After the 63-6 dismantling of NAU a week, cautious optimism ruled the day.
Following Saturday night's 45-14 win over the Illinois Fighting Illini, that optimism has now turned into belief.
For the second straight week, Arizona State dominated their opponent from the opening kickoff. The Sun Devils drove 68 yards on the opening possession, but a Cameron Marshall fumble at the Illinois one-yard line ended the scoring threat.
After forcing an Illini punt, ASU would make quick amends. Quarterback Taylor Kelly had a 20-yard connection with Chris Coyle and a 23-yarder to DJ Foster to get ASU into the red zone. He then found Kevin Ozier for a five-yard score to put ASU on the board.
The developing Kelly-to-Coyle connection hit twice more for 49 yards on the next possession, and Marshall made up for his fumble with a rushing touchdown to put ASU up 14-0.
Illinois mounted an impressive drive to answer. Over 11 plays, they drove 75 yards and Donovann Young rumbled over Sun Devils on his 17-yard touchdown run.
Showing off their new "high octane" mentality, ASU responded. With Michael Eubank taking over, he found Coyle three times on the next drive, including a one-yard score to put ASU up 21-7.
True freshman linebacker Carlos Mendoza, seeing time in place of the injured Brandon Magee, picked off a Miles Osei pass, the first of two picks for Mendoza in the half, setting up ASU to deliver the death blow.
They soon did, thanks to a 41-yard reception by Jamal Miles that set up another Eubank-to-Coyle touchdown that made it 28-7, a score that would hold at the half.
It wouldn't stay that way for long. Illinois' first possession to open the second half ended with an Alden Darby interception, his second of the year. Two plays later, Foster punched it in to extend the lead.
Showing some remaining life, Illinois marched down the field, highlighted by a 51-yard run by Josh Ferguson. The Sun Devil defense stiffened at the goal line, forcing a fourth down play. However, O'Toole found Eddie Villunas the five for the score.
The Sun Devils then followed a familiar script. Helped by receptions by Coyle, ASU marched down the field. Sadly, another familiar sight, a redzone fumble, also resurfaced. Miles fumbled on a carry, and Illinois recovered at their nine-yard line, but stout Sun Devil defense kept the Illini in check.
The fourth quarter was all ASU. Alex Garoutte connected on his first field goal attempt of the year, a 35-yarder, and Eubank later scored on an athletic seven-yard touchdown run in which he dove and extended for the pylon.
Defensively, ASU spur backer Chris Young had a great night, collecting another 2.5 tackles-for-loss, giving him five on the year. Carl Bradford had 2.5 sacks after nearly being demoted to second-team Devilbacker earlier in the week.
News, Notes and Observations
- Jamal Miles became the school's all-time leader in kickoff return yardage, passing Rudy Burgess. Miles now has 1,563 yards in his career.
- Coyle's first half production-seven catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns-exceeded ASU's combined tight end production from 2010 and 2011: eight catches, 76 yards and one touchdown (all by Trevor Kohl).
- Todd Graham becomes just the seventh ASU head coach to start a tenure 2-0, after Dennis Erickson (8-0), Larry Marmie, Darryl Rogers, Clyde Smith, Ed Doherty and George Schaffer (all 2-0).
- Mendoza left the game in the third quarter with an apparent shoulder injury. Mendoza missed a lot of fall camp after surgery on his shoulder.
- The defense amassed six sacks and 12 tackles-for-loss.
- Marshall's touchdown gave him 32 in his career, tying him with J.R. Redmond for third all-time in ASU history. Next up? Leon Burton with 34 and the king, Woody Green with 39.
- After rushing for 107 and three touchdowns against NAU, Marion Grice had just 18 yards on two carries.
- ASU quarterbacks began the game 14 for 14.
- J.J. Holliday's 14-yard reception was his first catch as a Sun Devil.
- Attendance: 54,128.
- Sparky pushup counter: 188.