Dominated over the first three quarters, UC Davis came to life in the final 15 minutes, putting together a couple of scoring drives.
The game had long been decided when the scores came against Arizona State’s backups, but it at least gave the Aggies something to build on.
Nick Aprile scored on a 48-yard touchdown run and Josh Reese punched in a 1-yard score, giving UC Davis some sense of accomplishment from a 48-14 loss to the bigger and faster Sun Devils on a steamy Thursday night.
”Yeah, we have to clean things up, but that is a good football team,” UC Davis coach Bob Biggs said. ”ASU has a lot of athleticism and a lot of speed, and I thought we competed until the very end. I’m proud of the way they competed.”
Arizona State dominated UC Davis from the start, rolling up 517 total yards while holding the FCS Aggies in check the first three quarters.
Brock Osweiler was sharp in his first home start, throwing for 262 yards before limping off with leg cramps following his second touchdown pass to Aaron Pflugrad midway through the third quarter.
Cameron Marshall scored on a pair of 2-yard runs in the opening quarter to get Arizona State off to fast start and Jamal Miles made it a runaway by opening the second half with a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
UC Davis kept fighting, though, churning out 161 yards and the two scores in the final quarter.
”Our coaches have taught us to play hard and keep fighting, because Arizona State is a physical team … so we couldn’t back down,” UC Davis cornerback Jonathan Calhoun said.
With new pitchforked logos on their helmets and speed everywhere, Arizona State headed into the season with high expectations. Not the we-can-have-a-winning-record kind, either. The Sun Devils have a legitimate belief they can get to the inaugural Pac-12 Championship, maybe earn a trip to the Rose Bowl.
Coming off three bowl-less seasons, Arizona State returned 20 starters, including high-energy junior Vontaze Burfict, one of the nation’s best linebackers, and Osweiler, who played the final two games a year ago.
There were some bumps before the season, though.
Starting cornerback Omar Bolden tore his ACL in spring practice, linebacker Brandon Magee blew out his Achilles’ tendon in the preseason and running back Deantre Lewis, the second-leading rusher a year ago, still hasn’t returned after being hit in the leg in a random shooting in February.
Even with the losses, the Sun Devils were expected to be among the elite teams in the new Pac-12.
They certainly looked good early against UC Davis, racing over the Aggies in a brutally hot night – 104 degrees at kickoff – before giving up those late scores.
Good, not great, but at least some kind of momentum heading into next week’s game against No. 21 Missouri.
”I thought we did some good things and some bad things,” Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said. ”It was OK. We’ve got to play better than that next week against Missouri if we’re going to win that football game, but there were some good things.”
Osweiler hit Marshall on a swing pass that went for 47 yards on Arizona State’s first play, and Marshall punched it in from 2 yards out two plays later. Time of drive: 62 seconds.
Next drive, set up by Tom Hemmingsen’s muffed punt, took 69 seconds, capped by another 2-yard run by Marshall.
Osweiler got his first TD pass of the season on the first play of the second quarter, hitting Pflugrad on a 31-yard post. That drive took a little longer: 77 seconds.
Arizona State’s offense bogged down after that, hurt by Rashad Ross’ fumble, a turnover on downs and a couple of momentum-killing penalties. Alex Garoutte finished the half off nicely, though, hitting a 49-yard field goal, then Miles took the second-half kickoff for a zigzagging touchdown romp to make it 31-0.
Osweiler tacked on a 13-yard touchdown pass to Pflugrad at the edge of the end zone midway through the third quarter, then limped off with his right leg straightened to keep the cramps from returning. He finished 19 of 26 with an interception.
”For the first night, I was happy with it,” Osweiler said. ”I’ve just got to be better with my hydration during the week.”