Arizona State's first-team offense sizzled in the team's mid-camp scrimmage on Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium. Sophomore wide receiver Kyle Williams capped a strong week of practice with a stellar five catch, 173-yard performance that included touchdowns of 50 and 70 yards.
In the first possession of the scrimmage and with the ball at midfield, Williams made a reception in the flat on a swing pass from Carpenter and turned the corner with the help of a blocking wide receiver for the first touchdown of the afternoon.
Later, Williams caught a beautifully thrown ball from Carpenter on the right hash mark 30 yards from scrimmage, and subsequently beat Troy Nolan and Jeremy Payton for 40 additional yards and his second touchdown.
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Carpenter also connected with Brandon Smith on a 17-yard touchdown, and with Chris McGaha on two long receptions of 58 and 39 yards.
"Today was a lot of fun," Carpenter said. "Get back in the stadium and just play again. It was a lot of fun for us."
The general atmosphere around the practice field throughout spring ball has been one of high energy, and yet not overly stressful. Carpenter has appeared to be almost jovial at times, and on Saturday, he was whistling a bit on the field as he watched his teammates with the second and third teams.
"It's just one of those things where I've been trying to work on little things this off-season and I think that's one of them," Carpenter said. "Learn how to relax a little bit and just play and not worry about all the other things that are going on. I think today and I think over spring ball it's really showed. Hopefully I can carry it over to the season."
On the touchdown throw to Smith, Carpenter sold a pump fake to cornerback Chad Green, who bit on the play in an attempt to come up and possibly make an interception. Smith was wide open in the end zone for the grab.
Carpenter was able to make the pump fake work no fewer than three times on the day, and his throws were almost always on target and with good velocity. He was able to take short, quick drops either from under center or in the shotgun formation, and deliver the ball in a hurry.
"Brandon and Kyle, the thing about this offense is that it allows me to get the ball out fast and let those guys make some plays and fortunately for us that's what they've been doing. They've been catching the ball and making plays after and that's something that we didn't do last year, we couldn't do it last year. If we can get it on a consistent basis we're going to be hard to stop so I look forward to those guys getting better and look forward to the season."
The first-team offense as a group had a relatively impressive scrimmage. A veteran offensive line continued to show that it should be at least as good as last season, and possibly better. Running backs Ryan Torain and Dimitri Nance each ran very well, though Torain fumbled on a tackle by Michael Marquardt and the ball was returned 80 yards by Justin Tryon for a touchdown. Torain did have a 2-yard touchdown run.
"That first group executed extremely well," coach Dennis Erickson said. "Got a lot of big plays, which we're capable of doing because we do have some athletes. The good thing about it is that we've got some young guys we're counting on that have jumped out particularly at receiver -- Kyle (Williams) and Brandon (Smith). A lot of guys, Chris McGaha made some plays. We ran the football really good. It was a good day offensively.
"We ran the ball pretty well too and once you do that there's a lot of play action pass over the top. That's us. That's our offense. We spread you out then we'll come back with two tights and try to keep the defense off balance."
On the first-team defense, mid-year JUCO transfer Morris Wooten had an excellent showing and appeared to strengthen his hold on the starting middle linebacker spot. Nolan may have been on the wrong end of a couple of big plays, but covering a receiver as nimble as Williams in space is no easy task, and on balance he had a very solid afternoon from his safety position.
"Defensively, we did some good things as far as sustaining drives and keeping them out of the end zone," Erickson said. "The problem is we made too many mental mistakes and gave up the big plays, which is easily correctable. If the offense just went up and down the football field (with) five yards (per play) and a cloud of dust that would be different. Physically we've got the talent to be a lot better but we just made too many mental mistakes and that happens."
Indeed, the linebacker play overall was perhaps a notch above expectations. Chad Lindsey in particularly ran very well with the second-team, after practice with the first-team on Thursday. Ryan McFoy again was with the first-team at the SAM position, and there were no glaring miscues on his part.
One of the stranger things that happened at the linebacker group was seeing Travis Goethel work with the third-team defense on the first series, and then work with the first-team group -- where he had been through most of the first two weeks -- on the second series.
Two players that were with the second group in the first series, and then moved up to the first group in the second series were Green and Luis Vasquez. It wasn't the best of appearances for Green, who was beaten numerous times on the day, but Vasquez more than held his own and he's right in the mix with Kellen Mills for the first-team spot opposite Dexter Davis.
On special teams, redshirt freshman kicker Thomas Weber had an outstanding afternoon, making all three of his attempts at 42 yards, and one from 52 yards, before he finally missed for the only time from 55-yards. The really impressive thing about Weber is that even his long kicks have a high trajectory, so he's less likely to be blocked at the line of scrimmage. Weber also had three good punts working behind Jonathan Johnson, who was very solid in his own right.