By Jourdan Rodrigue, Digital Communications Intern
After an abnormally hot day in Tempe, Ariz., the Sun Devils blazed through the evening with a 55-0 win over the Sacramento State Hornets.
Eleven plays for 80 yards in 3 minutes 24 seconds. Six plays for 71 yards in 1 minute 36 seconds. Seven plays for 29 yards in 2 minutes 23 seconds. Three plays for 59 yards in 46 seconds. One play for 26 yards in seven seconds.
"I was really proud of our team and I was really proud of our guys," head coach Todd Graham said. "We wanted four takeaways and we wanted zero penalties. I think they did a real good job and obviously dominated a team we should dominate."
The Sun Devils’ first five touchdown drives were scorching on Thursday night as returning quarterback Taylor Kelly had already gone 19-for-24 for 262 yards and five touchdowns by the start of the third quarter.
Though the Hornets kept ASU’s defense on the field for 16 plays and four third-down conversions in their first drive, a touchdown-preventing deflection by senior safety Alden Darby and a blocked field goal attempt by redshirt senior Robert Nelson lit the match for coach Graham’s accurately named high-octane offense.
Kelly quickly moved down the field, starting off his school-record-tying touchdown campaign with a 16-yard seam route to redshirt junior tight end De’Marieya Nelson and favoring targets like senior running back Marion Grice, who had four catches for 65 yards and a touchdown, and redshirt sophomore transfer wide receiver Jaelen Strong, who led the team with six catches for 58 yards and laid out for a touchdown in the second quarter despite a defensive pass-interference call.
Kelly not only completed 74 percent of his passes and raised his streak of consecutive passes thrown without an interception to 102, but he also rushed for the third-most yards on the team.
“We had weapons all across the field," Kelly said. "They were always getting open. Chris (Coyle) and Rick (Richard) Smith, and Jaelen (Strong) and DJ (Foster), they’re great playmakers and I trust what they see and they find great windows for me.”
As the temperature cooled in the desert throughout the second half, and the second and third strings swelled the score to 55-0, coach Graham’s Sun Devils put up some impressive offensive numbers. The offense put up 523 total yards, Grice and redshirt junior running back Deantre Lewis combined for 112 rushing yards on 22 carries, and freshman kicker Zane Gonzalez went 2-for-4 on field goals.
On defense, the Devils only allowed 167 total yards from Sacramento State and did not give up another first down after the opening drive in the first half. Senior linebacker Anthony Jones showed off his athleticism with a diving interception and senior defensive tackle Will Sutton recovered a fumble, both of which led to a touchdown, and redshirt senior linebacker Grandville Taylor returned his first career interception 67 yards to the two-yard line.
"I’m fired up that we got the Big 10 champion coming in," coach Graham said. "This place is going to be rocking next week and our guys are looking forward to it."
The Sun Devils Black Out the defending Big 10 champion Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday, Sept. 14, at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe at 7:30 p.m.