TEMPE, Arizona (Ticker) -- Andrew Walter threw four touchdown passes as 21st-ranked Arizona State opened its season with a 34-14 rout of Division I-AA Northern Arizona.
After emerging as one of the top quarterbacks in the Pac-10 Conference as a sophomore last year, Walter picked up where he left off. He efficiently directed the Sun Devils, completing 15-of-24 passes for 224 yards.
Walter passed for 28 touchdowns a season ago and led the Sun Devils to their fifth bowl appearance in seven years. He began Arizona State's 91st season with his fifth career four-TD game.
"I am pretty much satisfied with the game," Walter said. "By and large, it was a pretty decent night. No panic was felt when Northern Arizona scored first. We've been down 21-0 before."
"We've been saying that we needed to play a game and it really showed tonight that we haven't played one," Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter added. "There's a big difference between practice speed and game speed, and that was very evident tonight."
Arizona State trailed, 7-6, after the first quarter but struck for 21 unanswered points to take a 27-7 halftime advantage.
Cornerback R.J. Oliver scored on a 100-yard interception return to put the Sun Devils ahead for good just 15 seconds into the second quarter. Walter connected with Moey Mutz and Derek Hagen on TD strikes of 29 and 39 yards, respectively.
"Northern Arizona came out strong tonight," Sun Devils linebacker Jamar Williams said. "The defense came out a little hesitant. Then NAU had a big play and scored early and we weren't ready. The touchdown really opened our eyes."
"It happens when you play the game," Northern Arizona coach Jerome Souers said. "We came out and tried to push the perimeter, mix up the run and pass. It started out very good for us."
Coming off a 44-3 rout of St. Mary's, Northern Arizona (1-1) got a respectable performance from freshman Jason Murrietta, who completed 21-of-37 passes for 293 yards.
In their first meeting with the Lumberjacks since a 63-0 rout on October 7, 1950, the Sun Devils struggled to get going until Oliver's interception.
Oliver stepped in front of Clarence Moore about one yard in the end zone, then raced down the sideline and shook off several tackles. He tied the school record for longest interception return, set by teammate Emmanuel Franklin in the 2001 season opener against San Diego State.
The interception turned the momentum in favor of the Sun Devils. Kick returns of 22 and 42 yards by Josh Golden set up Arizona State's next two scores.
Despite allowing the 21 unanswered points, Northern Arizona had chances to keep the game close, but Paul Ernster missed field-goal attempts of 37 and 27 yards.
"One of our goals is to be 100 percent in the red zone," Moore said. "That was just concentration problems and playing with a crowd like this. I think the fans just got into some of our guys' heads. I think it's good to show us where we are at."
Less than three minutes after Ernster's second miss, Walter hooked up with Derek Hagen for a 40-yard TD.
Mutz finished with three catches for 75 yards, while Loren Wade carried 11 times for 64 yards and a touchdown. Mutz also capped the scoring with a 38-yard TD reception as the Sun Devils won their home opener for the 14th time in 18 years.
Moore had nine catches for 157 yards and a score.