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TEMPE -- The Arizona State University football team will take on No. 20 Washington at home at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., on Saturday, Oct. 19 in what essentially marks the midway point of the season for the Sun Devils with a bye week to follow. The game is slated to kickoff at 3:07 p.m. PT and will be broadcast live on the Pac-12 Networks.
The Sun Devil football program is currently in its 101st season of competition in 2013. The Sun Devils are 573-364-24 (.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. Following a loss to Stanford, ASU dispatched of USC, 62-41, before wrapping up their non-conference slate for the season with a tough 37-34 loss to Notre Dame as part of the Shamrock Series, which took place in Arlington, Texas. ASU rebounded with a 54-13 dismantling of Colorado at home.
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. Jeff Munn (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 94 and XM Channel 196.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION Saturday’s contest will mark the third appearance and second consecutive week for ASU on the Pac-12 Networks this season. ASU is 2-0 this season when playing on the Pac-12 Networks following the victory over Colorado and, for what it’s worth, is 5-1 on the Network over the past two seasons. The Sun Devils will kick off at 3:07 p.m. Arizona time. Ted Robinson will be on the call for the broadcast with Glenn Parker alongside as analyst. Drea Avant will report from the sidelines.
ON THE HUSKIES The all-time series between ASU and UW is currently dead even at 15 wins each. However, ASU has been victors of the past seven contests against the Huskies. That marks a tie for the fourth-longest active winning streak among all Pac-12 opponents behind Oregon-UW (10), ASU-Utah (9) and Oregon-ASU (8). Washington comes in ranked 20th nationally in the AP Poll and 25th in the Coaches Poll after back-to-back tough losses to North Division frontrunners Stanford (31-28) and Oregon (45-24)
RECAP - ASU v. COLORADO Taylor Kelly accounted for three touchdowns and Marion Grice ran for two more in a dominating first half, leading Arizona State to a 54-13 rout over listless Colorado on Saturday night. Arizona State (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12) wanted to make a statement after a tough stretch in the schedule and did just that, overwhelming the Buffaloes with 25 points in the game’s first 11 minutes. Kelly threw for 233 yards and two touchdowns, ran for another score and Grice pushed his nation-leading touchdown total to 15 as the Sun Devils went up 47-6 at halftime. The Sun Devils raced past the Buffaloes from the start, scoring on a 69-yard pass from Kelly to Jaelen Strong in the first 90 seconds. Grice scored on an 8-yard run three minutes later, Zane Gonzalez kicked a 26-yard field goal and Grice scored again on a 1-yard run after a Colorado interception.
OTHER NOTES - COLORADO
-With the victory, ASU moves to 4-0 at home this year and 8-2 under Todd Graham with three home games remaining (Washington, Oregon State and Arizona). ASU has gone undefeated at home just once in the past 16 seasons (1997-2012), when it was 6-0 in 2004.
-With the 53-13 victory, Arizona State improves to 5-0 all-time against Colorado, with all contests being played this decade. The Sun Devils have outscored the Buffaloes 206-61 over those five games.
-With a comfortable lead coming out the first half, the Devils put in many second-string players and slowed things down—but, they didn’t stop scoring. In its first drive to start the second half, ASU put together a scoring drive that took 7:04 off the clock, the longest in terms of time taken off the clock under the Todd Graham era. It ended with a one-yard R.J. Robinson touchdown.
- The Sun Devils recorded a team safety in the second quarter after Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau was called for intentional grounding in the end zone to avoid a sack. The safety is the first for ASU since obtaining one against Oregon State on Nov. 3, 2012.
- Davon Coleman, a listed defensive end on the depth chart, came in on the goal line and caught a one-yard touchdown pass from Taylor Kelly, his first-career touchdown reception coming on his first-career reception. R.J. Robinson found the end zone on a one-yard rush in the third quarter, his first-career touchdown. Freshman Zane Gonzalez’s 41-yard field goal to put the Sun Devils up 37-6 in the second quarter was the longest of his career thus far.
-With 134 yards against the Buffaloes, Marion Grice has increased his streak to eight games with 100+ all-purpose yards, tied for third place in the nation with Kadeem Carey of Arizona.
IN THE RANKINGS Here’s a brief review of ASU team and individual national rankings through the first seven weeks of the season, noting all categories in which the Sun Devils are ranked in the top 20:
ASU is No. 7 nationally (and No. 1 in the Pac-12) in fewest penalties per game (3.50)
ASU is No. 13 nationally (and No. 1 in the Pac-12) in fewest penalty yards per game (34.17)
ASU is No. 17 nationally in first downs offense (155)
ASU is No. 10 nationally in fumbles lost (2)
ASU is No. 9 nationally in passes intercepted (6)
ASU is No. 9 nationally in passing offense (342.2)
ASU is No. 10 nationally in scoring offense (44.2)
ASU is No. 18 nationally in total offense (496.5)
ASU is No. 16 nationally in turnover margin (1.2)
ASU is No. 12 nationally in turnovers gained (15)
Marion Grice is No. 1 nationally in rushing TDs (10)
Marion Grice is No. 1 nationally in scoring (15.0)
Marion Grice is No. 14 nationally in all purpose yards (147.83)
Taylor Kelly is No. 10 nationally in completions per game (24.50)
Zane Gonzalez is No. 10 nationally in field goals per game (1.8)
Taylor Kelly is No. 8 nationally in passing TDs (16)
Taylor Kelly is No. 6 nationally in passing yards (1,965)
Taylor Kelly is No. 8 nationally in passing yards per game (327.5)
Taylor Kelly is No. 13 nationally in points responsible for (102)
Jaelen Strong is No. 8 nationally in receiving yards (678)
Jaelen Strong is No. 12 nationally in receiving yards per game (113.0)
Jaelen Strong is No. 17 nationally in receptions per game (7.0)
Zane Gonzalez is No. 7 nationally in scoring (10.5)
Taylor Kelly is No. 7 nationally in total offense (355.0)
--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 15 touchdowns through six games this season. In his last nine games dating back to last season, Grice has found the end zone 21 times (15 rushing, six receiving) - scoring at least one touchdown in each of those contests. In 2013, he is averaging a touchdown every 7.9 times he touches the ball (15 TDs on 119 touches/12.6 percent of touches).
--Jaelen Strong is off to one of the best starts for a receiver in school history, amassing 678 yards (113.0 ypg) on 42 receptions (7.0 rpg) in his first six games in a Sun Devil uniform. Of those 42 receptions this season, 28 have resulted in first downs. He has also drawn seven pass interference penalties against him this season, four of which have resulted in first downs, giving him a hand in 32 of ASU’s 155 first downs this season (20.6 percent)
--In his his last nine games dating back to 2012, Taylor Kelly has thrown for 24 touchdowns with six interceptions, completing 190-of-295 of his passes (.644) for 2,670 yards (296.7 ypg). He has amassed an impressive 163.2 quarterback rating during that span.
--ASU has significantly improved at scoring after creating turnovers. The Sun Devils have a turnover advantage of +7 on the season, and they have eight touchdowns off 15 opponent turnovers aided by two interceptions returned for touchdowns. ASU is outscoring opponents 68-28 on points off turnovers.
--Washington enters the weekend with the Pac-12’s top ranked secondary as far as passing defense, allowing just 182.2 yards per game against opponents this season. ASU comes in, however, with the nation’s ninth-ranked passing attack at 342.2 yards per game. ASU has been an average killer for opponent secondaries this season, throwing for an average of about 150 more passing yards than opponents’ passing defense average prior to playing the Sun Devils (a mark made more impressive after spending a half running off the clock against Colorado).
--ASU faces yet another stout rushing attack against Washington, paced by Bishop Sankey, as the Huskies rank 15th nationally at 248.0 yards per game while ASU has struggled in the category in giving up 168.9 rushing yards per game - good for just 76th nationally in rushing defense.
STRIKE FIRST With Jaelen Strong’s 69-yard touchdown reception on the first drive of the game against Colorado, Arizona State has now scored first in 16 of the 19 games with Todd Graham at the helm, and is 4-1 in such contests this season. The Sun Devils are now 11-5 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 83 of ASU’s 108 offensive scoring drives under Graham coming in three minutes or less (76.9 percent). ASU had seven of their nine scoring drives against Sacramento State come in three minutes or less. ASU has managed to perform better on longer drives this season with five scoring drives of four minutes or longer in six games, compared to having four such drives in the entirety of 2012. This feat was capped by a 14-play, 80-yard drive against Colorado that took 7:04 off the clock - the longest drive in terms of time under Todd Graham. That being said, ASU still has maintained a high number of quick scoring drives this season, scoring in three minutes or less on 33 of the team’s 42 scoring drives to date.
START STRONG...FINISH STRONG The Sun Devils have now outscored their opposition 194-89 in the first quarter under Todd Graham. Perhaps the more telling statistic, however, is the fact the Sun Devils are 10-0 under Graham when holding their opposition scoreless in the first and have done so in three of the team’s four wins this season. ASU does best when they get ahead early, improving to 11-0 when leading at halftime with Graham as coach following the Colorado contest. ASU also knows how to close out games, outscoring teams 203-108 in the fourth quarter of games under Graham.
WINNING BY WAY OF TKO (TAYLOR KELLY OFFENSE) The school record holder in completion percentage and efficiency after last season, Taylor Kelly has thrown for 19 touchdowns with six interceptions this season (one coming on a Hail Mary against Stanford). Through six games, Kelly already has 1,965 passing yards and is averaging 327.5 yards per game and is on pace to break the school records in both categories. Kelly started the season with five consecutive games of throwing for 300 or more passing yards and now has eight career games where he has accomplished the feat, moving him into sole possession for the third-most games with 300 or more passing yards behind only Andrew Walter (12) and Rudy Carpenter (11). After playing just a half against Colorado, Kelly remains one of just four quarterbacks in the nation who has thrown for over 300 yards in each game that they have played in over a half of action (OSU’s Sean Mannion, Ball State’s Keith Wenning and Baylor’s Bryce petty being the others). Statistically, the team relies heavily on Kelly’s ball protection, however, as ASU is 2-7 with Kelly as the starter when he throws an interception, compared to an unblemished 10-0 record when he doesn’t.
DUAL-THREAT QB Taylor Kelly’s ability to extend plays was exceptional last season, as demonstrated by his 516 net rushing yards on 134 attempts on the year - a mark skewed by the fact that sacks count against his rushing total. If you take out sacks, Kelly would have led the team in yardage and yards per carry with 690 net rushing yards last season on 103 carries (6.7 ypc). Sacks aside in 2013, Kelly has 237 net rushing yards on 32 attempts (7.4 ypc) and scored his second career touchdown against Colorado on a 17-yard scamper. Kelly is second on the team with 13 rushes for first down, trailing only Marion Grice (21) in the category.
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 now scored in nine consecutive games and is sneaking up on J.D. Hill, who owns the school record with 13 straight games with a TD back in 1969 and 1970. In 2013, he is averaging a touchdown every 7.9 times he touches the ball (15 TDs on 119 touches/12.6 percent of touches). He currently is second in the conference among players with at least 50 touches with a touchdown every 7.9 touches behind Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks (TD per 7.1 touches), It should be noted, however, that Grice has significantly more touches than any others in the top four, posting 119 touches to just 79 by Brandin Cooks and the 62 by B.J. Denker.
#LOOKGRICEBEFORECROSSING Marion Grice not only leads the nation in scoring this year at 15.0 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 five receiving TDs this year. Grice is on pace to upend all manners of scoring records for ASU. He now has 34 career touchdowns, ranking him sixth all-time in ASU history, despite playing in just 19 games. Grice is steadily closing in on the Pac-12 record for touchdowns in a season, 28, held by Stanford’s Toby Gerhert in 2009. 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 1.78 per game. Entering October, Grice became one of just four FBS players in the past decade to score 12 touchdowns before October. Michael Crabtree had 14 for Texas Tech in 2007 in five games while MSU’s Javon Ringer also had 12 in five games in 2008. Grice joined Tempe’s Bernard Pierce (2011) as the only two players to accomplish the feat in just four games.
#NATTYGRICE When it comes to having to convert in clutch opportunities, Marion Grice seems to has ice in his veins, answering the call time and time again. His exception touchdown numbers aside, Grice also leads the team in third down conversions this season with 12 on ASU’s 38 successful conversion attempts (31.6 percent). The number is worth mention as Grice led the team last season as well in the category, but did so with just 14 conversions on ASU’s 89 successful attempts. Grice leads the team this season with 32 first down conversions (21 rushing, 11 receiving). Grice also doesn’t put ASU in many loss-of-yardage positions, having posted more touchdowns this season (15) than negative-yardage plays in his career (14). Oh, and he doesn’t drop the ball. Grice has toted the ball 273 times in his career (193 rushes, 70 reception and 10 returns) and has not put the ball on the ground once in that time.
#DYNAMICDUO Marion Grice and D.J. Foster are two of just five FBS players that returned 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 158 of the team’s 427 total yards of offense against Notre Dame (37.0 percent) and thus far this season, the duo has combined for 1,094 yards of total offense and 16 touchdowns, representing 36.7 percent of ASU’s 2,979 yards for scrimmage this season and 51.6 percent of the team’s offensive touchdowns. The duo has been key in the clutch as well, accounting for 51 of the team’s 139 non-penalty induced first downs this season (36.7 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 returned numbers that came 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 nine such plays already this season, currently third on the team. Foster has made his mark in the receiving game this season with 31 grabs for 329 yards (10.6 ypc) through four games, 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 18 first downs on 46 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 39 grabs for 569 yards (7.8 rpg/113.8 ypg) and three touchdowns this season. In his first four games, Strong made his mark by posting the best four starts on any receiver in yards and receptions in school history. Prior to Strong, no Sun Devil wide receiver in history had posted more than one 100+ yard game in their first four starts. Strong accomplished the feat three times and now have five 100+ yard games in a row through his first six games at ASU. 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 28 of his receptions have gone for first downs while he has also drawn seven pass interference penalties against opposing defenses (four of which resulted in first downs, three were declined), thus playing a role in 32 of ASU’s 155 total first downs this season (20.6 percent). His seven receptions for a first down when the team is facing third or fourth down currently lead the team and two of his four touchdown grabs this season have come on fourth down. Additionally, Strong leads the team in explosive plays (rushes over 12 yards and receptions over 16 yards) with 20 this season. The leading receiver for the Sun Devils over the entire 13 games last season in the category had 18 explosive plays, a figure Strong took just six games to break. Averaging 7.0 receptions per game, Strong currently ranks 17th nationally in the nation in the category and is 12th nationally in receiving yards per game at 113.0 yards per game. His 678 total receiving yards this season are eighth nationally. 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, posting a school record 107.5 yards per game.
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 seven tackles for loss against Colorado and five stops at the line of scrimmage along with 12 incomplete passes (24 negative or zero-yardage plays out of 65 or 36.9 percent of plays from scrimmage). To date this season, the ASU defense has held offenses to 135 plays (out of 390 by the opposition) that have not earned positive yardage (includes incomplete passes) - a 34.6 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 13 least penalized games since 2006 have come under Todd Graham, including two of the three games played this season. Three of those games come this season following the three penalties for 25 yards against Colorado.
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 eighth nationally in penalties per game (3.6) and is 17th in penalty yards per game at (36.0), leading the Pac-12 in the former and second in the latter.
LIGHT ‘EM UP Putting points on the scoreboard won’t typically be a problem with Mike Norvell heading the offense, as ASU has eclipsed 50 points three times in six games this season. ASU is averaging 46.0 points per game over the last nine games dating back to last season. ASU’s 265 points at the midway point this season (six games) are the second-most in program history through the first six games of the season, trailing only the 278 posted by Frank Kush’s Fiesta Bowl winning team in 1972. 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). The Sun Devils currently rank 10th nationally at 44.2 points per game.
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 year, 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. In 2013, ASU is outscoring it’s opponents 68-28 on points off turnovers while posting a +7 takeaway number at the midway point. ASU has put points on the board following 80.0 percent of oppponent turnovers compared to just the 50 percent clip ASU opponents are scoring off of Sun Devil turnovers. ASU has eight touchdowns this season on 15 opponent turnovers, aided by two interception returns for touchdowns.
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, followed by Osahon Irabor’s against Notre Dame. Davon Coleman and Carl Bradford forced an intentional grounding in the end zone against Colorado for ASU’s first safety of the season, making the ASu directly responsible for 16 of ASU’s points 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). 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 similar start this year, having placed their stamp on 70 of ASU’s 265 points (26.4 percent) scored this year. The icing on the cake for this statistic game on a goaline touchdown pass to defensive tackle Davon Coleman against Colorado, technically increasing ASU’s defensive total to 77 points. ASU now has five interception returns for touchdowns under Graham, compared to posting just four total in the previous three seasons prior to 2012.
WINNING THE BATTLE FOR FIELD POSITION The Sun Devils were largely exceptional when it came to starting field position last season, and continue to resonate a point Todd Graham continually makes about being successful in the field position battle to win games. The Sun Devils started in Colorado territory four times against the Buffaloes while while no CU drive started beyond their own 35-yard line. The opposite was true against Notre Dame with ASU starting, on average, at its own 21-yard line compared to the Irish starting at their own 36-yard line on average. Under Todd Graham, ASU has had an average starting yard line of its own 37.9 in 12 victories compared to a starting yard line of the 23.5 for their opponents in such contests. Conversely, opponents have an average starting field position of their own 34.8 yard line compared to ASU starting at its own 28.7 in ASU losses. Some of this year’s credit goes to placekicker Alex Garoutte, who has 24 touchbacks on 48 kickoffs - a 50.0 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. But, even facing bad field position this season, the Sun Devils haven’t necessarily fared badly. ASU has six scoring drives of 80 yards or longer through six games this season (including three against Colorado), a notable feat as ASU had six such drives in the entirety of the 2013 season.
HALFTIME PEP TALKS The Sun Devils struggled the score 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 58-34 in the third this season, a +24 scoring margin six games into the season that seems to have bucked the trend of coming out slow in second halves. ASU is averaging 9.6 points per third quarter against FBS programs this season - a tally that ranks 17th nationally - compared to a 7.0 points per third quarter total against FBS opponents tally in 2012 that was 50th nationally. ASU is outscoring opponents 130-86 in the second half of games this season and has outscored opponents 72-52 in the fourth quarter of this year’s contests. ASU is fourth nationally in points per fourth quarter this season against FBS opposition (13.8) after finishing the 2012 season wtih 9.3 points per fourth the team tallied, good for eighth nationally. ASU was the leader in the category but an early blowout against Colorado skewed the trend as ASU spent the fourth quarter running the clock. ASU’s 23.4 second-half points per game against FBS squads is currently fourth 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 92.6 percent of the time - outside of a kneel to run out the clock inside the the five-yard line against Colorado a perfect 100 percent in the last three games - against FBS opponents, ranking 14th nationally in the category, as per TeamRankings.com. The Sun Devils were 7-for-7 prior to the game-ending kneels. 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 89.5 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. Robert Nelson’s leaping interception in the end zona against Colorado ended a streak of 13 consecutive opponent red zone drives that had resulted in points against the Sun Devils that dated back to the Stanford contest.
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 42.2 passing attempts per game - a figure that sits 10th in the country. The number is also notable as ASU is also averaging 25.4 completions per game this season against FBS opponents, and is 13th nationally in the statistic. While it’s possible to look at that as a bad statistic or a reflection of a weak running game, but ASU is still moving the ball admirably, averaging nearly 496.5 yards of total offense per game in six games this season - about 35 more yards than it averaged per game in 2012.
THE STREAK GROWS Seniors Evan Finkenberg and Osahon Irabor began 2013 as two of the most seasoned starters in the Pac-12. Only Oregon State’s Michael Philipp (41) has more starts than Finkenberg and Irabor, who each have 39. Irabor’s statistic is particularly notable as he has started all 39 of his games consecutively - a mark that paces the Pac-12 Conference ahead of Washington State’s John Fullington, who has 37.
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 stat-less opener, Bradford seems to be back in the thick of things, posting 24 tackles in the last five contests with 7.5 coming for loss and 3.5 sacks in the process, both numbers leading the team.
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 18.0 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 tapes 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).
#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 13 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns to date this season, averaging an solid 17.2 yards per catch. Coyle is seventh in the nation in yardage and receiving yards per game at tight end, averaging 54.8 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 currently is fourth on the team with 24 tackles this season. He already has 4.5 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 followed that up with his first career pick-six against Notre Dame - a 37-yard march to the house which was notable as it was Irabor’s fifth career interception but just the first to result in positive yardage after his return against USC was negated by a penalty. He is second on the team with four passes defensed this season.
INTERCEPTION DARBY Alden Darby has made a reputation as a ball-hawking safety during his four years 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, which is the fifth-most interception return yards all-time 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 and was also honored as the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week as well for the effort.
MOVING THE STICKS, AND VICE VERSA Against CU, the Sun Devils had just two three-and-outs on 12 drives, moving the season total to 16-of-86 drives going three-and-out. ASU is currently seventh in the nation with just 18.6 percent of their drives ending in a three-and-out, averaging just under three per game. On the flip side, Arizona State forced Colorado to six three-and-outs on 12 drives. On the season, the Sun Devils have forced opponents to 36 three-and-outs on 87 drives and entering this past weekend’s games, ASU ranked in the top-10 nationally in the category in forcing an average of 6.0 opponent three-and-outs per game.
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.
EXPLOSIVE You’d be hard-pressed to listen to a Todd Graham press conference that didn’t involve the word “explosive” at some point as the head coach makes no attempt to hide the fact that that’s what he wants his team to be. The Sun Devils have a classification of “explosive plays” that equal a run of 12 or more yards or a passing play of 16 or more yards. ASU has 72 such plays this season (51 passing, 21 rushing), showing a renewed emphasis on the skill of ASU’s passing attack after the Sun Devils had more balance with 90 passing explosive plays to 75 rushing explosions. Jaelen Strong already has 20 explosive plays as a wide receiver, notable for the fact that Rashad Ross and D.J. Foster each had 18 explosive receiving plays all season in 2012, the highest tally on the team.
USE THEM WISELY Todd Graham doesn’t hesitate to use his alotted three timeouts per half when his squad is on defense, a coaching technique that has plenty of detractors. A closer look at the result of the play following those timeouts might quiet some, however. ASU has used nine timeouts this season with its opponents facing first down. The Sun Devil defense has forced a fourth down on six of those occassions, doing so twice against Notre Dame.
PROTECT THIS HOUSEWith the victory against Colorado, ASU moves to 4-0 at home this year and 8-2 under Todd Graham with three home games remaining (Washington, Oregon State and Arizona). ASU has gone undefeated at home just once in the past 16 seasons (1997-2012), when it was 6-0 in 2004. After 10 games under Todd Graham, the Sun Devils have averaged 45.8 points per game at home, including a 63-point performance against NAU in 2012 and a 62-point performance this season against USC. The lowest score the Devils have recorded at home under Graham is 21 against Oregon last season and have scored 20 or more in 18 consecutive games while playing at home, dating back to 2010.
IN-ZANE IN THE MEMBRANE True freshman placekicker Zane Gonzalez is quietly putting up one of the more impressive true freshman kicking campaigns in recent memory. Gonzalez leads the Pac-12 Conference in PATs with 30 (he’s 30-for-30). He is tied for first in the conference in PAT percentage (100.0) and he is No. 6 in the league in field goal percentage, going 11-of-14 thus far (78.6). while his 11 field goals are tied for the second-most in the conference. He is tied for second in the conference with 1.83 field goals per game and ranks 10th nationally in the category while moving to No. 7 nationally in scoring at 10.5 points per game. He is the second among freshmen players in the FBS in the category behind only Florida State placekicker Robert Aguayo. He is on pace to break the total season points by a kicker at ASU, a record currently held by Thomas Weber and Mike Barth (118 points in 2007 and 2002, respectively). He also is already within six field goals of ASU’s top-10 list for most field goals in a 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).