What did we learn from Arizona State‘s win last night? Not much, really.
No. 9 South Carolina opens the season against No. 21 Texas A&M tomorrow. No. 12 Georgia will host No. 16 Clemson. And No. 14 Wisconsin will go on the road to play No. 13 LSU.
Meanwhile, No. 19 ASU opened its season against… Weber State.
Weber is an FCS program that plays in the Big Sky Conference. That’s the same conference that includes Northern Arizona University among its membership.
You have to consider that to be able to put last night’s 45-14 ASU victory in the right perspective.
Head coach Todd Graham only had to wait until a few minutes into the second half to put in his back-up quarterback, redshirt junior Mike Bercovici, thereby acknowledging that the game was well in hand after his Devils dominated the first half to take a 31-0 lead into the locker room.
Weber State’s Jay Hill, who was coaching his first college game as a head coach, acknowledged after the game that his defense just wasn’t up to dealing with ASU’s potent offense, but also noted that his offense was pretty much stifled throughout the game at Sun Devil Stadium.
“Well, if you look at it, the stats pretty much explain it all,” he said. “They ran for 267 yards, we ran for 152. They threw for 303 yards, we threw for 156. They did basically what you would expect a Pac-12 team to do.
“We came in thinking we had a chance to win if we played perfectly – and that just didn’t happen.”
What did happen:
ASU used its Big Three offensive weapons – quarterback Taylor Kelly, running back D.J. Foster, and receiver Jaelen Strong – to overwhelm the Wildcat defense and give the second-team players a chance to get some time on the field in the second half.
Taylor finished the night with 238 passing yards, despite giving up playing time to Bercovici, completing 18 of his 27 attempts and contributing a score. Foster, the junior from Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, added three more touchdowns with 147 yards rushing and passed the 1,000-yard mark in his ASU career (1,141). Strong, a redshirt junior, had 10 catches for 146 yards.
Defensively, it looks like a young group that is starting six new players this season is beginning to come together as they limited Weber State to 156 yards in the air and 152 on the ground.
And in the stands, there was even more support than usual this early in the schedule. “I tell you what I saw,” said an excited Graham after the game, “almost 10 thousand students, and that’s awesome. That’s a new record for the opener and, man, I just want to thank our students for coming out loud and proud.
“It was an awesome atmosphere for the opener.”
But the third-year head coach, as might be expected, was not entirely pleased with the way the first game of the season went, despite dominating throughout. As he admitted, that should have been expected with a lower-level opponent.
“I thought we missed some stuff early on offensively,” he pointed out. “We went down and had to kick a field goal, and we obviously shouldn’t punt against a team that we are that much better than. So I thought it was a little lackluster from that standpoint.
“You know we dominated a team that we needed to dominate. I thought we just missed some throws, had too many penalties. We had two offside penalties… an illegal-procedure penalty, and a face-mask penalty. And that’s too many.”
From the day he arrived on the Tempe campus from Pittsburgh, Graham has preached the need for fewer penalties. Last night’s bundle of miscues did not please him – and will undoubtedly be addressed in practice.
The Sun Devils will definitely have to clean up the sloppy play before their next game, when they travel to Albuquerque a week from tomorrow to take on the New Mexico Lobos. Like Graham, Bob Davie, who became one of the biggest names in coaching during five years at Notre Dame, is in his third year of re-building the New Mexico program and is making great strides going into this season.
The Lobos were the Mountain West Conference rushing champions last season and were ranked fourth in the nation with 308 yards per game.
The Lobos open their season tomorrow night with a home game against UTEP.
After that, we’ll have a better picture of what to expect next week.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)