Sun Devils Finish Strong In 34-14 Victory

Sept 7, 2003

By Nate Policar
ASU Sports Information

In their first meeting in 53 years, the Arizona State Sun Devils (1-0) took on their neighbors to the north, the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (0-1), and kicked off the 2003 season with a 34-14 victory over their Divison-IAA opponent. The Sun Devils shook off early rust to win their third straight home opener in front of the largest crowd at Sun Devil Stadium since 2000.

NAU charged out of the gate with poise and scored early. NAU true freshman quarterback Jason Murietta led the Lumberjacks 80 yards and connected on a six yard pass with receiver Clarence Moore in the end zone to give NAU an early 7-0 lead.

'Northern Arizona came out strong tonight, they came to play,' said ASU sophomore linebacker Jamar Williams. 'The defense came out a little hesitant. Then NAU had a big play and scored early and we weren't ready. The touchdown really opened our eyes. We knew after that play that we had to take what they gave us.'

And take is exactly what the Devils did. ASU took possession at midfield with 4:51 left in the first quarter and got on the scoreboard with some help from redshirt freshman tailback Loren Wade. Wade rushed for 23 yards on the drive before connecting with quarterback Andrew Walter for an 8-yard touchdown pass. Following a missed PAT, ASU was within one at 7-6.

NAU came back and drove 73 yards into the ASU redzone during the final two minutes of the first quarter. Threatening from the ASU seven-yard line, NAU's first play from scrimmage in the second quarter, a pass by Murietta, was intercepted by junior cornerback R.J. Oliver on the goal line. He returned it 100 yards, tying the school and Pac-10 record set by teammate Emmanuel Franklin in 2001, to give the Sun Devils a lead that they would never relinquish at 13-7.

But the Sun Devils still had business to take care of in the first half. Stalling the Lumberjack offense deep in its own territory, ASU sophomore Josh Golden received an NAU punt on the ASU 23-yard line and returned it 22 yards to midfield. With the help of good field position, Walter once again led the ASU charge, connecting with sophomore wide receiver Moey Mutz on a 29-yard touchdown pass to put the Sun Devils on top 20-7. Walter would finish with 224 yards on 15-of-24 passing, and no interceptions.

Following a sack by ASU's Riccardo Stewart and Shane Jones for a loss of 11, Golden received a punt deep in his own territory and raced back to the NAU 40-yard line with a 42-yard return. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Walter threw a 40-yard pass to receiver Derek Hagan for the Devils' fourth touchdown of the half. ASU would take the lead, 27-7, into the locker room.

The Lumberjacks, rejuvenated by the break, came out throwing. Capitalizing on an ASU fumble, Murietta connected on three of four passes to take NAU 61 yards for the score, their final points of the game, narrowing the gap to 27-14.

The Sun Devils answered the call with an 84-yard drive which spilled over into the fourth quarter. Andrew Walter found Mutz again, this time on a 38-yard pass, for Walter's fourth touchdown of the game, marking the fifth time in his career he has accomplished that feat.

Mutz finished the game with 3 catches for 75 yards and two touchdowns.

'Moey Mutz made a name for himself tonight, he really has great speed,' said Walter of the walk-on receiver.

With the lead secure at 34-14, the ASU defense held off the Lumberjacks in the remaining 13 minutes of the fourth quarter and rolled to a victory.

'You have give NAU's defense credit, but if we had seen that style of defense later in the season, we would have attacked it by throwing the ball a little more than we did tonight,' said ASU head coach Dirk Koetter. 'Instead, we wanted to get those tailbacks some work. There's a big difference between practice speed and game speed and that was very evident tonight. We had some individuals who had excellent games and the fans and the student section were great tonight. We'll make the necessary adjustments and be ready for the next game.'

SUN DEVIL GAME NOTES: The Sun Devils met a Division-IAA team in their home opener for the second straight year. They came away with a victory both times, defeating Eastern Washington, 38-2, in 2002... Oliver's second-quarter 100-yard interception return tied the Pac-10 and school record set by teammate Emmanuel Franklin against San Diego State in the 2001 season-opener... Oliver is the 10th player in Pac-10 history to accomplish the feat...A total of 18 Sun Devils saw the first action of their Arizona State careers, including five true freshmen, nine redshirt freshmen and four juniors... ASU used eight different receivers in the game, seven of whom were found by Andrew Walter for at least one completion... The crowd of 60,069 was the biggest on hand since 61,370 fans watched ASU's narrow 21-15 loss to then No. 10 Washington in 2000... NAU got on the board first, marking the 10th time in the last 15 games that ASU's opponent has scored first... ASU averaged 6.5 yards per play against NAU.

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