After a long offseason of uncertainty, discourse and negativity, the Sun Devils finally took the field and took a collective exhale. Two new coordinators and 43 new players on the roster led to a bit of uncertainty as to how the team would work together under the bright lights of a college game.
It was only one night, but they managed pretty well, beating NAU 40-3 on Thursday night.
The offense struggled to find the end zone in the first quarter, but the Devils didn’t let the Lumberjacks linger. The rushing attack was potent with X Valladay leading the way with 118 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. Daniyel Ngata had the longest run of the night with a 29-yard bruiser. Emory Jones rushed for 48 yards and two scores along while efficiently completing 13/18 for 152 yards through the air.
Messiah Swinson, Elijhah Badger and Andre Johnson were constant targets for Jones. One of the fiercest competitions in training camp came at the kicking position. Freshman Carter Brown got the nod on Thursday and hit all of his extra points as well as four field goals.
The significance of this? Brown has already hit half as many field goals as the Sun Devils did in the entire 2021 season.
The new-look secondary, a group without Jordan Clark and Timarcus Davis due to injury, limited NAU’s RJ Martinez to 95 yards. Kyle Soelle and Chris Edmonds came away with an interception each. Overall, the Devils dominated the time of possession at 33:56 to 22:18.
It’s an issue if season-opening games against FCS opponents are exciting. ASU had two pick-sixes called back on penalties, and they would have preferred 28 points to the 12 they received from field goals. But they stepped on the field, took care of business, and now have a few extra days to look at Oklahoma State, who had their own troubles in a 58-44 win over Central Michigan on Thursday.
Joey Ramos suffered a high ankle sprain on Thursday night and Coach Edwards said he hopes to have the versatile lineman ready for next Saturday against Oklahoma State.
What they said
Herm Edwards on Emory Jones taking some hits when running the ball:
“We’re going to have a little conversation. You got to know when the journey’s over. I’m going to ask if he has every played baseball because in baseball, you have to slide. He has to learn how to slide. I don’t want him taking hits. It’s not worth it.”
Emory Jones on Messiah Swinson’s & Xazavian Valladay’s performance:
“I’ve been waiting to see those guys go out and perform. They did what they’re supposed to do, what they do every single day. Messiah, he’s a big target. You all see, he’s got people bouncing off of him. That’s somebody I love throwing the ball to, big targets, just throw it up in the air for them. X is crazy dynamic. He can break out and go score at any time. I’m just really excited about those guys. They’ve put in all the work and it’s showing.”
The Sun Devils and Oklahoma State kick off on September 10 at 4:30 PM Arizona time.