On opening night of the 2004 Arizona State football season, two unsung players emerged as stars.
Sophomore wide receiver Terry Richardson caught a 34-yard touchdown pass, and senior safety Emmanuel Franklin returned an interception 48 yards for another score as the Sun Devils downed pesky Texas-El Paso, 41-9, Thursday night, before about 45,000 fans at Sun Devil Stadium.
The difference in this game was strictly manpower. UTEP played nothing like one of the worst teams in college football, as the Miners were last season.
New Miners coach Mike Price, formerly of Washington State, didn't seem to have much difficulty defending ASU's new two-tight end offense for much of the game.
The Devils made enough mistakes — sacks, holding penalties, misfires in the aerial game, a blocked punt — that would have been enough to get beaten by a Pac-10 team.
Richardson's reception and Franklin's return came within a span of one minute, 24 seconds to provide the scoreboard cushion ASU needed to play out the game without fear of losing.
The Miners, playing Price's Idaho passing game for the first time, didn't have the firepower for a comeback.
Richardson caught five passes, a career best, for 70 yards in the first half when the Devils took a 24-6 lead.
"Terry played good tonight," quarterback Andrew Walter said. "Terry made some great catches."
Walter completed 18-of-37 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns. But he was sacked three times and hit on several other occasions, twice when forced to scramble.
Wide receiver Derek Hagan had his fourth straight 100-yard reception day, catching eight passes for 119 yards and a third-period touchdown.
"We changed up our play calling (in the second half)," Hagan said. "We got a couple of post-corner routes on them and got some points."
ASU totalled 488 yards while limiting UTEP to 292 yards.
"I thought the defense did a real nice job," said coach Dirk Koetter, who is 3-1 in season openers. "They did a real nice job of hitting. I was pleased with our defense all night."
UTEP quarterback Jordan Palmer, younger brother of USC Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer, was intercepted four times.
Franklin had a pair of interceptions, defensive tackle Quency Darley grabbed a ball that been tipped by linebacker Dale Robinson, and Mike Davis had the final interception when Palmer threw to the middle of the field as his receiver broke off his pattern to the left.
Robinson's deflection was one of several by ASU defenders, who were closer to UTEP's receivers in pass defense than they were last season in the opener against Northern Arizona.
The score allowed ASU to substitute liberally throughout the game. Koetter said ASU may have played 70 players.
Walter's evening was finished after he threw a 15-yard TD pass to Hagan for a 34-6 lead with 1:06 left in the third period.
Backup quarterback Sam Keller threw a 68-yard touchdown pass to Rudy Burgess but was also intercepted attempting another deep throw.
The Devils only led 3-0 at the end of the first period as UTEP was able to force a pair of three-and-outs, including getting its first sack of Walter on ASU's third possession.
ASU took advantage of UTEP bracketing Hagan to get Richardson loose on a post corner that resulted in a 34-yard touchdown pass and 10-0 lead 90 seconds into the second period.
The ASU fans could finally start to breathe easier when Franklin, reading a quick pass to the slotback, broke on the ball, tipped it with his right hand, juggled it, and gathered it in in stride, then streaked to the end zone.
"Offensively, we were a little bit out of rhythm," Koetter said. "We made just enough plays to keep it going."
Kicker Jesse Ainsworth had a career-best 48 yard field goal in the third period.