Malzahn takes home first victory
Published: Monday, September 10, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 10, 2012 18:09
In the maiden game of the newly named Liberty Bank Stadium, the Red Wolves held off the Memphis Tigers 33-28 in front of 28,401 fans, the fourth largest crowd in school history.
The win pushes ASU (1-1) to seven consecutive home victories and back-to-back wins over the Tigers.
“I’m very proud of our team, there was a lot of adversity out there,” head coach Gus Malzahn said in his home opening debut with the Red Wolves.
ASU struggled early against the Tigers, trailing the entire first half. A large part of this was due to Memphis’ dominant performance in special teams.
The Tigers forced both a blocked punt in the Red Wolves end zone to start the second quarter and took a 14-3 lead. After both teams put up a touchdown, the Tigers looked to go into half time with a comfortable lead.
“They’re a great team,” said Ryan Aplin, Sun Belt Player of the Year, “but we just didn’t come to play early and it showed.”
However, the Red Wolves responded late in the first half with Aplin, who went 23-of-43 for 302 passing yards, connecting with senior wide receiver Josh Jarboe for a 42 yard touchdown. The drive closed the gap to 21-17 and gave the Red Wolves momentum going into half time.
Jarboe finished the night with 101 yards on six catches.
Troubles continued in the second half as junior Tom Hornsey proved to be an effective weapon for the Tigers, placing seven of eight punts inside the ASU 20-yard line. The pressure lead to a muffed kick in the third quarter and Memphis picked up a second special teams touchdown.
With less than 10 minutes left in the game, ASU found themselves trailing 28-27 on their own 20-yard line. The Red Wolf no-huddle offense put together an 80 yard drive that featured a 30 yard catch from true freshman J.D McKissic and put ASU on the Tiger 1-yard line. McKissic would end the night with 99 yards on eight catches.
The play opened with a rushing touchdown from junior running back David Oku to put ASU on top 33-28 after a failed 2-point attempt.
“We felt like we had an advantage when we went fast,” explained Malzahn, “we stayed in the same formation and kind of got them out of their gaps. They were standing up, had their backs turned at times, and [we] got some pretty easy yards.”
The Red Wolf defense forced a 3-and-out and ASU took the ball back on their 5-yard line with 5:22 left in the game. From there, the offense slowly drove the ball down the field and gave it back to Memphis with just 11 seconds left in the game, which was not enough for the Tigers.
“I was very proud of the way [the team] responded,” said Malzahn. “I told them that’s the heart of a champion.”
One of the big offensive surprises came from true freshman defensive back Rocky Hayes who averaged 17 yards a carry on four touches and had a 33-yard rush. Hayes has been playing defense since training camp and only started practicing with the offense Tuesday.
“It was everything I expected it to be. However, it wasn’t all me. The upperclassmen really helped me through it all. They blocked well,” Hayes said.
Oku lead the Red Wolves in rushing with 130 rushing yards on 25 carries. Sophomore Frankie Jackson contributed two touchdowns for the night and rushed for 38 yards on 14 carries.
With the win, ASU holds a 23-28-5 all-time record against Memphis and extends the opening home game win streak to 8. With this game in the books, the Red Wolves will prepare to face Huskers in Lincoln, Nebraska. The game will be televised on ESPN2 with kick-off on Sept. 15 at 11 a.m.