Aug. 31, 2012
by Preslie Hirsch
The Sun Devils won their season opener against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks 63-6 under new headcoach Todd Graham Thursday night.
The anticipation was thick in the warm desert air on Frank Kush Field in a game that would undoubtedly set the tone for the season.
"The crowd, the excitement...I had chills running out (on the field)," starting quarterback Taylor Kelly said. "It was a great experience out there."
NAU won the coin toss and chose to defer. Almost immediately, there was a 15-yard penalty on the Lumberjacks putting ASU on the 27-yard line for the first down. They sped down the field with several completions from Kelly, and a nine-yard rush by Kelly himself. A nine-yard carry by running back Cameron Marshall put the Sun Devils on the scoreboard in the first three-minutes and thirty-four seconds of the game, followed by a successful PAT by Alex Garoutte.
The Devils defense came out strong and forced a quick three and out.
On their following possession, three plays into the drive Kelly connected with tight end Chris Coyle for 49-yards, putting the team in sight of another touchdown. Freshman Michael Eubank came in as quarterback, and quickly got the ball to Marshall for a one-yard rushing touchdown.
ASU's defense forced another quick three and out on their next possession.
After an exchange of possessions, the end of the first quarter came to a close. True freshman running back DJ Foster rushed for sixty-three yards in the first quarter alone, and helped add to the Devils 14-0, just over two minutes into the second quarter with a one-yard touchdown run.
Four plays into NAU's next drive, linebacker Brandon Magee intercepted the ball for a 45-yard pick six, followed by a Goroutte extra point to give the Sun Devils a 28-0 lead.
Following another NAU punt, Kelly hit wide receiver Rashad Ross for a 50-yard gain. Three plays later running back Marion Grice rushed one-yard into the end zone. Garoutte's extra point gave ASU a 35-0 lead.
The Sun Devil defense continued to make big plays and safety Alden Darby came up with the team's second interception of the night and returned the ball 50-yards to the NAU three-yard line. Eubank remained under center and rushed three yards for the touchdown. Garoutte's ensuing extra point gave to give ASU a 42-0 advantage.
After gaining three first downs, NAU's offense was halted when safety Laiu Moeakiola recorded ASU's third interception of the night. The team headed to the locker room with a 42-0 lead.
The Lumberjacks scored their first touchdown of the game with ten minutes to go in the third quarter, but their point after attempt was unsuccessful.
With a few minutes left in the third quarter, the devils regained ball possession. After six plays, most of which are carried by Marshall, wideout Richard Smith caught a pass for an ASU touchdown, marking Kelly's first touchdown pass as a Sun Devil.
The final quarter began with Eubank in at quarterback and on the fifth play of the drive Grice rushed four yards followed by a Garoutte extra point. ASU lead 56-6 just over two minutes into the quarter.
Grice added to that lead on the Devils next possession as he 57 yards in seven plays and culminating in a four-yard touchdown run.
The Sun Devils managed to have zero penalties on defense throughout the game and Graham's use of two quarterbacks proved to be successful.
"He (Eubank) is one of the most talented individuals I've ever been around. I'm very proud of Taylor Kelly, he did exactly what I thought he would do," Graham said. "You'll notice the system distributes the ball to several people and that's what makes it work."
As the clock wound down to zero, the marching band rushed the field with the team and fireworks shot off to celebrate the first season win in Sun Devil Stadium.
"I'm very proud of the coaching staff; they did a tremendous job preparing these kids. I'm proud of how the young guys played tonight, five or six true freshman played. There are twenty-six newcomers; first time at a college football game," Graham said. "One thing that was really gratifying was with about four minutes left in the game, the referee came over to me, which has never happened to me in a football game, and he said, 'Coach, I am absolutely amazed with your kids, they were absolutely incredible tonight.' That meant as much to me as the win," Graham said.
"Our guys came to play tonight and you could see that. I couldn't have scripted a better first game," Graham said.
The Sun Devils will face Illinois at home on Saturday, September 8.