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Jones, Valladay Shine and Defense Pitches Second-Half Shutout in Season-Opening 40-3 Win Over Northern Arizona

Sep 1, 2022

TEMPE, Ariz. – Emory Jones and Xazavian Valladay had their fingerprints all over the Sun Devils' season-opening 40-3 win against Northern Arizona on Thursday night at Sun Devil Stadium.

Jones and Valladay, two of 43 new players in 2022, were the catalysts in the Sun Devils' 419-yard offensive outburst. The Florida transfer Jones connected on 13 of 18 passes for 152 yards to pair with his 48 yards on the ground and two rushing touchdowns.

Valladay, who entered tonight as the FBS active leader in career rushing yards after a highly successful career at Wyoming, toted the rock 15 times for 116 yards and two scores.

37, Idaho State (Sept. 5, 2009)
100, Iowa (Sep. 20, 2004) 
115, San Jose State (Sept. 1, 2007)
120, Northern Arizona (Sept. 1, 2022)

"It's one of those games that we have a lot to learn from, but holding a team to three points, that's a pretty good night for football," head coach Herm Edwards said.

Save for a late field goal in the second quarter, the Sun Devil defense was relentless all night toward the visiting Lumberjacks, a nod to the terrific game plan dialed up by defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson in his Sun Devil debut. 



They limited the NAU offense to just 120 total yards over 53 plays, while twice intercepting quarterback RJ Martinez. The Lumberjacks only tallied 23 rushing yards across 23 attempts.

Kyle Soelle and Merlin Robertson, the two heartbeats of the Sun Devil defense, each chipped in with a team-best five tackles. Soelle recorded his third career interception in the second quarter.

After a quiet first quarter, Jones and the Sun Devil settled into a groove in the second quarter that resulted in three touchdowns in three consecutive drives. It was Jones who recorded the Sun Devils' first touchdown of the season, when he punched it in from the 1-yard line on a 4th-and-goal for a 10-0 advantage. 

It marked the 76th consecutive game that the Sun Devils have reached double-digit scoring at home.

Valladay scampered around the edge for a 4-yard score minutes later, his first in the Maroon & Gold, before Jones added a 15-yard rushing touchdown to widen the Sun Devil advantage to 24-0. 

The Sun Devils went into the half with a comfortable 24-3 lead, after Northern Arizona's Collin Robbins' 47-yard field goal in the final seconds of the second quarter.

They picked up right where they left off in the opening minutes of the second half, adding a quick 10 points via a 27-yard rushing touchdown by Valladay and a 36-yard field goal by Brown.

Brown would later add a pair of 44-yard field goals to solidify a perfect 4-4 effort in his Sun Devil debut that stretched the ASU lead to 40-3.

Brown's first field goal of the night, good from 27 yards, was the only score from the first quarter. It was set up by Jones, who in his first drive as a Sun Devil, took the offense on an 11 play, 69-yard trek that ended in the first three points of season.

Jones connected with six different receivers over the course of the contest, with Messiah Swinson totaling a team-high 50 yards in his ASU debut.

"I can say that, first game here, and the first time wearing cleats out there on that field, it was all new for me," Jones said. "I definitely was a little amped up and excited but in the game I settled down it felt like. Like I said, I am just excited about this team. We did some great things out there."

It's the 20th straight Opening Day win for the Sun Devils when played at home, improving ASU to 80-28-2 in its history of season openers.

Thanks to the defense's second-half shutout, Thursday marked the first time in nine years that the Sun Devils have held an opponent to three points or less (55-0 win vs. Sacramento State on September 5, 2013).

The Sun Devils will hit the road for the first time this season when they venture to Stillwater, Oklahoma, next week to meet No. 12 Oklahoma State. Kickoff is slated for Saturday, September 10, at 4:30 p.m. MST.