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August 22, 2008All camp long, the ASU defense has pretty much had its way with the offense.
But in the final scrimmage of the fall, the offense reversed roles with its counterpart as it had arguably its best performance of camp.
"I thought offensively it's the best performance we've had all fall camp," coach Dennis Erickson said. "It's a good way to end offensively, give us some confidence going into the game."
Every facet of the offense seemed to be clicking Thursday night at Sun Devil Stadium.
The receivers and quarterbacks were on the same page which led to numerous deep receptions, the running backs were finding holes and were rarely stopped behind the line of scrimmage, and it all started with the offensive line which turned out a great performance.
"The offensive line did an awesome job tonight," said Rudy Carpenter, who finished the scrimmage 8-15 for 96 yards and a touchdown. "They've been doing a great job all camp. If they can continue to do that I think we can be pretty good."
For the offensive players, Thursday night had been a long time coming.
They were tired of being on the losing end of the scrimmages, and coming out on top is something they were excited up about.
"The defense always comes out with the fire, and we have a good defense, but it's good to finally get them," Kyle Williams said. "We came out with a little more fire offensively so it was a lot easier for us."
One of the reasons for the success was the use of some of the more intricate plays the offense has been working on throughout the fall.
In previous scrimmages the offense had been pretty vanilla, sticking to the basics. Thursday night began that way, but as the scrimmage progressed the offense displayed some of its screen plays and used an empty backfield sets several times.
And another thing that made Thursday's scrimmage easier for the offense was having one of its top playmakers, Mike Jones, back from injury.
Jones missed last week's scrimmage at Camp Tontozona because of a concussion, but the senior wide receiver started Thursday night and made his presence felt.
"It's huge," Williams said of getting Jones back. "Mike is a facet of our offense and next week when we get Chris (McGaha) back it's going to be even better. We have a lot of weapons at receiver and when we have all four of them it's going to be deadly."
Jones was the Sun Devils top receiver on the night making four receptions for 57 yards and one touchdown catch.
The touchdown reception was his best catch of the night. On the play, Jones beat Josh Jordan, who had good coverage, and made a diving catch in the front of the end zone to haul in Carpenter's 32-yard pass.
Thursday night's rushing attack was fairly balanced with five running backs all in double digits.
Keegan Herring was the leading rusher with seven carries for 35 yards.
And once again freshman walk-on James Morrison continued to impress with eight carries for 23 yards and a touchdown. Morrison did however fumble the ball once, but it never appeared that he ever had possession after the handoff.
Jarrell Woods rushed for a touchdown - he jumped over the line from one yard out - but also fumbled the ball once as well.
But just because the offense was clicking better Thursday does not mean the defense wasn't making plays.
The defense forced four turnovers, although none came against the No. 1 offense, and looked impressive tackling in the open field.
Two of the turnovers came on interceptions thrown by Jack Elway, both of which were returned for touchdowns.
The first was made by Anthony Reyes who made a fairly easy interception on an overthrown ball along the seam. Deveron Carr made the second interception on a deep go-route and took it 79 yards the other way for the score.
The special teams got in on the scoring too.
For the second scrimmage in a row Williams returned a punt for a touchdown.
On the return Williams dashed 60 yards down the sideline, then barely beat punter Trevor Hankins to get into the end zone.
"I went to high school with Trevor and I couldn't let him get me," Williams said. "I wanted to make him look good and let him catch up to me, but I had to get him in the end. I had to get him or the whole team would have gotten me."
And Williams wasn't the only special teamer to put some points on the board.
Thomas Weber made two of his three field goal attempts. He connected from 49 and 50 yards, but missed a 47-yard attempt wide left.
With the scrimmage coming to an end, the Sun Devils now look ahead to their first game of the season against Northern Arizona, and the players couldn't be happier.
They're tired of lining up against each other and are ready to hit someone on another team.
"Hitting our own teammates is getting kind of old," Shelly Lyons said. "It's fun but it's time to hit some other colors now."
And Erickson knows his team is ready and he is eager to see how his team performs in its first game.
"You can only go against yourselves so long," he said. "The enthusiasm, you lose that a little bit going against each other. So we'll find out where we are next Saturday."