TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Mike Price had one ordeal just trying to
find a job. His coaching debut at UTEP turned out to be another.
"Our expectation was to win the game, and we certainly didn't
do that," Price said after watching Arizona State rout the Miners
41-9 Thursday night. "We were beaten soundly. I'm disappointed
because the players have done everything that I've asked them to
Price landed in El Paso after being dismissed by Alabama for
questionable conduct after a night of heavy drinking and partying
at a strip club in Florida in April 2003.
UTEP, which had won only six games in three previous seasons,
took a chance on the 1997 national coach of the year.
Price said his instincts may have been rusty after a year away
from Washington State, but he didn't feel the national attention
directed at his return was a distraction.
"They seemed very, very focused and they gave it a good
effort," he said. "They didn't play real great, but they gave it
a good effort."
Price took over a 2-11 team, and the result was predictable
against the Sun Devils, who returned 47 lettermen anxious to forget
last year's 5-7 record.
The Sun Devils' Andrew Walter threw three touchdown passes and
Emmanuel Franklin scored on one of his two interceptions.
One bright spot for the Miners was Jordan Palmer's 37-yard
completion to Johnnie Lee Higgins Jr. That set up a 12-yard scoring
run by Howard Jackson with 1:49 left in the second quarter and cut
Arizona State's lead to 24-6.
Walter, the only Sun Devils quarterback to have two 3,000-yard
seasons, was mediocre by his standards -- 18-of-37 for 241 yards. He
had TD passes of 34 yards to Terry Richardson, 2 yards to Brent
Miller and 15 yards to Derek Hagan.
Sharp at the start, Walter looked flat in the third quarter and
didn't play in the fourth.
The Sun Devils had good field position most of the way due to
good defense -- a fumble caused by Jamar Williams and recovered by
Josh Barrett ended a UTEP drive in the third, and Mike Davis Jr.
picked off one of Palmer's four interceptions in the fourth.
"I felt like offensively we were a little bit out of rhythm all
night," coach Dirk Koetter said. "We made enough plays to keep
going, but I didn't feel that we were in sync like we can be."
Walter went 5-of-7 on Arizona State's first possession, which
ended with a 22-yard field goal by Jesse Ainsworth, who added a
career-best 48-yarder in the third.
UTEP adjusted briefly as Walter missed six straight passes and
was sacked once.
He broke his skid with an 18-yard completion to Lee Burghgraef,
and then found Richardson for a TD with 13:30 left in the second
"We got off on the right foot," Walter said. "We made a few
great plays. There were four or five really bad plays that we need
to turn into good plays."
Franklin's two interceptions in a 2:40 span keyed the next two
The safety returned the first 28 yards to set up Miller's TD
grab. Then Franklin stepped in front of Jonas Crafts and took the
second 48 yards, making it 24-0 with 8:58 left.
Before the quarter ended, Arizona State had another interception
of Palmer, who threw 13 interceptions while starting six games as a
"We made a lot of mistakes across the board," Palmer said. "I
made four big ones myself. At the same time, it was a good learning
Defensive tackle Quency Darley pulled down a deflection, but the
Miners held with the help of a sack by Chris Mineo and a blocked
punt by Chris Francies that set up UTEP's two-play, 49-yard scoring
Jahmal Fenner had a 76-yard punt return late in the game, and
Palmer passed to Jayson Boyd in the end zone, but the 8-yard play
was nullified by an offensive pass interference on Boyd, and the
Miners settled for a 33-yard field goal by Bryce Benekos.