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Utes, Sun Devils ready for Pac-12 opener

Associated Press Modified: September 21, 2012 at 12:05 pm •  Published: September 21, 2012
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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona State knocked out Northern Arizona quarterback Cary Grossart before halftime, didn't play against Illinois starter Nathan Scheelhaase and missed Missouri first-teamer James Franklin.

Continuing their season-long trend, the Sun Devils will face their fourth straight backup quarterback Saturday night, when Utah and senior Jon Hays visit Sun Devil Stadium for both team's Pac-12 opener.

Not that it matters to them.

Maybe Jordan Wynn was a little more dynamic than Hays before he got hurt, but it doesn't affect Arizona State's preparation for stopping the Utes.

"It is said that you prepare for one guy or another guy, but people don't change their entire offensive for one person," Arizona State coach Todd Graham said. "I thought it did hurt them because I really thought Jordan Wynn was very special. But we are not going against an inexperienced quarterback or freshman quarterback. We have a guy who is very knowledgeable and has very good understanding of what they are doing offensively."

Hays will be thrust into the spotlight against Arizona State for the second straight season.

He wasn't recruited by any Division I school until a roundabout journey to Salt Lake City and became the starter when Wynn suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in October. Hays threw three interceptions in his first start, a home loss to Arizona State, and had an up-and-down ride despite the Utes going 6-3 with him under center.

With Wynn back and two heralded freshmen on the roster, Hays didn't get much buzz in the spring or heading into the season.

But when Wynn suffered a fourth shoulder injury that ended his career, it was Hays' turn to step in again.

He handled it a little better this time, completing 18 of 27 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers in the Utes' upset victory over rival Brigham Young last week.

"My skill set has really improved. I've worked really hard in the offseason," Hays said. "I have a lot better understanding of the game than when I came in. It's night and day difference from last year. Looking back I don't think I'd make those same mistakes. I know I can play and my teammates know I can play."

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