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Herm Edwards kicks off ASU football career with a win

Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards, left, laughs with some team personnel prior to an NCAA college football game against UTSA, Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Herm Edwards Era has officially begun at Arizona State. And amid all the curiosity and scrutiny aimed at the Sun Devils’ new head coach, it was N’Keal Harry who stole the show.

Edwards reminded everybody during the week that the cameras should be focused on the players on the field, rather than him on the sideline. And Harry made sure that happened, electrifying the home crowd to the tune of six catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns, as ASU rolled over UTSA by a final of 49-7.

His first score came just 1:16 into the game, when he caught a short pass from Manny Wilkins and broke free down the middle of the field for a 58-yard touchdown.

But it was Harry’s second trip to the end zone that was the most memorable.

With ASU already up 35-0, he caught a screen pass from Wilkins on the left side, then changed direction and ran all the way across to the right side before scampering the rest of the way for a 31-yard score.

“I don’t know how many guys he made miss tackles,” Edwards said. “He ran from one sideline – it was about a 100-yard play – because he runs from one sideline to the other. After he was going to the other one, I was going ‘really?’ and he just kept going until he scored a touchdown, so it was pretty good.”

The Sun Devils have something special in Harry. That’s not breaking news. He’s been a big deal locally since he committed to ASU from Chandler High School in 2016, but he’s garnering more and more attention nationally now.

He entered the 2018 campaign near the top of most preseason watch lists for the best receivers in the country, and he certainly didn’t disappoint in the opener.

“I was just trying to make a play,” Harry explained. “You know, that’s something that really comes naturally to me when I’m out there. I feel like it’s just all natural God-given ability, so it was just natural to me.”

For his part, Wilkins had a pretty strong night too. The senior quarterback tossed four touchdowns on the evening, completing 16-of-24 passes for 237 yards. And Eno Benjamin made a good first impression as the new lead running back, rushing for 131 yards and a score, then adding another touchdown through the air.

Defensively, the Sun Devils had a field day, forcing three turnovers and piling up nine sacks, while holding the Roadrunners to a grand total of two yards rushing. Shannon Forman even took an interception back for a touchdown less than two minutes into the game.

Granted, this was a tuneup game for ASU, so you can only read so much into it. Edwards called his team’s play sloppy in a number of areas, noting that 11 penalties for 95 yards won’t get it done against top tier teams. And seeing as how the Sun Devils face four programs ranked in the Top-15 over their next seven games, that’s something he wants to see cleaned up quickly.

The first half was choppy at times, and Jalen Harvey was thrown out of the game for targeting, so it was far from a perfect performance. But, at the end of the day, Edwards is 1-0 as Arizona State’s coach.

And the weapons that this team will lean on most heavily this season found ways to contribute right out of the gate.

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