Starting quarterback Sam Keller was hot out of the gates completing 11 of his first 12 passes, and threw a touchdown pass to Terry Richardson for 17 yards late in the scrimmage. He was also intercepted once by Littrele Jones. However, Keller's highlight was finding one time quarterback and newly converted wide receiver, Chad Christensen, down the field twice for gains of 42 and 43 yards. Christensen displayed Todd Heap like skills snaring the 42-yards pass with one-handed.
Backup signal caller Rudy Carpenter was more economical going 8-15 for 64 yards and two scores – both to tight end Jamaal Lewis. His lone interception was returned for a 38-yard touchdown by safety Rodney Cox. The redshirt freshman also managed to recover his own fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. Overall, ten receivers caught balls from both quarterbacks.
Walk-on Aaron Lafitte was the surprise of the running game gaining 54 yards on seven carries. Antone Saulsberry, who had an outstanding spring, had to leave the game with a hamstring injury after only his second carry. Rudy Burgess, who was planned not to play in the backfield today, gained 30 yards on only six carries. Price Wilks who is battling for a prominent position in the depth chart found the end zone twice, as his carried the ball seven times for 20 yards.
Thanks to his two big catches, Christensen led all receivers with 91 yards on three catches. Derek Hagan chipped in with 49 yards on four catches. Lewis had four catches for 40 yards and two scores, while Richardson scored once while pulling in a couple of catches for 31 yards.
"There were good things on both sides of the ball," said head coach Dirk Koetter after the game. "The best thing is that we didn't get anybody hurt seriously. Antone has a little bit of a hamstring (injury), nothing major. We have plenty of injuries, but it looks like all of our injured guys will be back on June 1st ready to go (for off-season workouts). When you're playing yourself, no one is ever happy. Half the team is happy, and half is sad. That's the bad part of spring ball but now it's on to summer training and the next step."
Lining up Chad Christensen at wide receiver was beneficial not only to the fifth year senior but also to other players. "We've been doing that with Chad all spring," Koetter explained. "We made that decision in the off-season. Rudy (Carpenter) can benefit more from the second-team reps at QB, and Chad can help us more at wide receiver with Moey Mutz out. Chad will help us in a lot of ways."
Koetter stated that his defense, while still being work in progress, has shown some promise the last few weeks. "The defense is still learning all the time, by no means are we a finished product," he remarked. "I like the things that we have in place. We're missing a lot of guys – we have to get all of our guys back. I like the scheme. We have two great playmakers there in Dale Robinson and Jamar Williams. We just have to get some guys around them." Koetter added that that Robinson is the spring's defensive MVP ("It's not even close. He's playing on another level"), while offensive MVP is Rudy Burgess, who has "been awesome all spring."
After going through some trying times the last few weeks, the Sun Devil skipper was elated to be playing the spring scrimmage in front of the team's supporters. "Always great to be on the field and with the crowd," said Koetter. "A little hot today, but it's great to be out with the fans and this is the best grass field in the world. My legs are a little tight right now (from Pat's Run) but I have a few months to rest up (smile)."
When asked what grade he would give Sam Keller, Koetter replied with a C+. The ASU signal caller concurred. "I'd probably grade myself around a C, C+," he said. "I was decent but could have been a lot better. Made a lot of good plays but also made some plays I shouldn't of. I just have to keep getting better at decision making."
Keller believes that his biggest improvement is tied into an important intangible. "Command and just leadership of the offense," he commented. "I have a good control of the guys and a good feel for them. It's just the little details that I need to get better and that's the easy part."
"We can only get better," he said about the offense as a whole. "The O-line was really consistent and played well. I'm really proud of them the whole time. They're not vocal guys, they just go out there and do their job every time and that's real impressive. We just have to be more disciplined as a group with penalties and decisions, and a lot of that is on me. We can only go up and we will, and that's what's exciting about it. I can't wait to get the season going and see where we go."
Defensive tackle Jordan Hill is one of a handful of veterans returning on defense, and he gave his opinion of the changes that new defensive coordinator Bill Miler has installed during the spring. "I think coach Miller is a great coach and the schemes that he's bringing in are really gonna help us," he remarked, "and put us in good positions so that when we get on a team we can really close out on them. Last year it seems that at times when we would get teams down, we couldn't quite keep them down. With some of the things coach Miller is doing we have more things to throw at them to keep them that way."
Hill feels that the defensive line has developed in the last few weeks. "We've done a lot of good things in the spring," he said. "One of the biggest things is that we were able to develop some depth. It was kinda bad that we had Kyle (Caldwell) out of the rotation, but it gave other guys an opportunity to step up and play with the 1's."
Last year Hill, a converted linebacker, was the newcomer on the defensive line. Only one year later he's the veteran that will be asked to provide leadership. "That's kind of a scary thought (being the veteran)," he said with a smile. "If that's what I need to do, than I'm willing to step up and tackle that role. We have a great group of guys on the D-Line that will step up and work hard. I think at times we may need to push them along and if that's what I need to do I'm willing to do that."
Keller 18-27 200 TD, INT
Carpenter 8-15 64 2 TD
Carpenter 8-24 TD
Wilks 7-20 2 TD's
Carpenter 8-24 TD
Lewis 4-40 2 TD's
Richardson 2-31 TD
Sacks: Darley, Smith, Talbot (1/2) and Kofe (1/2)
Carpenter had two fumbles, one he recovered for a TD, and Manutai recovered the other
Cox returned a 38-yard INT for a TD
Littrele Jones has an INT and a blocked punt
Robinson had two tackles for a loss
Ainsworth was 8-12. His longest made FG was 46 (made it four times). His misses were from 46, 43, 45, and 53.
Offense Has Solid Outing in Spring Scrimmage
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