ASU football upsets No. 20 Wisconsin…but doubts linger

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                </div>The Arizona State football team got the ‘signature win’ that has been the hot topic among the media all week, beating No. 20 Wisconsin before a crowd of 66,155 last […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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The Arizona State football team got the ‘signature win’ that has been the hot topic among the media all week, beating No. 20 Wisconsin before a crowd of 66,155 last night in Tempe.  But the narrow 32-30 upset may have left more questions than answers.

This victory against a ranked Big 10 opponent, perhaps the most significant win so far in the Todd Graham era, was a little too shaky to instill a lot of confidence that the Sun Devils will have similar success going into the remainder of a treacherous four-game stretch.

They face the defending Pac-12 champion, No. 5 Stanford, followed by USC and Notre Dame.

Watching the annual black-out game unfold last night, it was hard to think of this ASU team as a team of destiny.  It was even difficult to summon up confidence that the Devils would pull out the win.

There wasn’t that feeling that they had control of the game at any one point. And too many miscues left fans wondering whether this team was worthy of the upset it so desperately needed to establish its credibility this season, the second under Graham.

Yes, they won the game.  But if Wisconsin hadn’t made a huge mistake with just 15 seconds left in the game and ran out of time for what would have been an easy winning field goal, this might have been just another opportunity for a defining ASU win that was squandered.

Instead of spiking the ball at the 13-yard line to stop the clock and give his kicker time to set up for the game-winning field goal, Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave appeared to start a run play and then abruptly set the ball on the ground – but didn’t touch the ground with his knee.  So the clock kept running in the ensuing confusion and the Badgers didn’t have a time-out left to keep their hopes from ticking away.

Had the Badgers been successful in kicking the field goal to win the game, it would have brought up an opportunity for second-guessing the coach that the sports talk shows could kick around for the next few days.  At the beginning of the final Wisconsin drive, Graham declined a 10-yard penalty that would have moved the Badgers back to their own seven-yard line; he opted to take the down away from them instead.  But that extra 10 yards might have been significant on the final play because it would have meant something closer to a 40-yard field-goal attempt instead of a chip shot.

But that became a non-issue, thanks to some bad clock management by Wisconsin, and the Devils are off to a 2-0 start to the season.

The ASU defense did a good job of holding the Badgers in check in the first half, limiting them to just 71 total rushing yards in the first half, which ended with a slight edge for the visitor, 14-13.  Keep in mind that this is a team that was gobbling up 390 yards a game coming in.  Unfortunately, the Devils were held to 57 in the half.

But Wisconsin wasn’t going to be held down for long; the Badgers finished the game with 210 yards rushing and 247 passing for a combined 457 yards.  And running back Melvin Gordon ran wild, piling up 196 yards on 15 carries and scoring twice.

And Stave was able to complete 50 percent of his passes, throwing for 187 yards and a TD.

However, too often it was the Sun Devils getting in their own way.  They handed the Badgers a touchdown assist in the second quarter when the ASU punter, Dom Vizzare, tried to pick the ball up off the turf after a bad snap sent it past him.  He bobbled the ball and Wisconsin covered it in the end zone.

Twice the Sun Devils failed to score after getting down inside the Badgers’ five-yard line, junior QB Taylor Kelly threw an interception in the third quarter at the Wisconsin eight-yard line, and ASU failed on both two-point conversion attempts.  There were even three penalties, which Graham considers an insult to his coaching.

The Devils did, however, hit one of the goals Graham sets for each game.  He likes to see his teams run 90 plays a game; they were well short of that last week in the season opener against Sacramento State, but won anyway 55-0.  They picked up the pace against the Badgers, finishing with 92 plays.

Taylor connected with eight different receivers on the night, led by Jaelen Strong‘s six catches for 104 yards.  But the next two on that list were running backs, as D.J. Foster picked up 69 yards on seven catches and Marion Grice added five for 50 yards.

And the running game was all Grice – and then everybody else.  Grice carried the ball 22 times for 88 yards and posted all four of the team’s touchdowns.  Foster picked up 27 yards on five carries and Kelly ran for 25 yards.

The Badgers did a good job of containing the Sun Devil ground game, limiting the number of big plays.  Grice’s longest carry went for 18 yards and Foster’s longest was 15 yards.

While he was happy to have the win, Graham was the first to admit after the game that there was plenty of room for improvement before next Saturday.  “We just beat the defending Big Ten champions, but we made so many mistakes. We didn’t play very well.’

Last night’s game was one of Arizona State’s biggest wins.  But it was not their finest hour.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)