I'm not going to lie. I may have dozed off during the 4th quarter of tonight's game. OK, not really. But still...whatever you're going to take from tonight, take it from the first three quarters.
There was enough, regardless, to like and dislike (more to like, really) throughout tonight's 30-13 win over Northern Arizona to get through some post-game analysis here on PFN.
Everything written tonight should of coursed be suffixed by "...against Northern Arizona" of course, but still, I'm a happy blogger/reporter/all-around ASU addict tonight.
Overall, I was very impressed by the effort on all fronts. That's the plain and simple of it. ASU got off to a quick start, something we haven't seen since the Clinton administration and scored a touchdown on their first drive of the football game. This, of course, coming off of a 2007 season where the Devils only mustered 50 1st quarter points.
Rudy Carpenter was tremendous. He's got a touch on his throws that I have not seen him have in game action throughout his career; the main example was the remarkable throw and catch to Mike Jones in the 2nd quarter where it looked like Jones jumped to the upper bowl. His passes were for the most part accurate and timely (22/28 for 388 yards and a score in 2 1/2 quarters). And how about him scampering? We haven't seen that in some time! With 43 yards, he was the Devils' leading rusher! Back during the Keller/Carpenter debate in 2006, we all clamored that Rudy was the better scrambler; that he was able to do more with his legs, and boy, did we see it. The one thing I'll point out is that RC tends to dive forward head first instead of sliding, and if he's going to continue this kind of play, he'd better learn to do the Steve Young slide or he's going to get himself knocked out.
As for the receivers, I'm excited. Chris McGaha didn't show any ill effects from his toe injury, leading me to believe it's completely healed. He ran crisp routes and showed no problems cutting. Mike Jones was Mike Jones (though numerically, he was unbelievable) and it was nice to see Nate Kimbrough make some catches. I'm most excited about Kerry Taylor. His ability to accelerate and get so many YAC on his touchdown catch reminded me a lot of his dad back in his heyday. Kerry looks like he might develop into a nice little deep threat as the season comes along.
Dimitri Nance showed flashes of brilliance. I think he's improved his ability to accelerate off tackle during the offseason, especially when he was sprung to the outside for his 2nd touchdown run. One one occasion, he bowled through the tackles so deftly and strongly that I said out loud that he reminded me of Ryan Torain. Jarrell Woods looked OK and we didn't see enough of Ryan Bass to pass judgment.
I was pleasantly surprised by the offensive line. They handled the NAU pass rush, only allowing RC to get sacked once on a play where he only made a three-step drop. I thought their situational blocking was tremendous and really opened up holes for Nance and gave Rudy plenty of time to move around the pocket. Only two false start penalties (TWO!); one by Adam Tello and the other by backup John MacDonald.
Glad to see that the team has settled on Pierre Singfield as the starting CB across from Omar Bolden. He's clearly the more athletic and heady corner than Terrell Carr and I look forward to see what he can do against faster receivers. I thought Ryan McFoy looked good and, more importantly, comfortable in his new digs at linebacker. Lawrence Guy is super quick. He moves around very easily, especially laterally. And what else is there to say about Dexter Davis? Two sacks tonight, and dare I say, on pace for 24? (No, not yet, is the answer.)
They've got some things to work on obviously. The running game was clearly hampered without Keegan Herring's speed...he participated in pre-game warmups but coach Erickson said afterwards that there was no need for him to rush back. The offensive line obviously has more maturing to do, but after taking only those two procedure penalties, I'm a little less worried on that front. The second team defense got lazy, allowing NAU to score the last 10 points of the game. Nance's case of the dropsies got him in trouble on the third play of the game; luckily Shaun Lauvao was there to fall on it, and Kyle Williams muffed a punt. All of these are minor details that can get fixed quickly.
And they're going to have to. Stanford comes in next week and their defense is certainly no pushover. The offensive line will get their first true test as the Cardinal carry in a pass rush that sacked Lyle Moevao twice, hurried him on countless occasions and forced two bad interceptions.
Only one note on the injury front other then Herring. Angelo Fobbs-Valentino got absolutely run and nailed low from behind on a punt return and was helped off the field. Less importantly, the refs completely missed what was the textbook example of a block in the back on the play. DE said in his postgame that it was an MCL injury and they'll have more info later.
All in all, I'm happy with tonight's performance. Like I said, everything was "against NAU" tonight, but it's a start. Now we'll see what this team can do against Pac-10 caliber talent in six days.
Good news also came from off the field. After the game, I was told that the bubble may actually be ready to go much sooner than expected. It's apparently going to cost "much less" than the original estimate of $900k to $1 million to repair the fabric dome. Definitely a sigh of relief, but in reality, it didn't really change anything for the regular day-to-day operation of the team. As Associate AD for Communications Mark Brand told Kevin McCabe on The Fan AM 1060 on Friday morning, "We have practiced outside for 86 years before this, I think they'll be OK."
Photo Credit: The Arizona Republic