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Jamal Miles continues to put the "special" in Arizona State's special teams.
A season after taking one of his three kickoff returns back for a touchdown, the speedy sophomore and Paul Hornung Award contender was right back at it. Miles took the opening kickoff of the second half--the Aggies' first of the game--98 yards for the touchdown. He wasn't alone in having success on kickoff returns, as A.J. Pickens took one back 54 yards in the fourth quarter.
After finishing second in the nation in kickoff return average, the Sun Devils are well on their way to being among the nation's elite.
However, the prognosis was not so sterling on their kickoff coverage. The Aggie returners routinely gashed the Devils, who had difficulty in both maintaining their lanes and getting off blocks. On the night, the Aggies averaged 28.4 yards on their eight returns. With a far more talented opponent in Missouri coming to town, that is one area that special teams coach Jamie Christian must shore up immediately.
The punt game was more consistent for ASU.
Mile and Rashad Ross each had punt returns of over 20 yards and collectively averaged 15.5 yards on their six returns. Meanwhile, Sun Devil punter Josh Hubner only had to make one kick, but it was a booming 54 yard blast that was fumbled by UC Davis' Tom Hemmingsen and recovered by ASU's Alden Darby. Four plays later, the Devils scored to increase their lead to 14-0.
After struggling most of the off-season, ASU kicker Alex Garoutte was excellent, showing great leg strength while connecting on field goals of 49 and 25 yards. Perhaps most encouraging for Sun Devils fans was the fact that no extra points were blocked, as Garoutte made all six of his attempts.
While the offensive display was a sight to see, the real attraction on Thursday night was Arizona State's impressive defense. Through three quarters, the Sun Devils held the UC Davis Aggies scoreless, destroying any semblance of a running game while forcing the Aggies to throw for marginal gains.
It's safe to say that the first three quarters were a true representation of how dominant the defense can be: the Aggies actually lost four yards on the ground through three frames, while only 86 yards were gained through passing. UC Davis managed only five first downs.
In the fourth quarter, more reserves got playing time for the Sun Devils, which allowed UC Davis to score 14 points, pick up 92 rushing yards and pick up 7 first downs in the process.
Can't help but be satisfied with the performance given by the front four. Bo Moos picked up four tackles and William Sutton was a disruption up the middle. Junior Onyeali made two tackles in the backfield and also picked up a sack, showing flashes of potential to become a big contributor to the defense in 2011.
Most importantly, the defensive line overpowered UC Davis on every play. They collapsed the pocket on Randy Wright consistently, and by halftime Wright was fully expecting to be hit on every pass attempt. His rushed mannerisms on the field tell you all you need to know: the defensive line was putting on a clinic.
Vontaze Burfict had a career night, collecting three sacks while committing zero penalties. He appeared in control of his emotions and led the defense with passion and speed. Burfict appears to be spending more time in blitz packages, coming off the blind side and blowing past the offensive line to get to the opposing quarterback.
Burfict will force teams to have a blocker in the backfield, limiting their options downfield. With the injuries to the secondary, ASU will rely on Burfict more than ever to be that equalizer in the front seven. #7 added three tackles, all for a loss.
Colin Parker, the new starting outside linebacker, racked up five tackles and looked like a natural fit alongside Burfict and Shelly Lyons. Lyons only made two tackles, but his presence was felt. Lyons nearly had an interception that could easily have been returned for a touchdown, but it went through his hands and fell to the ground. In the future, he must step up and make that play.
Oliver Aaron came off the bench to make four tackles and record a sack, providing much-needed depth to the linebacker position.
The only point of concern for ASU in 2011 on defense is the secondary, which lost Omar Bolden during the offseason. Freshman Ezekiel Bishop was injured on Thursday, tearing his ACL. The lack of depth could really be exposed if the front seven is unable to blitz effectively moving forward.
Against UC Davis, Alden Darby played well, making seven tackles. He gave up the Aggies' lone big passing play of the game, a 38-yard strike from Wright to Tom Hemmingsen which set up UC Davis' first touchdown.
Eddie Elder made three tackles, Deveron Carr had a pass deflection and Osahon Irabor made a pair of tackles as well. They largely avoided giving up the big play, as the front seven was swarming the pocket all night long. If James Franklin has time on Friday night, he may be able to pick apart the secondary. That's up to the coaches and linebackers to solve.
In total, the team put together a very solid defensive performance. While imperfect, they showed a lot of speed, confidence and ability. The run defense is incredible, while the passing defense can only get better.
The Arizona State Sun Devils started off their highly anticipated 2011 season last night and performed precisely to expectations. They manhandled their FCS opponent, UC Davis, and for the most part the starters looked crisp and efficient in their tune-up for next week's major showdown with No. 21 Missouri.
The ASU offense gained 517 yards (300 passing, 217 rushing) and presented a vanilla, yet effective attack en route to their 48-14 victory over the UC Davis Aggies.
Making his first home start, Brock Osweiler was solid, if unspectacular. His improved accuracy was on display for most of the night, as he finished 19 of 26 for 262 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His toss on Aaron Pflugrad's 31-yards score was particularly impressive, showcasing the junior's excellent arm strength. Conversely, his lone interception came when he misfired on a throw to Kevin Ozier, which resulted in a tipped ball. He showed great pocket awareness and went through his reads very well. Osweiler also made a nice 18-yard run on 3rd and 19 that kept a scoring drive alive. Perhaps the only criticism that can be levied upon Osweiler is his hydration, or lack thereof, as he suffered from cramps throughout the night.
Mike Bercovici came on in the third quarter and only threw two passes, completing one for seven yards, as the Devils chose to run both the ball and the clock. Taylor Kelly saw some time in the fourth quarter, connecting on all four his attempts for 32 yards.
The entire first Sun Devil drive came from the hands and legs of Cameron Marshall. He took the opening Sun Devil play, a swing pass, 47 yards, then ran twice for the remaining eight yards to give ASU the 7-0 lead. He later scored another short touchdown to cap ASU's second drive. Overall, his rushing numbers were modest--seven carries for 23 yards--but he set a career high in receiving with four catches for 86 yards, both team highs. He showed the blend of speed and power that earned him both praise and lofty expectations during the off-season.
Kyle Middlebrooks led the team with 62 yards on 10 carries. He showed the shifty moves and speed that have become his trademark, but also unleashed some power in his runs, as was able to break a few tackles and pick up a few extra yards.
R.J. Robinson and Marcus Washington played most of the second half with the reserves and each made impressive runs. Washington carried team-high 11 times for 36 yards and a touchdown, while Robinson gained 32 yards on six carries. Both showed impressive power, making many of their yards after contact.
Even wide receiver Jamal Miles got into the act. When he wasn't busy return kickoffs for touchdowns, he took his lone handoff 36 yards on a run that showcased the sophomore's scary speed and agility.
Twelve players made receptions for ASU last night, as the quarterbacks did an excellent job of spreading the ball around, with the senior trio of wideouts making the greatest impact.
Aaron Pflugrad made three receptions for 50 yards and hauled in both of Osweiler's scores. Working from the outside, he ran a great route on a post pattern for a 31-yard touchdown and made a nice move on the 13-yard touchdown to create separation from the defender.
Seniors Gerrell Robinson and Mike Willie were relatively quiet. Robinson made four grabs for 48 yards and Willie made a lone catch for five yards. Most of that was due to their limited playing time in the rout.
Among the reserves, Kevin Ozier stood out with three catches for 29 yards and George Bell provided evidence that his issue with drops may, just may, be fixed as he hauled in a pair of passes for 27 yards.
Converted cornerback Rashad Ross made his first career reception but promptly fumbled the ball, which the Aggies recovered. He did find some redemption with a nice 21-yard punt return, however.
The equipment staff for ASU won't have to bother with getting any grass stains out from the quarterback's uniforms, as all three were untouched by the UC Davis defense. The Devils dominated the line of scrimmage, and on the rare occasion an Aggie got through, he was easily avoided by adept pocket mobility.
The success also came in the running game, with ASU totaling 217 yards and a robust 5.4 yards per carry. The running lanes were plentiful throughout the night and the running backs rarely had to contend with any pressure in the backfield.
An old demon surfaced during the game, when Andrew Sampson made an egregious personal foul on a blatant late hit. Combined with a subsequent holding penalty, it defused the drive, but an excellent 49-yard field goal from Alex Garoutte salvaged some points.
A scary moment came when starting right tackle Aderious Simmons left the game with what was determined to be a low ankle sprain. He appeared on the sidelines later in a walking boot and his status for next week's game against Missouri is in doubt.
For the most part, the Sun Devils looked the part of Pac-12 South contenders on Thursday night in Tempe as they took care of business against the UC Davis Aggies, 48-14.
Brock Osweiler was efficient, completing 19 of 26 passes for 262 yards and two touchdown passes to Aaron Pflugrad. Cameron Marshall was the top producer on offense, racking up 23 rushing yards and 86 receiving yards, scoring two touchdowns in the process.
While the passing defense has room for improvement, the running game was absolutely squashed by ASU's stout front seven.
The Sun Devils kept the shutout going into the fourth quarter before the reserve defense gave up two touchdowns. All in all, everything looked great on Thursday, which is exactly the way you want it if you're coach Dennis Erickson. Now, if only Brock Osweiler can be 100% going into the Missouri game, ASU will be in good shape.
The third quarter saw the Sun Devils increase their lead to 41-0 over the visiting UC Davis Aggies, but the main concern of this stanza is the continued cramping of quarterback Brock Osweiler.
Osweiler threw an interception early in the quarter, and in the process fell to the ground nursing his right leg. Both Taylor Kelly and Mike Bercovici stood up and began to warm their arms, and many of those watching the game (media and fans alike) thought that Osweiler's night was done.
Instead, Osweiler seemingly convinced coach Dennis Erickson to allow him to continue playing. While it's easy to applaud his competitiveness and desire, Erickson should have taken his star player out of the game before risking further injury.
Later in the quarter, Osweiler hit Aaron Plfugrad on the right end of the endzone, bringing the score to 38-0. During the throw, Osweiler's right leg seized up and appeared to swing around to the front of his body, and Osweiler collapsed.
Teammates grabbed his leg and attempted to stabilize it, which gives us the opinion that Osweiler experienced a rather severe charley horse on the play.
That was Osweiler's last action of the game, as true freshman Mike Bercovici was inserted at quarterback. #2 brought the Devils to the 3-yard line, where they kicked a field goal to take a 41-0 lead going into the fourth quarter.
But the question has to remain: why was Brock Osweiler out there, with so much to lose and so little to gain?
After an efficient first quarter in which ASU ran out to a 14-0 lead, the Devils wasted little time in opening the second with a bang.
Brock Osweiler hit Aaron Plfugrad on a deep post on the first play for a 31-yard touchdown to extend the ASU lead to 21-0.
With ASU's pass rush making life miserable for UC Davis quarterback Randy Wright, the Aggies utilized quick passes for pick up a few first downs out to midfield before their drive fizzled out.
The ensuing ASU drive started out well, as utility player extraordinaire Jamal Miles took a handoff 36 yards, but an eight yard reception by Gerrell Robinson, an incomplete swing pass and run for no gain brought up a fourth down. Instead of giving Alex Garoutte a field goal chance from 42 yards, ASU went for it, but turned it over on downs after a dropped swing pass to Kyle Middlebrooks.
A few short passes netted the Aggies a pair of first downs, but Junior Onyeali destroyed an attempted reverse to derail the drive, forcing a punt that resulted in a touchback.
The turnover demon that haunting the Sun Devils a season ago reared it's ugly head on the next ASU drive. After a 27 yard Marshall reception put them in Aggie territory, Rashad Ross fumbled on his first career reception and the Aggies recovered at their own 23.
The suffocating ASU defense forced the sixth Aggie punt.
A personal foul penalty on Andrew Smapson set up a 3rd and 19, but an 18 yard Osweiler scramble set up a 4th and short that Marshall converted with a seven yard run. With :06 left, Alex Garoutte shook off a shaky fall camp by connecting on a 49-yard field goal to send the Devils into halftime up 24-0.
It wouldn't be a half of Sun Devils football if someone didn't get injured, and while the Devils lead 24-0 at the half, we have an unfortunate offensive line injury to report.
Aderious Simmons was injured late in the second quarter with an apparent left leg injury. He left the field on crutches while icing his ankle. He is not expected to return, but hopefully his injury is not as serious as it appeared to be.
Garth Gerhart was slow to get up with a few minutes remaining in the second quarter, but stayed in to play the rest of the half at center. He was downfield blocking for Kyle Middlebrooks, who managed to pick up 13 yards on an Osweiler pass. Gerhart is expected to be a big contributor during this 2011 season, being named to the Rimington Award watch list, annually given out to the best center in the college game.
The UC Davis Aggies won the coin toss, electing to receive against the Sun Devils. On the first play from scrimmage, the Aggies had the ball at their own 24-yard line.
ASU's defense didn't impress from the onset, as QB Randy Wright and RB Josh Reese were able to move the ball 17 yards down the field with relative ease. On third and five, Vontaze Burfict had enough, ripping through the left side of the offensive line to sack Wright and force a punt.
With the ball in hand, Brock Osweiler and Cameron Marshall immediately went to work. On ASU's first offensive play of 2011, Osweiler completed a swing pass to Marshall, who bolted 47 yards down the sideline before finally being dragged down at the Aggies 8-yard line.
Two rushing plays later, Marshall found paydirt, giving the Sun Devils a 7-0 lead after Garoutte successfully made the extra point attempt.
Special teams nearly gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown, as kicker Alex Garoutte was forced to make a tackle on the Aggies 35-yard line in a last-ditch effort, giving the coaches a good opportunity to address these issues before a faster team can capitalize.
Junior Onyeali picked up his first sack of the season on UC Davis' second possession, forcing a 3rd and 18 that the Aggies were unable to convert. While the pass defense showed room for improvement, the front seven made up for any shortcomings in the secondary with hard-nosed play.
Up 7-0, the Sun Devils tried out some new running plays, including
Osweiler showed good decision-making skills on this drive, tucking and running up the middle when one play exploded and rolling out of the pocket to find Cameron Marshall on another attempt. Marshall once again blew threw the UC Davis defensive line to give the Sun Devils a 14-0 lead with 3:40 left in the first quarter.
Another Aggie possession, another sack for Burfict -- this time, however, he shot out of a cannon, knocking Wright down with impressive speed. With two sacks on the quarter, Burfict is beginning to show his true potential as a disrupter in the passing game.
Jamal Miles looked good on two punt returns, picking up 45 yards on two returns.
At the end of the quarter, Osweiler was 6/8 on pass attempts with 92 yards, while Marshall had 15 rushing yards and 53 receiving yards. Gerell Robinson was second on the list with 33 receiving yards.
End of first quarter score: 14-0 ASU.
With the beginning of the 2011 college football season comes the official debut of ASU's new uniforms. The Sun Devils unveiled their new Nike look in April in front of a big crowd at the Memorial Union on campus. The reception was warm and the Devils look to capitalize on their experienced roster with a new look and a favorable home matchup against UC Davis on Thursday night.
Sparky, ASU's Disney-designed mascot, has been relegated to the sidelines and as a smaller sticker on the back of the new pitchfork-themed helmets. The field prominently features the pitchfork at midfield, while Sparky dots the 25-yard line.
The Sun Devils begin 2011 wearing their traditional color theme: maroon jersey with gold pants and a gold helmet. Transitioning fans into a new uniform can take time, but ASU has capitalized on the merchandise, with season ticket sales reportedly up 4,000 from last season.
Next week, ASU will wear all-black uniforms in the school's first Black Out game against Missouri. The third game of the season, a road match against Big Ten foe Illinois, will be the debut of Arizona State's all-white color scheme.
For more on the Sun Devils as they take on the UC Davis Aggies, check out House Of Sparky.
View of the field for the first pitchfork game:
Junior Onyeali, for the most part, has flown under the radar during the 2011 offseason as the Sun Devils prepare for UC Davis. True, Doug Haller discussed the possibility of Onyeali having a breakout season in maroon and gold a few weeks back, but Onyeali remains a wild card for this team's front seven.
At only 5'11", Onyeali is a stout defensive end who kicks it into high gear quickly. A four-star recruit out of Mullen High School in Denver, Colorado, Junior found himself involved in every ASU football game in 2010 as a true freshman.
His strongest stretch of play was during weeks 5 through 8 of the regular season, when he amassed ten tackles and four sacks over a four game span.
More importantly, his determination and drive is what makes him special. Onyeali recently told SB Nation Arizona reporter Jose Romero that "nothing was given to [him]," and that working hard for the right to play every Saturday was his main goal.
Now a sophomore, Onyeali figures to play a huge role in the success of Arizona State's run defense in 2011. With the increasing likelihood that more blitz packages will be introduced, Onyeali should break his career-high mark of 6.5 sacks in this upcoming season. As injuries to the secondary continue to mount, Onyeali's contributions become more and more necessary moving forward.
Finally healthy after a year of shoulder problems, we might finally catch a glimpse of what the future holds for Junior.
Sun Devils coach Dennis Erickson said his team can’t wait to play its first game against another team after five weeks of camp and going against each other. It’s Thursday night against UC-Davis.
"You’ve got to go out and be ready to play and worry about ourselves and how much better we can get," Erickson said of facing the FBS Aggies.
Erickson went on to talk about a pleasant surprise in camp this fall, WR Rashad Ross. Ross is a 6-foot junior from Vallejo, Calif., who is a converted defensive back. He’s "one of the three fastest guys we have," Erickson said.
Other points of interest;
-Previously injured CB Deveron Carr practiced at almost full speed and is expected to be able to play Thursday.
-K Alex Garoutte is very inconsistent, Erickson said. Garoutte is a redshirt freshman. "But it’s not just him," Erickson said when asked about new players on special teams. "When there’s 60,000 people in the stands… to kick it through, that’s hard."
-RB Deantre Lewis is trying to come back from a gunshot wound. He’s around "75 to 80 percent," Erickson said of how close Lewis is to being physically able to practice.
Brock Osweiler is the man at quarterback for Arizona State going into this season, and he's accepted a leadership role. He'll be the guy running the show when the Sun Devils take the field in the season opener on Thursday.
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