Foster and Strong shine in 45-14 rout

The odds makers had Arizona State as 46-point favorites in the season opener against FCS opponent Weber State. That margin seemed achievable considering the 2-10 season Weber State had in 2013, as well as its 70-7 loss to Utah. Yet the Sun Devils won by just 31 points.

Sure the score could’ve been different had the starters played for more than three quarters. Regardless, it wasn’t the outcome that many had predicted, but the Devils came away with a win to start the season off.

D.J. Foster carried the ball 15 times for 147 yards and tallied three touchdowns on the night -- not exactly a poor performance. And Jaelen Strong hauled in 10 passes – some with corners draped all over him – for 146 yards.

The top players performed the way they should have.

"I was satisfied with how we played,” quarterback Taylor Kelly said. “We came out with a great sense of urgency against this team. We just got to keep getting better each week. We can't be satisfied with how we played tonight. We just got to keep staying hungry. We did get off to a slow start in the beginning with a few overthrown passes by myself. We just got to settle in. Once we start getting going, this is going to be a great season."

The Sun Devils recorded two first downs on their first drive of the game, but were eventually forced to punt after two overthrows from Kelly.

On the second drive, D.J. Foster got the brunt of the work, rushing three times for 17 yards and catching one pass for 16 yards to get the Devils into the red zone. From that point, the offense stalled again and were forced to take three points off the foot of Zane Gonzalez.

Not the type of start the offense wanted.

"I thought we came out just a little lackadaisical,” running back D.J. Foster said. “We expect more on our drives than a punt and a field goal. That's one thing we worked very hard on in this offseason. We need points. We need six points. We need to score. We definitely tried to get the guys going."

There was more rhythm to the third drive of the game for ASU. Starting at their own 45, the Devils drove all the way down inside the Wildcats’ 10, and Kelly threw to a crossing Gary Chambers for the first touchdown of the year, and fittingly the first catch of his Sun Devil career.

“It says a lot about him,” Kelly said of Chambers. “He put in a lot of work this offseason in the weight room, extra time running routes and studying film. He’s been working his tail off in fall camp, and to finally see him put it all together and have a nice touchdown catch, it’s really exciting. He’s going to be a great player for us.”

Three straight three and outs for the defense after a relatively lackluster start of the game for Arizona State extended its lead to 17-0 with 1:32 seconds left in the first quarter on a D.J. Foster one-yard touchdown run, though the drive was dominated by Jaelen Strong’s three catches for 47 yards.

"Jaelen had a tremendous game,” Kelly said. “He had a great offseason as well, studying film, finally getting a full season of workouts and his ability to condition himself where he needs to be. He's a playmaker.”

All the while, the defense was playing sound, considering the hubbub surrounding the unit coming into the season. The Devils forced three straight three-and-outs for Weber State to start the game.

One of the biggest plays of the game on the defensive side of the ball for the Sun Devils was the goal line stand towards the end of the first quarter to keep the game 17-0. D.J. Calhoun, along with Marcus Washington, helped stuff the inside run to keep the score where it was.

“I just told everybody, ‘Come on. We can stop them. We've been practicing our inside blitz. This is it right here,’" Calhoun said. “Then, the play just happened and we smashed them.”

On the ensuing drive, the offense turned it around and drove 99 yards down the field for a score. Foster bruised it in from three yards out for his second touchdown of the night.

Kalen Ballage added a score of his own – the first of his Sun Devil career – when he punched it in on the goal line nearing the end of the first half to extend the lead to 31.

Arizona State started the second half on the right foot, forcing a Weber State punt. On the ensuing drive, D.J. Foster had one of the plays of the game with his 57-yard TD run.

“I just tried to be more of a leader for the younger guys,” Foster said. “It felt good to be back out there. I thought our offensive line did a great job tonight and blocked well out there. It was good communication all over on the offensive side of the ball.”

The shutout went out the window when Weber St. quarterback Billy Green completed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Shaydon Kehano over Lloyd Carrington’s head to cap off an eight play, 65-yard drive.

Mike Bercovici connected with Ellis Jefferson from 15 yards out to answer.

With most of the third stringers in the game, Weber State running back Zach Smith took a draw play 60 yards to pay dirt, to make the final score 45-14.

Arizona State travels to New Mexico to take on the Lobos on Sep. 6th and kickoff at 4pm PT.

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