No. 19 Sun Devils beat Weber State 45-14
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) D.J. Foster slid into the featured back role with ease. Taylor Kelly and Jaelen Strong picked up where they left off last season. The young defense held its ground.
There were some sloppy moments, but as opening tests go, No. 19 Arizona State can't complain too much.
Foster ran for 147 yards and three touchdowns, Strong had 10 catches for 146 yards, and Arizona State opened its season with a 45-14 rout over Weber State on Thursday night.
''I was pleased,'' Sun Devils coach Todd Graham said. ''I thought we dominated a team we needed to dominate.''
The Sun Devils' inexperienced defense was sharp in its debut, harassing Weber State quarterback Billy Green and stuffing the Wildcats' running game before the starters came out.
Arizona State's quick-hitting offense overcame a slow start, marching over the Wildcats for 570 total yards.
Taylor Kelly threw for 238 yards on 18-of-27 passing, helping the Sun Devils build a 31-0 lead before sitting out the second half. Foster had a pair of short touchdown runs and reeled off a 57-yarder to open the second half in his first game as the go-to guy. Kalen Ballage also scored in his first college game.
''It was good to see those two running backs and all those young receivers making plays,'' Kelly said.
Weber State faced a tall task against a top-20 team on the road and got off to a decent start, slowing Arizona State's up-tempo offense most of the first quarter.
The Wildcats couldn't capitalize on their early chances, though, and watched the Sun Devils run away with it before putting together a few big plays against ASU's backups late.
Zach Smith ran for 128 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown, and Green threw for 156 yards and a touchdown in his first career start.
''There were a lot of positives, but we've got a ways to go,'' Jay Hill said after his first game as Weber State's head coach. ''For this program to be good, we've got a ways to go.''
Arizona State's biggest questions entering Graham's third season were on the defensive side of the ball.
The Sun Devils lost two-time Pac-12 player of the year Will Sutton and linebacker Carl Bradford to the NFL. They had two returning starters, a bunch of underclassmen on the two-deep roster and six players who started their first college game Thursday night.
The young guys got off to a jittery start when freshman tackle Tashon Smallwood jumped offside on the first play from scrimmage.
They dominated the rest of the half, limiting Green to short throws underneath in his first career start while holding the Wildcats to 119 yards.
Even when they screwed up, the Sun Devils made up for it, stuffing Weber State on a goal-line stand after missing numerous tackles on Smith's 39-yard run. Arizona State marched 99 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing drive.
''The goal-line stand was exactly what we needed Game 1,'' Graham said.
The defense was the nice surprise for the Sun Devils.
The not-so-nice one was start by their offense.
Arizona State racked up yards and points the past two seasons, and many of the playmakers are back this season.
Instead of racing away from Weber State, the Sun Devils sort of stumbled out of the gate, punting on their first possession and settling for a field goal on their second.
''They're a fast-starting team and we told the defense they had to find a way out of the drive,'' Hill said. ''I didn't care if it was a turnover, a three-and-out, they had to find a way out and they did it.''
Once Arizona State got rolling, so did the expected rout.
Kelly and Strong were a tough-to-stop pairing last season and kept it rolling against the Wildcats, connecting for all 10 of the big wideout's catches in the first half.
Gary Chambers caught an 8-yard touchdown pass for his first college reception and Foster appeared comfortable in his new carry-the-load role, scoring on touchdown runs of 1 and 3 yards. Kalen Ballage added a 1-yarder of his own - also his first career TD - late in the first half.
Foster ended his night with a bumping, spinning 57-yard touchdown run on Arizona State's first possession of the second half, putting the Sun Devils up 38-0 and well on their way to the rout.