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(Note: Complete game notes with accompanying charts and stats are found in the PDF link above)
TEMPE -- The Arizona State University Sun Devil football program is entering its 101st season of competition in 2013. The Sun Devils are 569-362-24 (.608) all-time and have appeared in 26 bowl games, compiling a 13-12-1 record in such contests. The Sun Devils are coming off an 8-5 season under now second-year head coach Todd Graham that saw the squad finish tied for second in the Pac-12 South Division and made an appearance in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against Navy in San Francisco - a 62-28 rout in favor of ASU.
SEASON OPENERS Arizona State is 71-27-2 (.717) all-time in season openers, including victories in the last 10 straight, all coming at home. ASU holds an all-time mark of 54-15-1 (.778) when opening the season at home and hasn’t lost a home opener since 1998 to Washington. Last year, the Devils beat NAU, 63-6, in Tempe to open the season, their 14th straight season opening victory at Sun Devil Stadium. Head Coach Todd Graham is 5-2 in season opening games in his seven years as a collegiate coach. The Sun Devils enter the week after a rare first-week bye and the Sept. 5 opener marks the latest ASU start date since the 2009 team also kicked off on Sept. 5.
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 and Sirius XM Channel 91.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION Thursday’s opener will also mark the first game for the Sun Devils this season that will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks, now in its second year of operation. Ted Robinson will be on the call alongisde Glenn Parker on color while Drea Avent will provide the sideline reports. The game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Arizona on Cox Communications channels 75/1075 HD. The Pac-12 has conveniently created a Channel Finder to allow you to search your local listing for the proper network. The link is here: http://pac-12.com/AboutPac-12Enterprises/ChannelFinder.aspx. The Pac-12 will again provide access to Armed Forces Network for carriage of Pac-12 football games in 2013 for the benefit of the men and women in the military.
ON THE HORNETS AND THE BIG SKY This will be the first-ever meeting between Arizona State and Sacramento State. The Hornets are currently a member of the Big Sky Conference and are an FCS football institution. Arizona State is 26-14-4 against members of the Big Sky, with the last victory coming over Northern Arizona last season. That loss record is skewed by the early years of ASU football as all 14 losses came against the Lumberjacks prior to 1939, making ASU winners of the last 19 competitions against Big Sky Opponents. Sacramento State is coming off a 24-0 loss to San Jose State during the opening weekend of football action this past week.
NOTABLE NUMBERS A couple notable numbers from the 2012 season to lead things off.
--At 8-5 last season, the Sun Devils posted their first winning season in the regular season since going 10-2 in 2007.
---ASU has the longest winning streak (3-0) to end the season in the Pac-12, second only to Stanford (8-0).
-ASU ended the season with three straight wins for the first time since 1978 and just the 14th time in school history (1957, ‘58, ‘59, ‘65, ‘66, ‘67, ‘68, ‘70, ‘71, ‘72, ‘73, ‘75, `78).
-ASU beat Arizona and won a bowl game for the first time since 2005 and just the eighth time in school history (1970, ‘71, ‘72, ‘73, ‘75, ‘78, ‘05, ‘12).
--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.
--ASU tight end Chris Coyle set the school record for single season tight end receptions with 57, one more than Zach Miller had in 2004. With five touchdown receptions, Coyle finished tied for third with four others in single season TD receptions for a tight end. Miller and Joe Petty hold the school record with six.
--ASU finished the year tied for 10th in fewest penalties per game at 4.23 and eighth in fewest penalty yards per game at 34.92. The Sun Devils finished dead last (120th) in the FBS in 2011.
--Quarterback Taylor Kelly’s 67.1 completion percentage last season (241-for-359) was a school record (300+ passes). He passed Brock Osweiler, who set the record last season at 61.8. Kelly finished tied for second with 29 single season touchdown passes with Mike Pagel (1981). He finished one behind Andrew Walter, who holds the record with 30 (2004).
--Defensive lineman Will Sutton became ASU’s sixth winner of the Morris Trophy and the 18th consensus All-American and first since 2007. Sutton also became the fifth player to win the Pac-10/12 conference Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year award.
#SunDevilsIn140 (Twitter-Friendly Game Notes)
* Will Sutton’s (@SweetTeaWillie) six preseason award list nods are the second most in the @Pac12 among individual players
*@SweetTeaWillie became ASU’s 18th Consensus All-American in 2012 after he posted 63 tackles, including 23.5 for loss and 13 sacks
*Carl Bradford (@CarlBradford52) is one of just two returning #FBS players with 80+ tackles, 20+ TFL and 10+ sacks in 2012
*@CarlBradford52 and @SweetTeaWillie are two of just 10 #FBS players who return this season with over 10 sacks each in 2012
*Todd Graham (@CoachGrahamASU) was 1 of 11 (of 28) coaches to win 8+ in debut season with a new team in 2012. One of just five to win bowl
*@FootballASU had student-athletes on 15 award lists, 2nd most in the @Pac12
*Marion Grice and D.J. Foster return over 2,000 yards of total offense this season, making them the most #DynamicDuo among RBs in the @Pac12
*Marion Grice and D.J. Foster (@AState_8) are two of just five #FBS players to have 400+ yards rushing AND receiving in 2012
*Taylor Kelly (@Taylor_Kelly10) set school records in both completion percentage (67.1 percent) and passing efficiency (159.9) in 2012
*@Taylor_Kelly10 had three of @FootballASU’s top-11 most accurate single games ever in 2012, including record-setting 17-19 against #Navy
*Marion Grice’s touchdown per 7.5 touches last season were tops in the @Pac12. #13PercentOfTheTimeHeScoresEveryTime
*Chris Coyle (@BigCSunDevil87) on Mackey Watch List after passing Zach Miller’s (@ZachMiller86) single-season TE catches mark with 57 in ‘12
*Osahon Irabor’s (@ASUIrabor24) 14 passes defensed in 2012 were T-5th in the @Pac12 w/ ZERO pass interference calls after having 7 in 2011
*Chris Young (@NWProdigy253) posted third-most tackles by JC transfer in first year in last decade with 82 last season
*FootballASU’s defense forced 341 plays that did not result in positive yardage (35.8 percent of opponent’s plays from scrimmage) in 2012
*@FootballASU led the Pac-12 and was eighth in the nation with just 34.92 penalty YPG in 2012, one year removed from finishing 120th in #FBS
*@FootballASU finished the 2012 season averaging 205.5 yards per game on the ground, which was the second-best mark in the past 25 seasons
GOLD RUSH ASU finished the 2012 season averaging 205.5 yards per game on the ground, which was the second-best mark in the past 25 seasons (since 1988). Only the 234.1 yards per game put up by the 1996 Sun Devils were better. ASU moved ahead of the 200.0 yards per game in 1997 following a dominating effort at the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. ASU’s 380 rushing yards against Navy were the most since posting 405 against Oregon in 1997. Also, the 76.3 yards-per-game increase from 2011 to 2012 as far as rushing yards go is the greatest increase from one year to the next at ASU since 1980 to ’81 (186.0 ypg to 266.6; 86.0 yard difference) and ranks as the sixth-largest single-season turnaround in ASU history.
STRIKE FIRST...STRIKE FAST ASU made a habit of scoring first last season, doing so 11 times in 13 games. ASU finished 7-4 in such contests following the win against Navy. The Sun Devils scored on five consecutive possessions against Utah, on six of its first seven possessions against NAU, four of its first five against Illinois, three of its first four against WSU and on their first nine possessions in the rout against Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. ASU did itself favors early in games last year, outscoring opponents 145-69 in the first frame and was 7-0 when shutting out the opposition in the first, doing so against NAU, Illinois, Utah, Cal, Colorado, WSU and Navy. In addition, ASU made a habit of taking little time to score on the year. The Sun Devils didn’t have a scoring drive longer than three minutes in routs over the Fighting Illini, Cougars and Midshipmen (23 total drives), their longest lasting 2:59. The quick-hitting offense was a staple of the team, with 58 of ASU’s 75 offensive scoring drives last season coming in three minutes or less.
PUSH ‘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. To put that in perspective, the entire ASU team only had 76 total tackles for loss during the 2011 season and no student-athlete logged double digits in the category where last year’s team had five that accomplished the feat (Will Sutton, Carl Bradford, Davon Coleman, Brandon Magee and Chris Young). Twenty different players logged a TFL through the year. 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. That equated to an impressive 16.3 percent of the plays run by opponents last year not advancing beyond the line of scrimmage. 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).
AN IMPRESSIVE YEAR The 2012 team’s 117 tackles for loss were right in the mix of some of the great ASU defenses of the last 15 years. In that span, Terrell Suggs and Co. had 123 in 2002 and last year’s Sun Devil team came just shy of that school record. The team did finish in a tie with Adam Archuleta, Pat Tillman, Jeremy Staat and friends, who posted 117 tackles for loss in 1998 while also adding 111 in 1996 and 1997 and 102 in 1999. Those marks rank as the highest in school history. Five players on last year’s team posted double-digit TFL numbers. Only the 2000 squad (97 total TFL) had five players in double digits in school history. To put that number in perspective, no player on the 2011 Sun Devil roster tallied more than eight tackles for loss on the season.
SACK LUNCH: While those years of Archuleta and Friends had some impressive TFL numbers, they pale in comparison to the sack count ASU put up this season. The Sun Devils had 52 sacks in 2012, a mark that trailed only the 1978 Sun Devils (64) and tied with the 2002 ASU team that also had 52. At 4.00 sacks per game, the Sun Devils finished just behind Stanford (4.07) for second in the nation in the category last year. ASU had two Sun Devils with over 10 sacks last year (Carl Bradford and Will Sutton) - a feat that had not been achieved since the 1994 season.
A SUTTON IMPACT Perhaps no player on ASU’s roster has earned as much praise from Todd Graham as defensive tackle WIll Sutton. The Bednarik Award Semifinalist became ASU’s 18th Consensus All-American in 2012 and first since Thomas Weber in 2007 and the first defensive player since Terrell Suggs in 2002. Sutton had at least one tackle for loss in every game he played last season. Sutton posted 23.5 tackles for loss on the season (led team and fourth-most in ASU history), 13.0 sacks (led team and fourth in ASU history) and 63 total tackles (seventh on team). Sutton finished the season ranked second in the nation at 1.92 TFL per game and third in the nation with 1.08 sacks per game and also led the Pac-12 in both. His 102 yards lost on sacks this year (including 23 in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, where he was named the Defensive MVP after posting 3.5 TFL and 2.5 sacks) placed him fourth on the school’s single season yards on sacks list.
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 Carol 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. He and Sutton became just the first duo to post double digits in sacks in the same season since 1994 and the two - alongside Brandon Magee, Davon Coleman and Chris Young - helped the defense post five athletes with double-digit tackle for loss in the same season for just the second time in school history. His 1.58 tackles for loss per game was good for 11th in the nation this season and second in the Pac-12 behind Sutton. 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. Three of those players graduated and only UCLA’s Anthony Barr will return with such numbers alongside Bradford this season.
A #DYNAMICDUO 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).
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. The mark matched the third-highest single season total in school history alongside Cameron Marshall’s 2011 performance and fell 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. With 159 yards on 14 rushes and two touchdowns, Grice was named the 2012 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Offensive MVP. Grice had his fourth three-touchdown game in an MVP performance to lead the Sun Devils on a fourth-quarter comeback against Arizona in the Territorial Cup. 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 finished third in the conference at 8.77 PPG. 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. He became the all-time leader in running back touchdown receptions in the Pac-10/12 era for ASU. His four 100+ yard games last season led the team and his 6.6 yards per rush on the year also paced the squad. Grice led the team in all-purpose yardage on the season with 1,104 yards.
TWO IS BETTER THAN ONE Last season, ASU’s running back-by-committee approach proved to be a wise decision as the trio of Marion Grice Cameron Marshall and D.J. Foster put up stats week in and week out for the Sun Devils. ASU running backs accounted for 31.4 percent of all the team’s receiving yards this season. Of the 3,369 total receiving yards, running backs collected 1,057. Grice, Marshall and Foster also accounted for 35 of the team’s 60 total offensive touchdowns. Grice had 19 (11 rushing, eight receiving), Marshall with 10 (nine rushing, one receiving) and Foster posted six (two rushing, four receiving). The trio averaged 5.3 yards per carry on the season (1,805 yards, 340 attempts). Grice, Marshall and Foster finished the season averaging 216.3 yards of total offense per game as a unit of the team’s total average of 464.5 total yards per game. Marshall is gone from that group, but ASU still returns Grice and Foster, individuals that return as two of just five FBS players that return this season that had both 400 yards on the ground AND through the air last year.
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 this year (493 on the ground and 533 by air). Foster was also second on the team in yards per carry (4.8) for those with over 30 carries and was third in yards per catch (14.0). 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’s 38 receptions were the second-most receptions by a freshman in a season in school history (Zach Miller holds the record with 56 in 2004). His 533 receiving yards were the second most by a freshman in school history as well behind Miller, who had 552 in 2004).
#DYNAMICDUODEUX 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.
WINNING BY WAY OF TKO (TAYLOR KELLY OFFENSE) While the running backs were explosive for ASU this season, quarterback Taylor Kelly was one of the many bright spots for the ASU offense. The sophomore finished second in the Pac-12 in passing efficiency at 159.88 and was ninth in the nation in that category. He shattered the previous school record for QBs with over 300 passes in the category, which was previously 145.09 by Rudy Carpenter in 2007. Kelly also set the school record for completion percentage (67.1 percent, 241-359). The previous record was 61.8 percent set the previous season by Brock Osweiler (minimum 300 pass attempts). With 29 touchdown passes in 2012, Kelly ranked second in ASU single-season history, just one shy of the school record set by Andrew Walter in 2004. Additionally, Kelly threw just nine interceptions and the .0251 interception percentage ranks second in school history among QBs throwing over 300 passes, behind only the .0238 percentage set by Andrew Walter in 2003 (10 of 421). Heading into the season, Kelly held the nation’s sixth-longest completion streak at 71 passes without an interception. With the first week completed for most schools, that streak now ranks fourth nationally behind CFU’s Blake Bortles (174), Kentucky’s Jalen Whitlow (143) and North Carolina’s Bryn Renner (117)
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). Over the course of the season, Kelly had eight carries of 20 or more yards, easily tops of the team ahead of Grice and Foster (3). Kelly accounted for 37 first downs on the ground on the year, a mark that also led the team.
SECONDARY A PRIMARY ASU’s secondary was among its driving forces last season. The unit 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. Not bad for a group that finished 11th and ninth, respectively, in those categories in the conference last season. In addition, the squad’s 21 interceptions last year (giving some love to the linebackers, who had six of those and returned two for touchdowns) were tied for fourth in the nation. ASU had 11 different players record interceptions last season - a mark that ranked tied for second in the nation with USC behind SMU (12). Keelan Johnson led the way for ASU with five last year, including two against Washington State and he ranked tied for 17 in the country with .38 interceptions per game.
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, as did his 696 receiving yards on the year. He took over the single-season tight end school record receptions at the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, bringing down four catches in the contest (Zach Miller previously held the record with 56). Coyle finished with five touchdown catches on the year, one shy of the single-season tight end record set by Miller and Joe Petty.
BETTER SUITED FOR HANDKERCHIEFS The Sun Devils didn’t give the referees much reason to reach for their pockets last season. ASU was penalized just once for five yards against Illinois (on what appeared to be a purposeful delay of game to create some space for a punt). That marked the lowest single-game total since 2006, when ASU was penalized once for five yards against Washington State. Todd Graham took a team that finished dead last in the FBS in penalties per game and penalty yards per game in 2011 and created a team that had seven of the 10 least penalized games since 2006 season for the Sun Devils. On the year, ASU had just 55 penalties for 454 yards. ASU led the Pac-12 and finished eighth in the nation with just 34.92 penalty yards per game. Here’s a look at ASU’s lowest single game penalties since 2006, seven of which having come in 2012:
HOLDING DOWN THE FORT The ASU defense 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. Conversely, the ASU 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 the season, despite posting just a middling +6 number in the takeway category.
LIGHT ‘EM UP With 108 points in its first two games, Arizona State set its highest tally through the first two games of the season in ASU history last year. The prior record was 94 points, under Dirk Koetter in 2005 as his team put up 63 points in a season opening victory against Temple before adding 31 in a tough loss against LSU. ASU finished the year 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. The 1972 squad holds the record at 46.8 ppg.
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.
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 ranked as some 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 penality yards per game (34.9).
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, having directly scored on four turnovers last season. 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 ASU offense scored last season, the ASU defense had a hand in 165 of the 499 points (33.1 percent) scored for ASU last season.
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 also posted his first interception of the season against Arizona.
WINNING THE BATTLE FOR FIELD POSITION The Sun Devils were largely exceptional when it came to starting field position last season, posting an average starting spot of their own 33-yard line that ranked 10 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. Both numbers will be interesting to keep an eye on this season with a new punter in the mix.
SLICK RICK One player that figures to favor heavily into ASU’s offensive game plan this season will be sophomore Rick Smith. While his numbers as a true freshman last season weren’t necessarily eye-popping, they are impressive when you consider some other true freshman wide receivers in the past decade - some of whom have gone on to professional careers. With 14 receptions for 141 yards and two touchdowns, Smith had the second-most true freshman receiver catches behind Derek Hagan (2) and more touchdowns than any true freshman wide receiver since 2003.
ROAD WARRIORS Todd Graham has had a lot of success on the road during his head coaching days, and his first season with the Sun Devils was no different. ASU compiled a 3-2 road record in Pac-12 Conference games with victories against Colorado, Cal and Arizona - one of just four Pac-12 teams to do so behind Oregon, Stanford and UCLA. It was just the fifth time since joining the Pac-12 (1978) that the Sun Devils had won three conference games on the road.
FOREVER YOUNG One of the driving forces behind ASU’s tackle for loss numbers last year was been SPUR linebacker Chris Young, who had 14.0 tackles for loss on the season. With 82 total tackles, Young finished third on the team on the season in the category. In addition, of 10 junior college transfers since 1998 that have seen significant time in their first season, Young posted the third-highest amount of tackles among those with only Zach Catanese’s 107 in 2005 and Dale Robinson’s 93 in 2004 ranking ahead of him.
A STRONG START Sun Devil head coach Todd Graham was one of only 11 coaches out of the 28 coaching changes prior to the 2012 season to win eight or more games in 2012. Of those, only five first-year coaches led their teams to bowl victories (Graham, Rodriguez, Malzahn, Freeze, Sumlin).
MANY STRONG STARTS In a different category of starts, seniors Evan Finkenberg and Osahon Irabor will begin 2013 as two of the most seasons starters in the Pac-12. Only Utah’s Brian Blechen & Oregon State’s Michael Philipp have more starts (35) than Finkenberg (34) and Irabor (33) coming into the season. Finkenberg’s 34 starts are tied for 28th among all returning FBS players 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).