To use an amusement park analogy to characterize the start of Arizona State’s 2013 football season, the Sun Devils had an enjoyable spin on the merry-go-round last night vs. FCS opponent Sacramento State before they move on to the bigger, scarier rides (i.e., Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame) that lie ahead.
The Sun Devils demolished Sacramento State 55-0 in a game that was basically over after the Hornets’ initial, gusty drive, which failed to produce any points.
Credit this win, in large part, to the play of ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly. The junior signal caller had the look of a player intent on leading his team to a conference championship, Rose Bowl…and beyond.
“We had weapons all across the field,” said Kelly, “and they were always getting open.” Kelly wrapped up his evening’s work early in the third quarter, finishing 23 of 31 for 300 yards with five touchdowns and, critically, no interceptions.
“You can see just how much more comfortable he [Kelly] feels in the pocket and operating the system,’’ ASU coach Todd Graham said. “I know we have a very good offense and I know we got a chance to win a championship because we got a championship-caliber quarterback.”
Kelly had plenty of help in dismantling Sac State. His upgraded receiving corps, featuring noteworthy performances by wide receivers Jaelen Strong, Kevin Ozier, and Rick Smith, as well as tight ends Chris Coyle and De’Marieya Nelson, looked significantly improved over last season.
When Kelly wasn’t spreading the ball across the field, he was dishing it off to a versatile group of running backs. Senior Marion Grice, in particular, appeared in top form in both the rushing and receiving departments.
ASU fans did have a few moments of concern during last night’s contest. Defensive tackle Will Sutton was slow to get up after a play early in the first quarter, and linebacker Chris Young — a key run-stopper for the Sun Devils — left the game just before half-time with a leg injury. Young’s status for next week’s match-up with Wisconsin is unknown at this time.
Special teams remain a question for Arizona State heading into the teeth of its schedule. Freshman kicker Zane Gonzalez hit two field goals — from 40 and 29 yards — but missed from 33 and 49.