Carpenter threw a 52-yard touchdown pass on the game's fifth play, sparking No. 15 Arizona State to a 30-13 victory over Northern Arizona on Saturday night.
"It was a good start," Carpenter said. "We've still got a lot of work to do."
Carpenter completed 22 of 28 passes for 388 yards, including 13 in a row in the first half to tie a school record. He also rushed for a team-high 40 yards on a night the Sun Devils' tailbacks mustered only 54 yards.
"I thought Rudy threw the football extremely well," coach Dennis Erickson said.
The Sun Devils, coming off a 10-3 season and a Holiday Bowl loss, wasted little time jumping on the overmatched Lumberjacks, who haven't beaten ASU since 1938.
Carpenter's quick strike was to Kerry Taylor, who took a short pass over the middle and sprinted untouched for the score.
"We wanted to come out, start fast and get the connection going," said ASU receiver Michael Jones, who caught six passes for 162 yards. "We were productive, and that's all that matters in the first game."
It was Carpenter's 66th career touchdown pass, second on Arizona State's all-time list. The leader is Andrew Walter with 85.
Thomas Weber kicked a 34-yard field goal to give the Sun Devils a 10-0 lead after one quarter.
That reversed a troubling trend from last season. ASU led after the first quarter only three times last year, and it was outscored 128-50 in the first quarter.
Arizona State went up 17-0 on a 3-yard run by Dimitri Nance midway through the second quarter. He added a 6-yard run a few minutes later to put the Sun Devils up 24-0.
Weber also connected from 28 and 36 yards.
Senior tailback Keegan Herring, who has a hamstring injury, did not play.
"We talked about it," Erickson said. "He probably could have played, but there was no sense in him playing."
Arizona State's lead grew to 30-0 midway through the third quarter before the Lumberjacks rallied for 13 points against backups.
"We kind of let them back in the game," linebacker Mike Nixon said. "We're going to have to do a better job next week" against Pac-10 rival Stanford.
Northern Arizona quarterback Lance Kriesien hit Brian Riley for a 3-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, and Robbie Dehaze kicked field goals of 21 and 25 yards for the Lumberjacks.
Kriesien completed 17 of 31 passes for 152 yards. Alex Henderson carried 22 times for 74 yards for NAU.
The game was the first of four home games to open the season for the Sun Devils. After Stanford, UNLV visits on Sept. 13, followed by No. 1 Georgia on Sept. 20.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... ASU scored on its very first possession, needing only 2:06 and five plays to go 80 yards on a drive that ended with Rudy Carpenter finding Kerry Taylor for a 52-yard strike.
Gameball goes to... Rudy Carpenter: The senior QB was the model of effeciency, completing 22 of 28 passes for 388 yards and one TD.
Stat of the game... 13: Rudy Carpenter tied a school record with 13 consecutive completions in the first half.