The Arizona State Sun Devils started off the season as everyone expected—a 54-9 victory over FCS foe Portland State.
While this game was treated as more of a preseason bout, along with next week's match against Northern Arizona, the Sun Devils emerged under the Saturday night lights trying to erase the back-to-back losing seasons looming over their heads.
Granted, it's very difficult to judge the true performance of the new offensive scheme under first year offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, and starting quarterback Steven Threet, against an FCS team, but it's a regular season game nonetheless.
Here are five things that we learned from Arizona State's performance against Portland State.
1. Steven Threet was the right choice at quarterback
Michigan transfer Steven Threet started off slow on his first series with a quick three-and-out, but settled in quickly. He showed poise and confidence on the field, something that ASU fans have not seen in a quarterback in years.
Threet went on to complete 14 of his 21 passes for 239 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The majority of his incompletions were due to his receiver's dropped passes.
In fact, Threet made school history by having the best debut performance of any Arizona State quarterback.
2. The offensive line is improving
The Sun Devils' offensive line has been their Achilles heal for the majority of the past decade—more namely, starters being riddled with injuries.
And this year is no different.
Quarterback Steven Threet stated to the Arizona Republic that "They really dominated the line of scrimmage, (and) they did a phenomenal job in the run game, just opening up huge holes for the backs."
The quarterback couldn't have said it better. The offensive line has taken on a new ferociousness since the start of fall camp, because as the line knows, they are one of the main focal points of criticism this season.
3. The running game could be back
The Arizona State running game has been almost obsolete since the days of now Redskin running back Ryan Torrain, before his season ending injury in 2007.
Could the running game be back?
Judging by the performance in Saturday night's game, one would say yes. Sophomore running back Cameron Marshall owned the night with 104 yards on just four carries and pulling in three touchdowns. No other ASU running back had scored that many times in a game since the 2007 season.
Among running back talk is freshman Deantre Lewis, who surprised all in the fall. Lewis brought in 100 receiving yards and three touchdowns, one of which was rushing. The freshman's key play was a short sideline reception that he ran 62 yards into the end zone.
4. Penalties are still running wild
The Sun Devils committed the most penalties out of all the 120 schools in the FBS for the 2009 season, and at this rate they might be looking to repeat.
Arizona State committed 11 total penalties in their home opener, nine of which were in the first half. The 93 given yards were all but unnecessary, most being false starts.
This could be a red flag or a sign of first game jitters, but either way, head coach Dennis Erickson must improve on this before heading to Wisconsin to take on the Badgers on September 18th.
5. Defense is as strong as ever
Just as predicted, the defense is going to dominate the Pac-10 once again. The Sun Devil defense, under coordinator Craig Bray, limited the Portland State Vikings to just 263 total yards (209 passing, 54 rushing) on Saturday night.
The defense snagged three interceptions on the night, along with a forced safety on Portland State quarterback Connor Kavanaugh.
The Sun Devil defensive standout of the night was safety Eddie Elder. The junior college transfer has a rough fall camp, but proved to shine underneath the lights on game day.
Elder snagged one interception, forced a safety, and proved to be efficient with open field tackles.
Arizona State's next game is on September 11 against Northern Arizona in Tempe, AZ.