arizona State did not have last year.
“We saw a lot of man coverage,” Arizona State’s Kelly said. “We took advantage of that. The safety was tracing over, I just gotta give this guy (Strong) a chance, keep it in bounds, and I know he is gonna make a big play for me.”
At the running back position, senior tailback Marion Grice was exceptional for the Sun Devils, scoring a career high four touchdowns while running for 84 yards on 22 carries. Grice was the first running back to rush for four touchdowns in a game for Arizona State since running back Mike Williams did it for the Sun Devils against Arizona in 2002. Grice, who lead the team in touchdowns last year with 19, is already at six on the year through two games.
For Wisconsin, the biggest contributor was sophomore running back Melvin Gordon, who ran for 293 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. In last week’s game against Tennessee Tech Gordon became the fastest running back in Wisconsin history to accumulate 1,000 yards on the ground. rushing for 1,003 yards on his 104th carry in the second quarter of last Saturday’s win over Tennessee Tech.
Wisconsin quarterback Steve Stave, who is really more of a game manager for Wisconsin’s run centered offense, completed 16-27 passes throwing for 187 yards and one touchdown in the process.
On defense the Badgers came out firing early on, keeping the Sun Devils Kelly out of sync for most of the game. However, as the game wore on, the Badger defense soon wore down. Allowing Arizona State to score on three drives over 60 yards long in the second half.
“They were getting tired up front,” Kelly said. “We just kept going with the play and switching it up a little bit on them and kept pounding it down their throat.”
While they still came out with the win, the game was filled with missed opportunities for Arizona State.
The first missed opportunity came on the games very first possession when ASU led by Kelly marched down the field on a 13 play 72 yard drive before being stopped on fourth down at the Wisconsin three yard line.
After a couple of defensive stops, Arizona State took over the ball on their own 49 with 6:58 left in the first quarter. The Sun Devils were able to take advantage of their good field position, capping off an eight play 34 yard drive with a 34 yard field goal from freshman kicker Zane Gonzalez to put them up 3-0 late in the first quarter.
After going three and out on their first two possessions, Wisconsin was finally able to establish an offensive rhythm early on the second quarter. Responding to the Arizona State field goal with a 10 play 73 yard drive that lead to a two yard touchdown pass from Stave to senior wide receiver Jared Abbrederis to put the Badgers up 7-3 early in the second.
Arizona State would soon follow that with their first big mistake of the game. After going three and out on the next offensive possession, junior punter Dom Vizzare wasn’t able to handle a high snap from sophomore long-snapper Easton Wahlstrom. The ball trickled into the endzone where Wisconsin’s Beau Allen was able to fall on it for a touchdown putting the Badgers up 14-3.
Arizona State didn’t let their sloppy play phaze them though, answering back with a 10 play 75 yard touchdown drive that was capped of by a 1 yard touchdown run from Grice. Kelly was 5-5 with 60 yards on the drive.
Later in the second Arizona State was able to put three more points on the board with another Gonzalez field goal making it 14-13, this one for five yards after failing to execute on third and goal from the Wisconsin two yard line.
In the first half the Sun Devils fell victim to a series of missed opportunities and mistakes, causing them to head into halftime trailing 14-13.
Wisconsin wasted no time getting on the board in the second half as Gordon was able to break free for an 80 yard touchdown run on the team’s first offensive play to put Wisconsin up 21-13.
After a couple series’ of sloppy play, Kelly and the offense were finally able to get things going late in the third quarter, marching down the field for an 11 play 91 yard drive that resulted in a one yard touchdown run from Marion Grice, his second of the game. Arizona State went for two and was unable to execute as Taylor Kelly was sacked on the drop back, putting them down 19-21 with 47 seconds left in the third quarter.
After Wisconsin responded with a field goal of their own, the Sun Devil’s offense was at it again. This time Kelly led the Sun Devils on an 8 play 76 yard drive, that resulted in a 2 yard Grice touchdown run. This put ASU up 25-24 with 11:40 left in the fourth after they failed to convert on another two point conversion.
Following the touchdown, Arizona States’ defense came out fired up forcing the Badgers to go three and out and giving the ball back to the offense. The Sun Devils were able to capitalize, as Marion Grice put the Sun Devils up 32-24 on 12 yard touchdown run, his fourth of the game.
Following that possession, Wisconsin then marched down the field on a 75 yard scoring drive capped by a one yard touchdown run by Gordon putting them down 32-30 with just over four minutes left in the game.
Wisconsin was then able to get the ball back with a 1:36 left in the game at their own 36, Stave marched the team down within field goal range, when with 14 seconds left, he put the all on the ground causing confusion as time expired, giving Arizona State the 32-30 victory.
In a game that for the most part featured two evenly matched teams and ended with a lot of controversy, Arizona State came out the winner.
Todd Graham and the Arizona State Sun Devils now head to take on defending Pac 12 Champions the Stanford Cardinal with a 2-0 record.
And that is something they can take pride in, at least for now.