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.
After losing the start at left tackle to Dan Knapp for disciplinary reasons, Evan Finkenberg saw action later in the game and played well.
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.