As N’keal Harry tied the game in the 4th quarter with his 13th catch and lone touchdown, no one could help but think “not this again”. As a Red Raider follower, it was reassuring to see the defense hold a high powered offense like Eastern Washington to 10 points. However reverting back to form in the second half against a sub par Arizona State offense can’t leave a good taste in Defensive Coordinator David Gibbs mouth. Nevertheless this defense got a huge stop late in the game when it needed to the most and that might be the main defensive takeaway from this game.
Mychealon Thomas & Broderick Washington will want to show this film to NFL scouts as they were all over the place and forces in the middle. The two DTs combined for seven takcles and a sack, not to mention Thomas’ incredible pass breakup and fumble recovery, they were incredible. If this grade came out at halftime it would have been an A, but in the second half, this unit as a whole seemed gassed as they gave Manny Wilkins all the time in the world to throw. The ends really didn’t have much of an impact as the pressure he felt in the first half was now non existent. That pressure didn’t make another appearance until the final third down of the game where Zach Barnes & Eli Howard combined for a sack.
In Viva’s off-season player rankings we placed Jordyn Brooks at 3 & Dakota Allen at 2. Brooks must’ve taken not because he looked like the best player on the defense on Saturday. Brooks was everywhere leading the team in tackles for the second game in a row with 13. He, along with Allen, also did a tremendous job of containing Kalen Ballage. Ballage, the man who scored eight touchdowns against Tech last season, never got a groove going as he gained 56 yards on the ground. Demario Richard got some quality runs in in the second half but this group found a way to keep him contained as well. It looked like the front seven was determined to not let the running game beat them this year. This unit also did a quality job in pass pro as there seemed to be no passes going across the middle in the second half. In the pre-season, it was known that the linebackers were going to half to step up as the best unit on the defense and they have done so thus far.
It seems as though no matter how many new faces join this secondary, the ghosts of Tech defense past will continue to haunt them. The secondary was burned time and again, and when a stop needed to happen at the biggest moment, all it took was a pass to the sidelines and WIlkins was able to make a completion. ASU’s N’Keal Harry was made to look like a Biletnikoff finalist, and for the second year in a row Manny Wilkins has the game of his life against this secondary. In the second half, this unit also seem to tire out as receivers slipped passed the corners time and again. With the quarterbacks the Red Raiders are due to face this season, the secondary better shape up or it’s going to be a long season.