TEMPE -- The Arizona State University football team heads back on the road this weekend for what is technically an away game as the team will take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. Arizona Time in Arlington, Texas. Part of the 2013 Shamrock Series, the game will be played at the AT&T Stadium - home of the Dallas Cowboys.
The Sun Devil football program is currently in its 101st season of competition in 2013. The Sun Devils are 572-363-24 (.609) all-time and have appeared in 26 bowl games, compiling a 13-12-1 record in such contests. Arizona State kicked off the 2013 campaign with a rout over Sacramento State in a rare Thursday night tilt, knocking off the Hornets 55-0 at Sun Devil Stadium, followed by a dramatic 32-30 victory over No. 20 Wisconsin and dropped their first game of the season to No. 5 Stanford in Palo Alto. ASU dispatched of USC this past weekend with a 62-41 offensive clinic to improve to 1-1 in Pac-12 play this season.
ON THE AIR The MidFirst Bank Sun Devil-IMG Sports Network will carry all 12 of ASU’s football games live on its 10-station radio network, including flagship station Sports 620 KTAR AM. Tim Healey (play-by-play) and former Sun Devil quarterback Jeff Van Raaphorst (color analyst) will call the action with Doug Franz reporting from the sidelines. This week’s game will be broadcast on 620 KTAR AM. Weekly radio coverage begins two hours prior to kickoff with the “Talking Stick Resort Sun Devil Tailgate Show,” hosted by Doug Franz. The game will also be broadcast on Sirius Channel 134 and XM Channel 197 and that will be the Arizona State broadcast while the Notre Dame broadcast will be featured on Sirus and XM Channel 129.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION Saturday’s contest will mark the a rare appearance on NBC due to the network’s long-standing agreement to broadcast all Notre Dame home events. While the game isn’t being played in South Bend, it is still classified as a Fighting Irish home contest. The Sun Devils will kick off at 4:30 p.m. Arizona time/6:30 p.m. CT. Tom Hammond will be on the call for the broadcast while Mike Mayock will be alongside as analyst. Alex Flanagan will report from the sidelines.
ON THE FIGHTING IRISH AND INDEPENDENTS ASU has twice played the Fighting Irish in program history, losing both contests in 1998 and 1999 by scores of 28-9 and 48-17, respectively. ASU is 5-2 all-time when competing against independent programs who are not affiliated to a conference, the last coming in ASU’s 62-28 rout over Navy in the Kraft Fight Hungr bowl last season. Notre Dame enters the weekend with a 3-2 record overall this season and dropped their contest this past week to now No. 11 Oklahoma, 35-21.
A HISTORIC FEAT In the history of USC and Notre Dame football, a team has played both programs in consecutive weeks on 12 separate occasions. No team has ever won both of those contests, giving ASU a chance to make history when it takes on the Fighting Irish in Arlington, Texas next week. Only two teams even gave themselves a shot to complete the double (Michigan State in 1987 and South Carolina in 1983) by winning the first game of the series but both went on to drop handy decisions to Notre Dame by scores of 31-8 and 30-6, respectively. Arizona State was actually one of those teams back in 1998 but dropped both contests that season.
--Marion Grice found the end zone 19 times last year, tying him for third on ASU’s all-time single-season touchdown list with Woody Green (1972) behind just Wilford White (22/1950) and Terry Battle (20/1996). Grice is well on pace to demolish the single-season scoring record in 2013 as he already has 12 touchdowns through four games this season. In his last seven games dating back to last season, Grice has found the end zone 18 times (13 rushing, five receiving) - scoring at least one touchdown in each of those contests. In 2013, he is averaging a touchdown every 7.3 times he touches the ball (12 TDs on 87 touches/13.8 percent of touches).
--Jaelen Strong is off to one of the best starts for a receiver in school history, amassing 433 yards (108.2 ypg) on 31 receptions (7.8 rpg) in his first four games in a Sun Devil uniform. Twenty of those 31 receptions this season have resulted in first downs. He has also drawn six pass interference penalties against him this season, four of which have results in first downs, giving him a tole in 24 of ASU’s 104 first downs this season (23.1 percent)
--In his his last seven games dating back to 2012, Taylor Kelly has thrown for 19 touchdowns with four interceptions, completing 158-of-242 off his passes (.653) for 2,075 yards (296.4 ypg). He has amassed an impressive 159.92 quarterback rating during that span.
--Taylor Kelly is one of just three FBS quarterbacks in 2013 to pass for over 300 yards in each of their starts this season (Sean Mannion of Oregon State and Keith Wenning of Ball State being the others). His seven career 300+ yard games are tied for third among all quarterbacks in ASU history.
--The Sun Devils haven’t fared well against the run the past three weeks, making Saturday’s matchup intriguing as Notre Dame hasn’t done well running the ball this season. The Fighting Irish rank 93rd nationally in rushing offense (135.5 ypg) while ASU is ranked 92nd nationally in rushing defense (192.3 ypg)
--Winning the battle in the red zone will be one area to keep an eye on on Saturday. ASU is much improved in the category thus far this season, ranking 46th nationally with a 86.4 scoring clip inside the 20. However, Notre Dame has done quite well defensively in the category, ranking 33rd nationally while allowing just a 73.7 percent scoring rate in the red zone. Conversely, the Irish have struggled mightily to score in the red zone, converting just 66.7 percent of their opportunities (111th nationally) but ASU has struggled to stop teams in the red zone, ranking 83rd nationally while allowing an 84.6 percent scoring rate in the area.
RECAP - ASU v. USC Marion Grice scored four touchdowns, two on passes from Taylor Kelly, and Arizona State used consecutive big plays in the third quarter to race past Southern California 62-41 on Saturday night. Arizona State (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12) trailed by 1 after USC opened the third quarter with a quick scoring drive. The Sun Devils ran away from the Trojans after that, scoring a pair of touchdowns 47 seconds apart. Kelly orchestrated the first, hitting D.J. Foster in stride for a 74-yard touchdown pass. Alden Darby was next, stepping in front of a pass by Cody Kessler for a 46-yard interception return that put the Sun Devils up 34-21. Tre Madden and Justin Davis each scored three touchdowns for USC (3-2, 0-2 Pac-12). It wasn’t nearly enough with Arizona State piling up yards while scoring its most points ever against the Trojans and matching the most ever scored against USC. Kelly finished 23-of-34 for 351 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Marion Grice had his second four-touchdown performance in the last three games as he found the end zone twice on the ground and twice through the air to build upon his national scoring lead. The Sun Devils also found some of their defensive moxie, forcing nine TFLs and four sacks.
OTHER NOTES - USC
-With Michael Eubank’s 1-yard touchdown run on ASU’s first possession, the Sun Devils have now scored first in 14 of the 17 games with Todd Graham at the helm. Arizona State improves to 3-0 on such contests this season.
-ASU improved to 10-0 under Todd Graham when leading at halftime.
-The Sun Devils scored 62 points Saturday night, the most points ASU has ever put up against USC. It also ties for second-most points scored by the Sun Devils in Pac-10/12 competition. The most they have ever put up is 65 points in a win against Stanford in 2002. ASU also put up 612 yards of total offense, the most in a conference game since recording 667 yards against Oregon in 2000.
- Before the game, USC had not allowed a single point in the first quarter in its first four contests: a Michael Eubank 1-yard touchdown run quickly put an end to that streak.
-With a 74-yard connection in the third quarter, Taylor Kelly and D.J. Foster both broke their own personal records. The pass was Kelly’s longest completion of his career, shattering his previous long of 52 yards in 2012. This season, his high was a 45-yard completion to Chris Coyle last week against Stanford. For Foster, it was his longest reception as a Sun Devil; his previous high was 49 yards in 2012.
- By recording a pick-six again against USC, the Sun Devils have now recorded four-straight games against the Trojans with an interception returned for a touchdown. Alden Darby has done it in the past two contests, while linebacker Shelly Lyons did it in 2011 and Omar Bolden accomplished it in 2010.
IN THE RANKINGS The Sun Devils climbed back into the AP and Coaches Polls following their victory over USC, hitting No. 22 in the AP Poll and No. 24 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Notre Dame, who had been ranked for the entirety of the season, fell out of this week’s rankings following its loss to Oklahoma. ASU had reached the top-25 in the AP Poll two weeks ago but fell out following its loss to Stanford in Palo Alto. The team climbed back into the mix this week, however, marking just the ninth time since 2008 that the team had garnered attention in the poll.
STRIKE FIRST The Sun Devils have scored first in 14 of the 17 games with Todd Graham at the helm, and is 3-0 in such contests this season following the USC victory. The Sun Devils are now 10-4 in the Todd Graham era when getting on the scoreboard first.
STRIKE FAST ASU The quick-hitting offense has become a staple of the Todd Graham-coached Sun Devils, with 80 of ASU’s 103 offensive scoring drives under Graham coming in three minutes or less (77.7 percent). ASU had seven of their nine scoring drives against Sacramento State come in three minutes or less. Oddly enough, ASU survived on longer drives against Wisconsin with just two of its six scoring drives coming under three minutes. ASU had drives of 4:20 and 4:26 against Wisconsin, a feat made notable as the team had just THREE total scoring drives going longer than four minutes last season. That being said, ASU still has maintained a high number of quick scoring drives this season, scoring in three minutes or less on 22 of the team’s 28 scoring drives to date, accomplishing the feat on eight of the nine scoring drives against the Trojans. With the help of an Alden Darby pick-six, the Sun Devils scored 28 points in the third quarter against USC despite holding the ball for only about 3:40 of the period.
START STRONG...FINISH STRONG The Sun Devils have now outscored their opposition 169-89 in the first quarter under Todd Graham. Perhaps the more telling statistic, however, is the fact the Sun Devils are 9-0 under Graham when holding their opposition scoreless in the first and have done so in two of the team’s three wins this season. ASU does best when they get ahead early, improving to 10-0 when leading at halftime with Graham as coach following the USC contest. ASU also knows how to close out games, outscoring teams 182-88 in the fourth quarter of games under Graham.
WINNING BY WAY OF TKO (TAYLOR KELLY OFFENSE) After setting career highs in competions, attempts and yards against Wisconsin (29-of-51 for 352 yards), Taylor Kelly one-upped himself against Stanford, going 30-of-56 for 367 yards to reset his career highs in all three categories. Statistically, the team relies heavily on Kelly’s ball protection, however, as ASU is 2-6 with Kelly as the starter when he throws an interception, compared to an unblemished 9-0 record when he doesn’t. That being said, ASU is 2-1 this year in games that Kelly has thrown a pick. The school record holder in completion percentage and efficiency after last season, Kelly has thrown for 19 touchdowns and four interceptions, completing 158-of-242 off his passes (.653) for 2,075 yards (296.4 ypg). He has amassed an impressive 159.92 quarterback rating during that span. With four consecutive games of throwing for 300 or more passing yards this season, Kelly now has seven career games where he has accomplished the feat, moving him into a tie with Brock Osweiler for the third-most games with 300 or more passing yards behind only Andrew Walter (12) and Rudy Carpenter (11). Kelly is one of just four three FBS quarterbacks this season to surpass 300 passing yards in each of their starts to date (Sean Mannion of Oregon State and Keith Wenning of Ball State being the others.
GRICE, GRICE BABY Marion Grice proved to be one of the top junior college additions in the country last year after leading the team with 19 touchdowns (11 rushing, eight receiving) on the season - tied for the third-highest single season total in school history behind just Wilford White (1950, 22) and Terry Battle (1996, 20) on the all-time list. Grice’s knack for finding the end zone became commonplace, as he posted touchdowns on 19 of his 144 offensive touches last year (13.2 percent). Grice has picked up where he left this season, scoring 12 TDs through four games and now has 18 touchdowns (13 rushing, five receiving) over the last seven games - averaging a score every 7.2 touches in that span - roughly 14 percent of the time he touches the ball (18 TDs on 129 touches). He’s currently is second in the conference among players with at least 40 touches with a touchdown every 7.3 touches behind Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks (TD per 7.1 touches), Additionally, Grice has been one clutch on third downs as well, converting on a team-leading eight opportunities.
#LOOKGRICEBEFORECROSSING Marion Grice not only leads the nation in scoring this year at 18.0 points per game, but he is able to get it into the end zone in a variety of ways. Last season, Grice led the nation’s running backs with eight receiving touchdowns. He is on pace for that feat again in 2013 as he leads the nation’s running backs again with four receiving TDs this year. Grice is on pace to upend all manners of scoring records for ASU. He now has 31 career touchdowns, ranking him seventh all-time in ASU history, despite playing in just 17 games. It is highly unlikely Grice will track down the ASU career touchdown record of 48, held by Woody Green and Wilford White, but at Grice’s current rate Leon Burton’s third-place hold with 42 touchdowns is just within sight. White holds the record for points per game in a season, scoring 13.6 per game back in 1950. White’s touchdowns per game for a career record of 1.33 might also be in jeopardy with Grice currently averaging 1.8 per game.
#DYNAMICDUO Marion Grice and D.J. Foster are two of just five FBS players that return this season that had both 400 yards on the ground AND through the air last year. and played a large part in a running-back-by-committee approach last season that accounted for a large chunk of ASU’s total yardage on the season. The pair combined for 232 of the team’s 612 total yards of offense against USC (47.9 percent) and thus far this season, the pair have combined for 779 yards of total offense and 13 touchdowns. The 779 yards represents 38.5 percent of ASU’s TOTAL yards from scrimmage to date this season. The duo is key in the clutch as well, accounting for 34 of the teams’ 91 non-penalty induced first downs this season (37.7 percent).
TWO IS BETTER THAN ONE Grice and Foster return 2,130 combined yards from last season (1,172 rushing, 958 receiving) and 25 touchdowns. Among Pac-12 programs returning dual backs where one back didn’t take over 75 percent of the touches between the two, only the Oregon squads return numbers that come close to stacking up. Oregon State returns Storm Woods and Terron Ward, who combined for 1,747 yards (1,355 rushing, 392 receiving) and 19 touchdowns. Oregon, which lost Kenjon Barner to graduation, returns a tandem of De’Anthony Thomas and Byron Marshall, who put up a combined 1,607 yards (1,148 rushing, 459 receiving) and 20 touchdowns.
FOSTER THE PEOPLE D.J. Foster came to ASU last season as what many considered the “gem” of the Sun Devil recruiting class and he lived up to the hype. Foster was second on the team in all-purpose yardage with 1,026 yards last year (493 on the ground and 533 by air). His ability to make what the ASU coaching staff calls “explosive plays” (rushes of 12 or more yards, receptions of 16 or more yards) helped him stand out amongst an offense full of talented players as he led the team in such plays with 31 total (18 receiving and 13 rushing). He has eight such plays already this season, currently third on the team. Foster has made his mark in the receiving game this season with 22 grabs for 258 yards (11.7 ypc) through four, ranking second on the team in both categories. He has a knack for getting to the first down marker as he is currently third on the team with 14 first downs on 38 touches this season.
A STRONG START All told, 23 Sun Devils have made their debuts this season, but none are turning as many heads as Jaelen Strong. The junior college transfer leads the team in receptions and yards with 31 grabs for 433 yards (7.8 rpg/108.2 ypg) and two touchdowns this season. Those numbers are impressive as they represent the best four-game start for any receiver in ASU history. Prior to Strong, no Sun Devil wide receiver in history had posted more than one 100+ yard game in their first four spots. Strong has accomplished the feat three times already. Here’s a look at some of the top ASU wide receivers of all-time in their first four starts and how Strong stacks up.
THE FORCE IS STRONG Just as impressive as Jaelen Strong’s statsitics are, his ability to make catches when they count can’t be overlooked. A total of 20 of his receptions have gone for first downs while he has also drawn six pass interference penalties against opposing defenses (four of which resulted in first downs, two were declined), thus playing a role in 24 of ASU’s 104 total first downs this season (23.1 percent), easily leading the team in that category. His six receptions for a first down on either third or fourth down currently lead the team. Additionally, Strong leads the team in explosive plays (rushes over 12 yards and receptions over 16 yards) with 12 this season. Averaging just under eight receptions per game, Strong currently ranks 12th nationally in the nation in the category and is 19th nationally in receiving yards per game at 108.3 yards per game. ASU has had just three wide receivers average over 100 yards per game in a season in history with Derek Hagan and Shaun McDonald doing it twice while Gerrell Robinson was the last to do it in 2011.
HOLD ‘EM BACK ASU prided itself on its aggressive defense last season, forcing 117 tackles for a loss of 497 total yards - a 9.00 TFL per game mark that led the nation. As a whole, ASU had a combined 155 defensive plays that went for a loss or no gain out of 953 offensive plays the opposition ran and if you tack on incomplete passes to the mix, then ASU forced 341 plays that did not result in positive yardage (35.8 percent of opponent’s plays from scrimmage). ASU had nine tackles for loss against Stanford and three stops at the line of scrimmage out of 67 offensive plays run by the Trojans (17.9 percent). To date this season, the ASU defense has held offenses to 84 plays (out of 250 by the opposition) that have not earned positive yardage (includes incomplete passes) - a 33.6 percentage rate of plays run from the line of scrimmage.
BETTER SUITED FOR HANDKERCHIEFS The Sun Devils don’t give referees much reason to reach for their pockets under Todd Graham. Nine of ASU’s 12 least penalized games since 2006 have come under Todd Graham, including two of the three games played this season. Two of those games gave come during the current season.
MORE ON PENALTIES Todd Graham has had a knack for having some of the most disciplined teams in the nation when it comes to penalty yards. In each of his seven seasons as a head coach, Graham’s teams have been consistently ranked among in the top half of the least penalized teams in the country in both yards and penalties per game. In 2012, the Sun Devils finished 10th in fewest penalties (4.23) and eighth in fewest penalty yards per game (34.9). In 2013, ASU ranks ninth nationally in penalties per game (3.5) and is 15th in penalty yards per game at (33.8). The team leads the Pac-12 Conference in both categories.
LIGHT ‘EM UP Putting points on the scoreboard won’t typically be a problem with Mike Norvell heading the offense, as ASU 62 points against USC will show. ASU is averaging 46.5 points per game over the last seven games dating back to last season. ASU’s 118 combined points in the last two season openers (ASU defeated NAU 63-6 last season) are the highest in consecutive openers in program history and ASU’s 87 points through the first two games were the third most in ASU history behind last year’s team (108) and the 94 put up by Dirk Koetter’s squad in 2005. ASU’s 62 points against USC tied for the most any team has ever scored against the Trojans and marked the first time ASU had dropped 50+ on its Pac-12 South rival. It was the second most points ASU has ever scored in a conference matchup behind only the 65 scored against Stanford in 2002. ASU went 86 games without scoring 60 from 2005-2011. Under Coach Graham it has scored 60 3 times (63 NAU, 62 Navy, 62 USC).
MAKE ‘EM PAY ASU put points on the board following all four of Sacramento State’s turnovers in the opener as well as capitalizing on all of USC’s four turnovers, continuing a trend that started last year when the Sun Devil offense put points in the bank on 70.0 of its conversion opportunities, scoring 18 touchdowns off of 30 turnovers forced. ASU outscored opponents 139-58 in points off turnovers over the course of last season, despite posting just a middling +6 number in the takeway category. Much of that came by way of the defense, which did an admirable job of limiting opponents following turnovers by the offense. Last, ASU’s opponents scored on just 41.7 percent of their drives following an ASU turnover and scored just seven touchdowns in that span on 24 turnovers. On ASU’s five turnovers this season, opponents have scored just twice as the Sun Devils have outscored the opposition 44-14 in points of turnovers and hold a +5 turnover margin already this season. ASU has five touchdowns off 10 opponent turnovers and have capitilzed by scoring on 80 percent of their opportunities to net points off turnovers this season.
SECONDARY A PRIMARY Last season, the ASU defense finished the season ranked third nationally in passing defense (167.92) and 10th in passing efficiency defense (105.45), leading the Pac-12 in both. Thus far this season, the secondary hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down, having held the opposition to 59-of-101 passing with just five touchdowns to six interceptions and 722 total yards and a 127.1 QB efficiency rating in four games. In that time, ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly has most nearly twice as many completions and yards and more than twice as many touchdowns. ASU currently ranks 36th nationally in passing yards allowed, giving up just 193.0 passing yards per game.
THE ALTERNATIVE DEFINITION OF “SCORING DEFENSE” Scoring defense is an official statistic credited to defenses based on how many points they allow per game. The ASU defense worked to re-write that definition with a defense that finds a way to directly lead to points on the board. Alden Darby’s interception return for a touchdown against USC was the first such instance this season. Last year, ASU had three interceptions returned for touchdowns on the year (Alden Darby - 70 yards at USC, Anthony Jones - 36 yards vs Oregon and Brandon Magee - 45 yards vs NAU) and one fumble recovery for a touchdown (Junior Onyeali vs Oregon State). The defense also had a blocked punt for a safety, giving the squad a total of 26 direct points. Considering points off turnovers that the ASU offense scored, the ASU defense had a hand in 165 of the 499 points (33.1 percent) scored for the Sun Devils last season and is off to a great start this year, having placed their stamp on 44 of ASU’s 177 points in 2013 (24.9 percent).
WINNING THE BATTLE FOR FIELD POSITION The Sun Devils were largely exceptional when it came to starting field position last season, and picked that up again in the opener. The Sun Devils started in USC territory three times against the Trojans while no USC drive started on ASU’s side of the field. The opposite was true against Stanford, with ASU starting, on average, at its own 27-yard line compared to the Cardinal starting at their own 42-yard line on average. Under Todd Graham, ASU has had an average starting yard line of its own 37.4 in 11 victories compared to a starting yard line of the 23.7 for their opponents in such contests. Conversely, in losses the opponents have an average starting field position of the their own 34.5 yard line compared to ASU starting at its own 29.8. Some of this year’s credit goes to placekicker Alex Garoutte, who has 20 touchbacks on 32 kickoffs - a 62.5 percent average that is notable as he only averaged a touchback 38.9 percent of the time last season. Last season, ASU posted an average starting spot of their own 33-yard line that ranked 10th in the nation. The Sun Devils also held their opponents to an average starting line of their own 28-yard-line, a total that ranked 24th nationally. The Sun Devils were impressive in turning bad field position into a positive against Wisconsin, having two scoring drives of 90+ yards, an impressive accomplishment as ASU had just two such drives in the entirety of 2012.
GOLD ZONE One area that has seen improvement this season for the Sun Devils is red zone offense, with ASU putting points on the board 93.8 percent of the time against FBS opponents, ranking 17th nationally in the category, as per TeamRankings.com. Last season, ASU scored just 76.1 percent of the time and ranked a lowly 93rd in the nation against FBS opponents. On the flip side, ASU is allowing its FBS opponents to score 91.7 percent of the time this season when entering the red zone (ranked 97th nationally), compared to an 80.5 percent figure last season that was 51st in the nation - a factor the Sun Devils are sure to want to address.
THE STREAK GROWS Seniors Evan Finkenberg and Osahon Irabor began 2013 as two of the most seasons starters in the Pac-12. Only Oregon State’s Michael Philipp (40) has more starts than Finkenberg and Irabor, who each have 37. Irabor’s statistic is particularly notable as he has started all 37 of his games consecutively - a mark that paces the Pac-12 Conference ahead of Washington State’s John Fullington, who has 35.
AIR RAID In 2012, the Sun Devil offense averaged 32.8 passing attempts per game in games amongst FBS opponents, a tally that ranked 68th nationally. Thus far in 2013 against FBS teams, ASU is averaging 47.3 passing attempts per game - a figure that sits eight in the country. It could be possible to look at that as a bad statistic or a reflection of a weak running game, but ASU is still averaging nearly 505 yards of total offense per game in four games this season - over 40 more yards than it averaged per game in 2012.
A SUTTON IMPACT ASU’s consensus All-American, senior Will Sutton, finally got an opportunity to leave his mark against USC, finishing the game with 2.0 tackles for loss and his first sack of the season on USC’s first snap of the game. Despite facing double teams nearly every snap this season, Sutton has 13.5 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.0 sacks with a fumble recovery. While quarterback hurries aren’t an officially kept stat, a look through the game tape would show Sutton having his nose in more than a couple plays despite the lack of eye-popping numbers. Sutton posted 23.5 tackles for loss last season (fourth-most in ASU history) and 13.0 sacks (fourth in ASU history).
DON’T FORGET BRADFORD With the incredible season posted by Will Sutton last year, it was almost easy to forget the phenomenal year put forth by Carl Bradford. Playing out of the Devilbacker position, Bradford finished the year with 81 tackles (fourth on team), 20.5 tackles for loss (second on team and 10th-most in school history) and 11.5 sacks. His three forced fumbles tied Sutton for most on the team and his two fumble recoveries tied Deveron Carr for the team lead as well. He also added an interception for good measure. Since sacks started being recording in 1978, only four sophomores in Sun Devil history have amassed 10 or more sacks and Bradford’s 11.5 were more than all of them - a list that includes Shante Carver (11/1991), Dexter Davis (10.5/2007) and Terrell Suggs (10/2001). Bradford was one of just five FBS players last season to total 80+ tackles, 20+ TFLs AND 10+ sacks on the year. After a quiet opener, Bradford seems to be back in the thick of things, posting 16 tackles in the last three contests with 4.0 coming for loss and 2.0 sacks in the process - the latter two numbers currently tied for the team lead.
#DYNAMICDUOPARTDEUX Between Bradford and Sutton, the Sun Devils have formidable a defense duo as any in the nation. Only 10 returning FBS players posted 10+ sacks in 2012. Sutton and Bradford are the only teammates on that list. There were a total of 51 FBS teams that had fewer sacks in 2012 than Sutton and Bradford had combined (24.5). Not since 1978 has ASU had a pair of players post 20+ TFLs and 10+ sacks in the same season (Al Harris 22 TFL/19 sacks and Bob Kohrs 20 TFL/14 sacks). As a team, Boston College only had one more TFL in 2012 than Sutton and Bradford had combined (44.0 TFL for Sutton and Bradford). Only 10 returning FBS players posted 10+ sacks in 2012. Sutton and Bradford are the only teammates on that list. 51 FBS teams had fewer sacks in 2012 than Sutton and Bradford had combined (24.5).
NOT PLAYING COY Chris Coyle put up one of the best seasons in tight end history at ASU in 2012. Coyle finished third in the nation in tight end receptions per game with 4.38. His 57 receptions led the Sun Devils and were a new single-season best all-time for ASU tight ends. Coyle finished with five touchdown catches on the year, one shy of the single-season tight end record set by Miller and Joe Petty. Coyle has 11 catches for 213 yards and two touchdowns to date this season, averaging an incredible 19.4 yards per catch. Coyle is fifth in the nation in yardage and receiving yards per game at tight end, averaging 53.3 yards per contest.
NOT IN IRABOR’S HOUSE Defensive back Osahon Irabor was a force last year with 14 passes defended on the season to lead the team. What’s more impressive is that he didn’t have a single pass interference called against him all season after having seven called against him in 2011 . The 14 pass breakups in 2012 were the most by a Sun Devil since Justin Tryon had 16 in 2007. Irabor was arguably the defensive player of the game against Wisconsin, leading the team with seven tackles and 2.5 TFLs along with a sack. Irabor current is second on the team with 20 tackles this season. He already has 4.0 tackles for loss this season, an impressive statistic considering he had ZERO in the previous two seasons. Irabor recorded his first interception of the season against USC, and also did an admirable job on All-American Marqise Lee. Lee led all USC receivers with seven catches for 92 yards but 51 of those came on a long pass while another defender - not Irabor - was in coverage.
INTERCEPTION DARBY Alden Darby has made a reputation as a ball-hawking safety during his four year’s at Arizona State, logging his seventh and eighth interception of his career against USC and recording his second pick-six in the process. He now has 238 all-time career interception return yards and is slowly sneaking up on the all-time record of 324 career interception return yards, set by Nathan LaDuke back in 1987-90. Darby, a member of the Lott IMPACT Trophy Preseason Watchlist, was named the Lott IMPACT Player of the Week for the performance.
INFO-GRAHAM Over his four seasons prior to coming to ASU -- one at Pittsburgh and three at Tulsa -- Todd Graham’s teams rushed the ball on at least 53.4 percent of their total plays. In 2008, Tulsa rushed on 61.4 percent of its total plays. The 2012 Sun Devils rushed the ball on 59.1 percent of their total plays. In 2011, ASU rushed 44.5 percent of the time. Over the past seven seasons at Pitt, Tulsa, Rice and now ASU, only one Graham-coached team has ranked outside the top 50 nationally in sacks. In 2011, Pittsburgh averaged 3.31 sacks, which ranked third nationally. The Sun Devils averaged 4.0 sacks per game last year, the second-best mark in the nation. In seven seasons, Graham is 22-20 in true road games. ASU was 3-3 in such games in 2012. In the previous four seasons, ASU was 5-16. In six of the past seven years, Graham’s teams have ranked 39th or better nationally in fewest penalty yards per game. In 2008, Tulsa averaged just 37 penalty yards, which ranked 11th in the nation. In 2011, Pitt averaged 39.5, which ranked 18th. The Sun Devils averaged only 34.92 penalty yards per game in 2012 which was good for eighth in the nation.
HALFTIME PEP TALKS The Sun Devils struggled the post last season in the third quarter of games, scoring just 91 points in third quarters all season and holding only a 91-86 scoring edge over opponents over the course of the season compared to 145-69, 137-99 and 126-62 in the first, second and fourth quarters respectively. The difference a year makes as ASU has outscored opponents 51-24 in the third this season, a +17 scoring margin that is the highest discrepancy of all quarters this season compared 20 a 24-20 margin in the first, 51-37 margin in the second and 51-32 margin in the fourth quarters. ASU is averaging 13.7 points per third quarter against FBS programs this season - a tally that ranks seventh nationally - compared to a 7.0 points per third quarter against FBS opponents tally in 2012 that was 50th nationally.
BALL SECURITY The Sun Devils have done an admirable job of holding on to the football this season, giving up just one fumble through four games this season. The .3 fumbles per game against FBS opponents is ranked tied for third nationally - a far cry from 2012 where the Sun Devils gave up 1.5 fumble per game against FBS opponents - ranking 62nd nationally in the category. That one fumble loss ranks fourth nationally among FBS institutions this season.
SCHOLAR-BALLERS The Sun Devil football team has not only showed impressive strides on the field of play, but also in the classroom. The Sun Devils had 51 student-athletes named “Scholar-Ballers” this past season, meaning they earned a 3.0 or higher GPA for the year. That is 21 more student-athletes than the 2010-11 campaign and 13 more than 2011-12.
DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY One of the more impressive numbers the Sun Devils lay claim to this season will be the eight graduates competing on the roster in 2013. Davon Coleman, Chris Coyle, Evan Finkenberg, Alex Garoutte, Osahon Orabor, Kody Koebensky, Shane McCullen and Marlon Pollard will all compete this season with Bachelor degrees in hand as they complete coursework toward their graduate degrees. More impressive, six of those student-athletes were starters or significant reserves in 2012 and will likely play a large role in things this season as well (Coleman, Coyle, Finkenberg, Koebensky, Garoutte and Irabor).