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TEMPE -- The Arizona State University football team returns home this weekend to take on the USC Trojans on Saturday, Sept. 28 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. The game is slated for a 7:30 p.m. PT kickoff and will be broadcast live on ESPN2.
The Sun Devil football program is currently in its 101st season of competition in 2013. The Sun Devils are 571-363-24 (.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.
#10THINGS (Twitter-Friendly Notes)
1. 15 of @JaelenStrong’s 24 grabs have gone for 1st downs while drawing 5 PIs and has played a role in 19 of ASU’s 79 1st downs thus far (24.1%)
2. @Taylor_Kelly10 is now one of just 5 ASU QBs with six career 300-yard games
3. @FootballASU RB Marion Grice is ranked No. 1 in the nation in scoring (16.0) and No. 5 in rushing TDs (6). #LookGriceBeforeCrossing
4. @FootballASU ranked No. 3 nationally in 1st down defense (40), No. 8 in passing off. (361.3). @Taylor_Kelly10 is 6th in passing ypg (339.7)
5. Prior to this weekend, 2010 the only year since 2001 that @FootballASU played #USC when they #Trojans were not ranked #Top25 nationally
6. @ASUIrabor24 is has now started 36 consecutive games for the Sun Devils, the most consecutive starts of any player in the @Pac12
7. Over the past six games, Marion Grice has scored 14 TDs (11 rushing, three receiving), scoring once every 7.8 touches in that span
8. Six of @FootballASU’s 10 victories against @USC _Athletics have come in Tempe, including the team’s last victory against the #Trojans
9. @Taylor_Kelly10 set a new career high with 367 passing yards against @StanfordFball, and is sixth in the @NCAA D-1 at 339.7 passing ypg
10. Despite a tough game against #Stanford, @FootballASU still ranks ninth nationally in fewest penalties (3.33) and fewest penalty ypg (28.33)
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 92.3 KTAR FM. 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 139 and XM Channel 197.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION Saturday’s contest will mark the second game this season that will be broadcast on the ESPN Family of Networks. The Sun Devils will kick off at 7:30 p.m. PT on ESPN with Dave Flemming on the call along side analyst Mike Bellotti. Allison Williams will provide insight from the sidelines.
ON THE TROJANS The Trojans lead the all-time series against Arizona State, 19-10. More notable, USC is 12-1 since 2000 with ASU’s lone victory coming in 2011 in a 43-22 rout against USC to end an 11-game losing streak. Prior to this millennium, ASU was 9-7 all-time against USC. The Trojans handled the Sun Devils in Los Angeles last year in a 38-17 rout in the Coliseum. The Trojans enter the game as winners of two straight with victories over Boston College and Utah State. USC enters the weekend having made its mark on the defense side of the ball. The Trojans rank 11th in the country in scoring defense (11.0) and lead the nation in red zone defense (.400), are second in tackles for loss (9.5) and fourth in both total defense (230.5) and sacks (4.00). Both teams will be looking for their first Pac-12 victory of the season as both are 0-1 in conference play coming into the game.
--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). His 114 points on the year tied him for fifth on ASU’s all-time single season scoring list behind White, Battle and placekickers Thomas Weber and Mike Barth. In his last six games dating back to last season, Grice has found the end zone 14 times (11 rushing, three receiving) and is averaging a TD every 8.5 times he touches the ball this year
--Jaelen Strong is off to one of the best starts for a receiver in school history, amassing 330 yards (110 ypg) on 24 receptions (8.0 rpg) in his first three games in a Sun Devil uniform. A total of 15 of his receptions have gone for first downs while he has also drawn five pass interference penalties against opposing defenses this season.
--In his his last six games dating back to 2012, Taylor Kelly has thrown for 16 touchdowns and three interceptions, completing 135-of-208 off his passes (.649) for 1,724 yards (287.3 ypg). He has amassed an impressive 157.03 quarterback rating during that span.
--Something will have to give this weekend as the Sun Devils come into the contest averaging 469.3 yards per game through three games this season while USC has limited its opponents to an average of 230.5 yards per game in four contests in 2013.
--Another stat to keep an eye on is the tackles for loss category, where ASU has had just 15 plays for a loss this season (25th nationally/5.0 per game) but the Trojans lead the nation with 9.5 tackles for loss per game. On the flip side, ASU is averaging just 5.0 tackles for loss per game on defense (93rd nationally) but the Trojans have given up 25 tackles for loss this season (96th nationally).
--Last season, USC’s Marqise Lee torched the Sun Devil secondary for 171 yards on 11 catches and a touchdown. Cornerback Osahon Irabor has arguably been ASU’s defensive MVP in the early going of the season and will be looking to shut down the Trojans’ biggest weapon on Saturday.
RECAP - ASU v. STANFORD The reigning Pac-12 Champion proved to be a formidable opponent as the Stanford Cardinal (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12) rolled to a 42-28 victory over the Sun Devils, Saturday, in Stanford, Calif. Arizona State (2-1, 0-1 Pac-12) outscored the Cardinal 28-13 in the second half, but it was not enough to overcome a 29-point first-half deficit. Coming out reinvigorated in the second half after Stanford scored 29 of its 42 points in the first half, Arizona State scored its first touchdown of the game on a direct snap (a.k.a pitchfork snap) to running back Marion Grice. Grice carried the ball two yards into the end zone to put the Sun Devils on the board after moving 75 yards down the field in less than two minutes. The Sun Devils would strike again to start the fourth quarter on a 45-yard pass from quarterback Taylor Kelly to Chris Coyle for the tight end’s first reception of the day. Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jaelen Strong, who racked-up a career-high 168 yards and 12 catches in the match-up, narrowed the scoring deficit with a 27-yard touchdown reception early in the fourth quarter. The Cardinal’s offense was proficient in the first half, scoring four touchdowns on an average of two and a half minutes per possession. Stanford made the first strike in the game going up 7-0, at the 9:08 minute-mark of the first quarter and continued to click offensively throughout the half.
OTHER NOTES - STANFORD
-Wide receiver Jaelen Strong recorded a career-high 12 receptions for a career-high 168 yards, including a career-long of 30 yards that set up the Devils’ first touchdown of the game. His 12 catches are tied for the fifth most in a single game in school history and he is the first Sun Devil with at least 12 catches since Gerell Robinson in 2011 against Boise State.
-Linebacker Chris Young racked up eight tackles in the first half – the most tackles in a single game this season – and finished the game with a new team-high and a career-high 10.
-Running back Marion Grice now has eight touchdowns on the year (six rushing, two receiving), and has amassed 14 touchdowns (11 rushing, three receiving) over the past six games. Grice has racked up 27 touchdowns in 16 career games in an ASU uniform.
- Chris Coyle passed Ron Wetzel for sixth on the school’s tight end career receiving yards list with 895 yards and became the seventh tight end in school history to collect 800-plus receiving yards. He also passed Ron Wetzel for fifth on the school’s tight end career receptions list with 69. His seven receiving touchdowns are tied with three others for the seventh most in school history
-ASU is 16-12 all-time against Stanford, including 6-8 in Palo Alto (1-6 since 2000)
STRIKE FIRST The Sun Devils have scored first in 13 of the 16 games with Todd Graham at the helm, scoring twice in two of the team’s three games thus far, going 2-0 in those contests. The Sun Devils are now 9-4 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 72 of ASU’s 94 offensive scoring drives under Graham coming in three minutes or less (76.6 percent). There was much of the same against Sacramento State as ASU had seven of their nine scoring drives come in three minutes or less. The two that went longer spanned just 3:24 and 3:54. The other seven came in 2:23 or less with four of those coming in 1:45 or quicker. 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 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 14 of the team’s 19 scoring drives to date, including all four touchdown drives against Stanford.
START STRONG...FINISH STRONG After being outscored 13-0 in the first frame against Stanford, the Sun Devils have now outscored their opposition 162-82 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 both of the team’s wins this season. Outscoring the Cardinal 21-3 in the fourth quarter, ASU has now outscored its opposition by a score of 162-74 in the fourth quarter of games under Graham.
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 five tackles for loss against Stanford and eight stops at the line of scrimmage out of 66 offensive plays run by the Badgers (19.7 percent). To date this season, the ASU defense has held offenses to 62 plays (out of 183 by the opposition) that have not earned positive yardage - a 33.9 percentage rate of plays run from the line of scrimmage.
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 does live and die by Kelly’s ball protection, however, as ASU is 1-6 will Kelly as the starter when he throws an interception after the loss to Stanford, compared to an unblemished 9-0 record when he doesn’t. Taylor Kelly had completed 130-straight passes without an interception before throwing a pick in the third quarter of the Wisconsin contest. The school record holder in completion percentage and efficiency after last season, Kelly has thrown for 16 touchdowns and three interceptions, completing 135-of-208 off his passes (.649) for 1,724 yards (287.3 ypg) in his last six games. He has amassed an impressive 157.03 quarterback rating during that span. With three consecutive games of throwing for 300 or more passing yards this season, Kelly now has six career games where he has accomplished the feat, moving him into a tie with Danny White for the fourth-most games with 300 or more passing yards. Andrew Walter owns the record at 12 with Rudy Carpenter (11) and Brock Osweiler (7) trailing him.
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 39-of-71 passing with just three touchdowns to three interceptions and 477 total yards in three games. Putting that into perspective, ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly had matched or bettered those numbers by halftime of the Wisconsin game. ASU currently ranks 17th nationally in passing yards allowed, giving up just 159.0 passing yards per game while allowing an average quarterback efficiency rating thus far of just 116.86.
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. His 114 points on the year tie for fifth on ASU’s all-time single-season points scored 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). His eight receiving touchdowns led the nation for receiving touchdowns by a running back and he finished tied for 14th in the country in total touchdowns. Grice has picked up where he left this season, scoring eight TDs through three games and now has 14 touchdowns (11 rushing, three receiving) over the last six games - averaging a score every 7.9 touches in that span - roughly 13 percent of the time he touches the ball. He currently is fourth in the conference among players with at least 30 touches with a touchdown every 8.5 touches behind Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks (TD per 7.1 touches), Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas (TD per 7.5 touches) and Arizona’s B.J. Denker (TD per 8.0 touches.) It should be noted, however, that Grice has at least 18 more touches that any of those individuals this season.
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). Foster has made his mark in the receiving game this season with 19 grabs for 178 yards (9.4 ypc) through three games, ranking second on the team in both cateogries. He has a knack for getting to the first down marker as he is currently third on the team with 11 first downs on 25 touches this season.
#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 174 of the team’s 417 total yards of offense against Stanford (41.7 percent) and thus far this season, Grice and Foster have combined for 505 yards of total offense and eight touchdowns. The 505 yards represents 35.9 percent of ASU’s TOTAL yards from scrimmage to date this season. The duo has accounted for 27 of the teams’ 68 non-penalty induced first downs this season (39.7 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.
STRONG IMPRESSION 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 24 grabs for 330 yards (8 rpg/110 ypg) and two touchdowns this season. The performance is impressive considering the fact that some of the more impressive receivers over the past 15 years or so haven’t had nearly as much of an impact in their first three games of competition. Derek Hagan, Shaun McDonald, Rudy Carpenter, Chris McGaha, Kyle Williams, Gerrell Robinson did not even glimpse the kind of numbers that Strong is putting up this season. Just as impressive as the high level of performance is his ability to make catches when they count. A total of 15 of his receptions have gone for first downs while he has also drawn five pass interference penalties against opposing defenses, thus playing a role in 21 of ASU’s 79 total first downs this season (23.4 percent), easily leading the team in that category. Averaging eight receptions per game, Strong currently ranks 13th nationally in the nation in the category and is 15th nationally in receiving yards per game at 110.0 yards per game. ASU has had just three qide 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.
BETTER SUITED FOR HANDKERCHIEFS The Sun Devils don’t give referees much reason to reach for their pockets under Todd Graham. Prior to an off-game against Stanford, ASU had been penalized just four times this year for a grand total of 20 yards. Nine of ASU’s least penalized games since 2006 have come under Todd Graham, including two of the three games played this season.
LIGHT ‘EM UP ASU had no problem putting points on the scoreboard last season and that resumed in the opener as ASU dropped 55 on the Hornets. ASU is averaging 44.0 points per game over the last four 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 finished 2012 with 499 points and the 38.4 points per game ranked ASU 14th nationally in scoring offense. That mark ranks fifth all-time in ASU history in the statistical category and was the most since the 1973 squad that scored 43.2 ppg.
MAKE ‘EM PAY ASU put points on the board following all four of Sacramento State’s turnovers in the opener, continuing a trend that started last year when the Sun Devil offense put points in the bank on 70.0 of its conversion opportunities and scored 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. On the season, 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. ASU didn’t turn the ball over in the opener, and now has a +2 turnover advantage already this season to go with a +10 mark in the points off turnovers category.
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 point on the board. While there were no defensive scores in the opener, ASU scored 24 of its 55 points off Sacramento State turnovers caused by the defense. 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. If you add in the 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 continues to look to mimic that effort in 2013.
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 average starting field position, aided largely in part by four Sacramento State turnovers, was their own 43-yard line while holding the Hornets starting field position to an average of their own 25-yard line. 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 36.8 in 10 victories compared to a starting yard line of the 23.6 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 14 touchbacks on 22 kickoffs - a 63.6 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.
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). Despite a less than stellar performance in the cateogry against Stanford, ASU still ranks ninth nationally in penalties per game (3.33) and in penalty yards per game (28.33).
A GRAND OPENING ASU’s defensive effort in the opener was about as collaborative an effort as any with no player posting more than four tackles while 19 different players logged a tackle. But former walk-on turned scholarship player Grandville Taylor sure picked up where he left off last season, logging four tackles, picking up a fumble recovery and also nabbing his first interception of his career and taking it 67 yards to the two-yard line before being tackled. If a case were to be made for a defensive MVP of the game, Taylor likely wouldn’t get a serious look. Taylor backed up the performance with another fumble recovery against WIsconsin and his .67 average per game in the category remains seventh nationally.
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 88.9 percent of the time against FBS opponents, ranking 39th nationally in the category. 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 90 percent of the time this season when entering the red zone (ranked 85th nationally), compared to an 80.5 percent figure last season that was 51st in the nation.
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 53.5 passing attempts per game - a figure that sits fifth in the country. It could be possible to look at that as a bad statistic and a reflection of a weak running game, but ASU is still averaging nearly 470 yards of total offense per game in three games this season - about 10 yards more than it averaged in 2012.
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 (39) has more starts than Finkenberg and Irabor, who each have 36. Irabor’s statistic is particularly notable as he has started all 36 of his games consecutively - a mark that paces the Pac-12 Conference ahead of Washington State’s John Fullington, who has 34.
A SUTTON IMPACT ASU’s consensus All-American, senior Will Sutton had a relatively quiet day against Sacramento State, playing over the ball more than expected in what looked to be part of Todd Graham’s renewed emphasis on run defense this season. Even so, Sutton had two tackles and half a tackle for loss in just over a half of play while also recovering a fumble. 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 11 tackles in the last two contests with 2.0 coming for loss and one sack in the process.
#DYNAMICDUODEUX Between Bradford and Sutton, the Sun Devils as 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, as did his 696 receiving yards on the year. 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 six catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns to date this season, averaging an incredible 21.0 yards per catch.
NOT IN IRABOR’S HOUSE Defensive back Osahon Irabor was a force last year with 14 passes defensed 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 17 tackles this season and is current sixth among conference defensive backs with 13 solo tackles. He already has 4.0 tackles for loss this season, an impressive statistic considering he had ZERO in the previous two seasons.
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.
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).