TEMPE, Ariz. — The schedule about to get a whole lot tougher, the last thing Arizona State wanted in its opening game was to play poorly or, worse yet, lose to a lower-division opponent.
The Sun Devils put away any concern about a letdown by racing out to a big lead and coasting to the finish.
Taylor Kelly threw for 300 yards and matched a career high with five touchdown passes before sitting out most of the second half, helping Arizona State open its second season under coach Todd Graham with a 55-0 rout over Sacramento State on Thursday night.
“We did just what we wanted to do,” Graham said. “It wasn’t real exciting in the second half, but it was a team we should have dominated and did.”
The Sun Devils opened with a 63-6 victory over Northern Arizona in 2012 and quickly took care of another FCS opponent to start this season, scoring on their first five possessions while building a 42-0 halftime lead.
Arizona State had 523 total yards and Kelly spread it around before sitting down, hitting five different receivers for touchdowns.
Marion Grice picked up where he left off from his stellar first season in the desert, catching a touchdown pass, running for another score and finishing with 117 total yards in little over a half.
And, after a rough opening drive, Arizona State’s defense tightened down, finishing with its first shutout since a 42-0 win against Washington State in 2010.
Letdown? Yeah, right.
“We were really set to go out and beat this team,” said Arizona State tight end Chris Coyle, who caught Kelly’s third touchdown pass. “The only we could have lost is if we went out and beat ourselves.”
Despite being one of two FCS teams to beat an FBS opponent each of the previous two seasons, Sacramento State (0-2) never stood much of a chance against the bigger, faster Sun Devils.
The Hornets, who lost 24-0 to San Jose State in their opener, had a good opening drive against Arizona State, but did little else after that, finishing with 167 total yards, six first downs and three turnovers.
“We did struggle most of the night,” Sac State coach Marshall Sperbeck said. “And that’s an understatement.”
Arizona State got the Graham Era off to a solid start, winning eight games last season, including a blowout over Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
East Carolina 31,
Florida Atlantic 13
GREENVILLE, N.C. — Shane Carden threw two touchdown passes and East Carolina beat Florida Atlantic in the Pirates’ final Conference USA opener.
Carden was 17 of 25 for 191 yards for East Carolina (2-0, 1-0) against the overmatched Owls (0-2, 0-1). The Pirates are leaving Conference USA after the season for the American Athletic Conference, while the Owls are in their first season in C-USA after bolting from the Sun Belt.
Carden threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Davon Grayson in the first quarter, and connected with Justin Hardy on a 1-yarder in the second. Last week in a 52-38 victory over Old Dominion, Carden set school records with 447 yards and 46 completions and matched the TD mark with five.
Vintavious Cooper had 20 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown and caught five passes for 49 yards.