Devils blast Bengals in season opener

Even against a clearly inferior opponent, the Sun Devils had to make a statement offensively versus Idaho State. Scoring 43 of the team's total points was impressive, albeit the opportunities in the red zone that were ultimately converted to field goals rather than touchdowns. Defensively, Mike Nixon's three interceptions led an impressive defensive performance in a 50-3 victory.

"Defensively, we just totally dominated the game," said Arizona State Head Coach Dennis Erickson. "That's just how it is when you have 65 scholarships like they (Idaho State) have. That's hard. We just dominated so much defensively against them that it was very difficult.

"I thought, offensively, as time went on we got a little better with the running game. I thought Danny (Sullivan) made some good throws. I thought we dropped a lot of balls. I guess we dropped about three touchdowns that first half. These guys are good receivers. They don't drop (the ball) very much. It's not like I'm worried about it happening all the time. I thought Danny (Sullivan) played well and did some darn good things. I also thought Brock (Osweiler) came in and did some good things too. I thought our offensive front played pretty well, particularly in the first three quarters. Overall, it was a good win and we just have to get ready for the next game."

In his debut as a starter, Sullivan was 13-25 for 165 yards, and admitted that the nerves play a role in his performance on Saturday night.

"I think it went pretty well," Sullivan said of his performance against the Bengals. "There were a couple of unfortunate events out there, but that's the game. You just learn to run with it. A bye week is good for us right now. I think we can learn from our mistakes and iron out the wrinkles.

"I got pretty excited in the first half, but then I calmed down a little bit halfway through the first quarter and started making throws. Third down conversions were good. It was just being patient."

ASU had a 20-0 lead at halftime, but led just 3-0 after the first quarter and had just one offensive touchdown and three goals from 27 yards or less the first thirty minutes. On defense, the Sun Devils had their way with the visitors not only blanking them in the scoring column, but also registering zero yards given up in the first stanza.

Nixon had three interceptions, tying an 18-year record for number of picks in a contest, and he returned one of those interceptions for a score in the second quarter.

"He just makes plays, and he's in the right place at the right time," said Erickson of his senior linebacker." (The other team) just doesn't see him, and they throw the ball and he makes a pick. He's been doing that ever since we've been here. He's that kind of a player. He's smart and makes big plays for us."

The first game of the 2009 season also marked the long anticipated debut of five-star prospect linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who was cleared academically by the NCAA roughly 27 hours before Saturday's night kickoff.

Burfict wasted no time when entering the contest and laid one his signature punishing tackles in the game, and tied former Corona (Calif.) Centennial linebacker Brandon Magee with five tackles to pace the maroon and gold. The true freshman also had a fumble recovery.

Erickson stated the speed of the game picked up when Burfict entered the game in the second quarter and was naturally pleased with his performance against the visitors from Pocatello, Idaho.

"As soon as he learns what he's doing all the time, he's going to be outstanding down the road," Erickson commented. "He made some plays today, but it was good to see him out there. I'm just so happy for him because he's been dealing with this (NCAA) clearance thing. Even though we knew it was good, it wasn't good until they said. It's just a load off of him, and I'm just so happy for him that he has an opportunity to go to school here, first of all, and then obviously that he can play."

The Sun Devil skipper added that Burfict, who didn't practice all week, will certainly see more time in ASU's upcoming contests, but also praised the player Burfict was backing up, Gerald Munns, for his display on Saturday night.

"We're very fortunate that we have some depth there at linebacker," Erickson noted.

The ASU head coach joked that that he used a "Senate committee" as he played five tailbacks on Saturday night. Three of them, Dimitri Nance (9-yard score), Ryan Bass (38-yard score) and Jarrell Woods (9-yard score), found pay dirt versus Idaho State.

"We wanted to see them all," Erickson explained. "As I have said before nobody has really jumped out. Dimitri (Nance) has been the most consistent guy and they all had some pretty good things happen to them."

Brock Osweiler was one of five true freshmen who played Saturday night, and threw the only score of the game, a beautiful 16-yard touchdown strike to senior walk-on Brian Matsumoto, who collected his first touchdown of his ASU career.

The maroon and gold have the week off before they face the University of Louisiana-Monroe on the 19th in Tempe. The offense can certainly improve on tonight's performance, but for a group that came under heavy scrutiny into the 2009 campaign, they showed that they are capable of lighting up a scoreboard in a contest where they frankly were expected to pile on the points.


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