Arizona State has positive momentum.

As much as can be gained from beating up on Northern Arizona, but the Sun Devils opened the 2022 season with a beatdown on Thursday. ASU led 24-3 at halftime, then turned up the physicality in the third quarter and raced away from NAU. The Sun Devils went on to win 40-3.

The Sun Devils have now won six straight openers and 18 of the last 19 dating back to the start of the 2003 season. ASU hasn’t lost to a non-Power Five opponent in a season opener since 1965. It was never in danger Thursday night.

Here are three takeaways from the win.

The rushing attack is what we expected

Get used to hearing Xazavian Valladay’s name. Boy, did he look good in his first game in an ASU uniform.

The former Wyoming running back entered Thursday night’s game as the active FBS leader in career rushing yards. He ran for 1,070 yards last season with the Cowboys, 550 in five games in 2020, and 1,265 in 2019. In ASU’s win Thursday night, he produced his 15th career 100-yard rushing effort. Valladay showed some shiftiness. He accelerated through holes. His footwork is impressive. His balance is as well.

Valladay finished with 119 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. As a team, the Sun Devils ran all over Northern Arizona, piling up 267 rushing yards at more than 6 yards per carry. Daniyel Ngata ran hard as the No. 2. Quarterback Emory Jones’ athletic ability was on full display. The Sun Devil offensive line paved the way with some massive lanes to run through. Tevin White’s first career carry was a nifty cut-back that produced an explosive play.

Active defense

Defensive lineman Travez Moore kept popping up for the right reasons. Miami transfer Nesta Jade Silvera was a brute in the middle of the defense. Kyle Soelle was all over the place, coming up with one interception and nearly a second one shortly after. The Sun Devils picked off two NAU passes and returned both for touchdowns; one was negated by an offside penalty, the other was called back because of a hold during the return.

Northern Arizona wasn’t able to do much of anything. NAU had just six first downs all game and averaged 2.2 yards per play. It had 23 rushing yards on 23 attempts. Precious little was open downfield for quarterback RJ Martinez.

Arizona State’s defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage. They swarmed to the ball. NAU struggled to sustain blocks. It was what you want to see, and largely what we expected given the physicality the front seven brings to the table, but it was good to see that potential translate to the field.

Arizona State flexed on an opponent it was bigger than and better than. It didn’t play around with its food. Good things happen when you take care of business.

Tackle depth takes a hit

It was tough to see former Iowa State offensive lineman Joey Ramos hobbling off the field late in the first half. The right tackle was rolled up on as Jones was sacked, then stayed down on the deck for a beat in obvious pain. As he left the field, he was unable to put any weight on his left leg.

Ramos drew the start at right tackle on Thursday with former Penn State lineman and expected starter Des Holmes unavailable for an undisclosed reason. When Ramos went down, ASU moved Isaia Glass from left tackle to right tackle, then inserted Emmit Bohle at left tackle.

Here’s hoping the injury isn’t too serious for Ramos. Depth at tackle gets a little precarious if he misses any time.


Arizona State (1-0) will get a few extra prep days before hitting the road to battle Oklahoma State (1-0) on Sept. 10. The Cowboys won their opener on Thursday against Central Michigan 58-44