Sun Devils cruise, yet seek Improvement

The Sun Devils kicked off their 2011 season Thursday night at Sun Devil Stadium with a resounding 48-14 win over the Aggies of UC-Davis. And as far as season openers go, the Devils can take pleasure in the progress they've made during the offseason while also focusing on some areas that still need some improvement before next week's showdown with Missouri.

Brock Osweiler, who made his first career start at Sun Devil Stadium Thursday, led the Sun Devil attack, completing 19-26 passes for 262 passes, two touchdowns and one interception before exiting midway through the third quarter. After the game, Osweiler credited his offensive line for keeping him upright and providing him with enough time to operate the offense.

"Like I said, going into this first game, they're a group with a lot of experience, and a group who worked extremely hard in the offseason," said Osweiler after the game. "There are no other five guys I'd take into battle, so I just want to thank those guys for their efforts, and they played a great game tonight."

Overall, the Sun Devils were able to accumulate 517 yards of offense, but were also undone by a lack of consistency and focus. Along with Osweiler's interception, Rashad Ross committed a fumble and the offense was only able to convert two out of their four 4th down attempts.

"It's going to be hard to really know until we break down the film tomorrow but I thought we had times when we were flowing really good," commented Osweiler. "And then we'd have a turnover or a bad play and kind of slow things down. But for the first night, I was happy with it."

Helping carry the load offensively was junior running back Cameron Marshall, who despite only amassing 23 yards on the ground was able to punch it in for two early Sun Devil touchdowns, pacing the attack. As a team, the Sun Devils rushed the ball forty times for 217 yards; nearly 5.5 yards per carry.

"The first couple times I got the ball there were huge holes out there," remarked Marshall. "The offensive line did their thing out there tonight and did a really good job."

After missing a couple weeks of fall camp due to a nagging leg injury, Marshall was finally able to show off some diversity in his ever-expanding role within the Sun Devil offense. On Thursday night he hauled in 4 catches for 86 yards, including one for 47 yards, a career long.

"I caught the ball well out of the backfield," commented Marshall. "I had a couple long pass plays. I think they told me I had a career high today, so that was good."

With temperatures around 100 degrees at kickoff, the sweltering late-summer heat was factor for both players and fans on Thursday. Along with 21 heat related incidents that were reported by fans in attendance, Brock Osweiler also seemed to have his share of problems fighting the elements. Chronic cramping forced an early ending to his evening, serving as a reminder for all players to better prepare for next week's match.

"On my interception, my right calf went and just locked up, and then on my touchdown pass both calves and my right hip went," said Osweiler. "So I was kind of shot down and couldn't do too much out there. I've just got to be better with my hydration during the week and start preparing tonight for Missouri.

"Tonight was a new experience for myself and an experience I hope I never go through again."

One experience Sun Devil fans hope to see more of was the smothering effort the first team defense applied for most of the evening against the Aggies. The Devils were able to limit UC-Davis to just 243 of offense while only allowing scoring drives late in the contest, after the outcome had already been decided.

"Our first unit came out early in the game and played really well," commented senior captain Colin Parker. "We had some minor issues later on with them scoring both touchdowns in the second half. Overall it was a good first game, but we're going to have to make some corrections for next week."

For the defense, it was all about executing the game plan, which tonight included some heavy blitz schemes, allowing the Sun Devils to pressure and harass the Aggies. Junior Vontaze Burfict was able to register three of the six sacks the Sun Devil had for the evening, while last year's conference defensive player of the year, Junior Onyeali, added two. Pass rush was one of the main concerns for the Sun Devil defense the offseason, and something Parker expects to see more of from his defensive teammates.

"We got the game plan earlier in the week and there were a lot of blitzes," he said. "Whether they call them or not, we'll see in the games.

"I felt we've been blitzing pretty well in camp and it's time to show it off."

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