In the first week of the college football season, the Arizona State Sun Devils dismantled Northern Arizona University by a score of 63-6. While the score was impressive, it was still a game in which they were expected to win handily. Their second contest of the season wasn’t expected to be as easy.
Hosting the Illinois Fighting Illini, Week 2 was expected to be a much bigger challenge, especially given the result of last season’s meeting between the two teams. As sharp as the Devils looked against NAU, Illinois was returning much of a defense that ranked in the top 10 nationally.
None of that appeared to matter to the Sun Devils on Saturday, though. The Devils absolutely rolled to a victory against Illinois, drubbing them 45-14 at Sun Devil Stadium.
Sure, the Illini were without starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, setting them back offensively, but the defense couldn’t hang with ASU either. Just as they did against the Lumberjacks of NAU, Arizona State was dominant in every dimension, proving unstoppable in both the run and the pass.
The Devils rushed for nearly 200 yards, led by Cameron Marshall who had 52. Both quarterbacks, Taylor Kelly and Michael Eubank, were stellar, finishing a combined 23-29 for over 300 yards and a trio of scores.
Say what you want about the absence of Scheelhaase for the Illini, the defense was also great. They forced a handful of turnovers, including three interceptions, and did not complete a single penalty on the defensive end. A far cry from where this team was under Dennis Erickson.
It’s just two weeks into the season, but is it time to start taking this team a bit seriously? After all, they did decimate one of the nation’s better defensive units. The answer is probably not. Not yet, at least.
This is an ASU team that was picked by many to finish towards the bottom of not only the Pac-12 in general, but right along there at the bottom of the Pac-12 South. They’ve already confirmed that they’re a better team than many expected. But there’s still a long way to go before they’re taken seriously.
The Sun Devils are still a squad with plenty of inexperience, on both sides of the ball. That in itself is a reason to temper expectations moving forward.
Regardless of what happens from here on out as far as the record goes, though, the Sun Devils continue to prove what we’ve thought about this team since Todd Graham came into the fold. They won’t win every game. But they’re going to come to play every week. They’re going to be prepared and be disciplined.
And that, by itself, is a reason enough to be excited about this team.