Arizona State attack kicks into gear to stomp Weber State, 45-14

Arizona State wide receiver Ellis Jefferson (left) celebrates with running back D.J. Foster after scoring a 15-yard TD reception vs. Weber State.

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TEMPE, Ariz. — D.J. Foster ran for 147 yards and three touchdowns, Jaelen Strong had 10 catches for 146 yards, and No. 19 Arizona State opened its season with a 45-14 rout over Weber State on Thursday night.

The Sun Devils’ young defense was sharp in its debut, harassing Weber State quarterback Billy Green and stuffing the Wildcats’ running game before the starters came out.

Arizona State’s quick-hitting offense overcame a slow start, marching over the Wildcats for 570 total yards.

Taylor Kelly threw for 238 yards on 18-of-27 passing, helping the Sun Devils build a 31-0 lead before sitting out the second half. Foster had a pair of short touchdown runs and reeled off a 57-yarder to open the second half in his first game as Arizona State’s featured back.

Zach Smith ran for 128 yards for the Wildcats, including a late 60-yard touchdown in Jay Hill’s first game as Weber State’s coach.

Arizona State’s biggest questions entering coach Todd Graham’s third season were on the defensive side of the ball.

The Sun Devils lost two-time Pac-12 player of the year Will Sutton and linebacker Carl Bradford to the NFL. They had two returning starters, a bunch of underclassmen on the two-deep roster and six players who started their first college game Thursday night.

The young guys got off to a jittery start when freshman tackle Tashon Smallwood jumped offside on the first play from scrimmage.

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They dominated the rest of the half, limiting Green to short throws underneath in his first career start while holding the Wildcats to 119 yards.

Even when they screwed up, the Sun Devils made up for it, stuffing Weber State on a goal-line stand after missing numerous tackles on Smith’s 39-yard run.

That was the nice surprise for the Sun Devils.

The not-so-nice one was the start by their offense.

Arizona State racked up yards and points the past two seasons, and many of the playmakers are back this season.

Instead of racing away from Weber State, the Sun Devils sort of stumbled out of the gate, punting on their first possession and settling for a field goal on their second.

Once Arizona State got rolling, so did the expected rout.

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Kelly showed off his solid connection with Strong, hitting the big wideout for all 10 of his catches in the first half.

Gary Chambers caught an 8-yard touchdown pass for his first college reception and Foster appeared comfortable in his new carry-the-load role, scoring on touchdown runs of 1 and 3 yards. Kalen Ballage added a 1-yarder of his own — also his first career TD — late in the first half.

Foster ended his night with a bumping, spinning 57-yard touchdown run on Arizona State’s first possession of the second half, putting the Sun Devils up 38-0.