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September 20, 2009
Sun Devils start fast, coast through Warhawks
It was filled with big plays and big hits but most importantly, it didn't end in big disappointment. The Arizona State football team (2-0) avoided the trap Saturday, handing the University of Louisiana at Monroe a convincing 38-14 loss.
Despite the dominating effort, ASU coach Dennis Erickson didn't sound impressed during his post-game press conference.
"I thought we played OK," he said. "My expectations of how we should play and how we play sometimes are two different things."
Aside from the expected strong effort from the defense, Erickson enjoyed an extraordinary evening from his special teams.
Junior cornerback Omar Bolden set the tone early, running back the opening kickoff 89 yards for a score.
"There was just a wide open lane," Bolden said. "The credit goes to the rest of the 10 players who were on the kickoff return team. They all set up their blocks real nice and I just did the rest."
Redshirt freshman Keelan Johnson got into the act himself, rattling off a 44-yard return in the second quarter.
Erickson had to make due without junior kicker Thomas Weber, though, who injured his hip flexor earlier this week in practice. Freshman Bobby Wenzig made his collegiate debut, hitting all five of his extra point attempts and nailing a 24-yarder.
"[Weber] couldn't kick so I called Bobby Wenzig," Erickson said. "I'm glad he was in town."
Junior punter Trevor Hankins also had a productive game, averaging 46.2 yards on his five punts.
Offensively, though, a couple of seniors stole the show.
On the ground, it was all about Dimitri Nance, who gained 82 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns on 17 carries. Through the air, it was Kyle Williams' show, as he hauled in 129 yards on eight receptions.
That's not to say they were the only ones making highlights. Senior Chris McGaha made a miraculous, bobbling, one-handed circus catch in the second quarter to make it 21-7 ASU.
Following Bolden's interception, ASU coaxed ULM into a pair of three-and-outs, adding a Nance touchdown in between. ULM scored in the second quarter to make it 14-7 but wouldn't spend much more time in ASU territory until the game's futile moments.
In the meantime, Sullivan and company were busy matriculating the ball down the field. In all, the Sun Devils amassed 338 yards, including 220 from Sullivan (19-of-31).
ASU failed to give the ball away once again and have a turnover margin of +7 heading into Saturday's contest at Georgia.
No, Mike Nixon didn't pull in another interception, but his fellow senior linebacker Travis Goethel did. In fact, Goethel probably would have scored had he not been knocked down by senior defensive end Dexter Davis during the return.
"He's got to take me out to dinner now," Goethel said of Davis.
The defensive line received a boost Saturday, as sophomore defensive tackle Lawrence Guy (biceps) made his season debut. Saturday also marked the emergence of freshman defensive end Gregory Smith, who was the first end to see action at the position off the bench.
"What he brings to the table for us is he's a very good pass rusher," Erickson said. "We play him a little bit more in nickel than we do anything else. He's going to get better, he's just a young player."
Saturday's contest still left much to be desired for Erickson, though. The offensive line still looks suspect and the pocket was often collapsing around Sullivan, forcing rushed throws. Still, Sullivan said he feels good about where his line is at right now.
"[I'm] very confident," Sullivan said of his o-line. "We're going to have mistakes, it happens, but I'm pretty confident in them. We're getting the ball out of our hands to Kyle, Chris and [junior wide receiver] Kerry Taylor and even our tight ends and letting those guys make plays in space."
Aside from registering his first touchdown toss as a starter, Sullivan also recorded his first career rushing touchdown, a 1-yard score near the end of the third quarter.