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Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
ASU Football Looks to Upend Utes in Utah
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Release: 11/04/2013
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TV:    Pac-12 Networks Radio:    620 AM/Sirius 136/XM 194

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The No. 23 Arizona State University football team will head back on the road this weekend to square off with Pac-12 South foe Utah in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. MT on the Pac-12 Networks

The Sun Devil football program is currently in its 101st season of competition in 2013.  The Sun Devils are 574-364-24 (.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 with a tough 37-34 loss to Notre Dame in Arlington, Texas. ASU rebounded with a 54-13 dismantling of Colorado at home before picking up its second win over a top-25 ranked program against No. 20 Washington on Homecoming, blitzing the Huskies in a 53-24 victory. ASU then posted 50+ over its fourth straight Pac-12 opponent, knocking of Washington State, 55-21, in Pullman. 

#10THINGS (Twitter-Friendly Notes)

1. With the #Halloween victory, ASU became bowl eligible before November for just the fourth time since 1996. 

2. @Taylor_Kelly10 has five rushing touchdowns while rushing for 209 yards (sacks excluded) in last 3 games. #HesGotLegsAndHeKnowsHowToUseThem

3. @FootballASU’s defense has forced 55 #ThreeAndOut’s this season, a figure that leads the nation.  #NoFirstDownForYou

4. Louisville, Wisconsin, FSU, Ohio State, Baylor & #ASU are the 6 teams ranked in the top 20 nationally in total offense AND total defense. 

5. Second in nation in scoring, @Pac12 leader in FG & XP made, & now @LouGrozaAward semifinalist. Congrats, @Zane95.

6. #SunDevils still boast the top two scorers in the nation with #Grice at 13.5 and #FGonzalez at 11.6. #RackEmUp

7. @Taylor_Kelly10 has accounted for 66 points in last 2 games. Already accounted for 168 pts this season, 12 shy of his 2012 total of 180.

8. ASU averaging 31:17 min. of TOP per game this season. Third in @Pac12, 38th in FBS. ASU is 9-2 under @CoachGrahamASU when leading in TOP.

9. Even with a scoreless game against #WSU, Marion Grice has more touchdowns this season (18) than 11 TEAMS in the country have all season. 

10. #SunDevilDiscipline ASU is No. 4 nationally in fewest penalties per game (3.63) & No. 8 nationally in fewest penalty yards per game (31.88).

 

ON THE AIR The MidFirst Bank Sun Devil-IMG Sports Network will carry all 12 of ASU’s football games live on its 10-station radio network, including flagship station Sports 620 KTAR AM. Tim Healey (play-by-play) and former Sun Devil quarterback Jeff Van Raaphorst (color analyst) will call the action with Doug Franz reporting from the sidelines. This week’s game will be broadcast on 620 KTAR AM.  Weekly radio coverage begins two hours prior to kickoff with the “Talking Stick Resort Sun Devil Tailgate Show,” hosted by Doug Franz. The game will also be broadcast on Sirius Channel 136 and XM Channel 194 but both broadcasts will feature the Utah radio feed. 

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION Saturday’s contest will mark the fourth appearance for ASU on the Pac-12 Networks this season. ASU is 3-0 this season when playing on the Pac-12 Networks following the victory over Washington and - for what it’s worth - is 6-1 on the Network over the past two seasons. The Sun Devils will kick off at approximately 2 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 UTES ASU leads the all-time series against Utah, 18-6, with a 14-3 advantage at home. The series has been a bit more evenly matched in Salt Lake City, where ASU owns just a 4-3 advantage.  ASU is winners of nine straight against the Utes, though those games are spread across a span of 36 seasons. Even so, it is the second-longest active winning streak by one current Pac-12 program over another in the conference and an ASU victory would tie Oregon’s streak over Washington (10) for the longest active streak in the conference. 

RECAP - ASU v. WASHINGTON Taylor Kelly tossed five touchdown passes and ran for two more scores in a 55-21 victory against Washington State. The redshirt junior threw for 275 yards and rushed for 66 to help ASU (6-2, 4-1) win its first road game of the season after two losses. The Sun Devils jumped out to a 42-14 lead in the first half and never let the Cougars back in the game. Arizona State produced 557 yards of total offense and extended its lead in the Pac-12 South to 1½ games. Connor Halliday had 300 yards passing for Washington State (4-5, 2-4), which has lost four of five. Halliday, who set an FBS record in his previous game with 89 pass attempts in a loss to No. 2 Oregon, was 29 of 54 with two touchdowns. ASU scored at least 50 points for the fifth time this season. Kelly completed 22 of 31 passes and was intercepted once.

OTHER NOTES - WASHINGTON STATE

-ASU is now 10-2 when playing on Thursdays and 18-5 when not playing on Saturday in past 15 seasons.

-ASU has held its last three opponents to under 100 yards rushing (Colorado, Washington and Washington State) after holding WSU to just two total yards.  The last time ASU accomplished that in three straight games was in 2009. ASU is now 10-1 under coach Graham when rushing for more yards than the opponent

-·ASU has now scored 50+ points five times this season, including four in Pac-12 Conference play. The 52 points against WSU was the most in a Pac-12 road game since the Sun Devils scored 56 against Arizona in 1996. It was the third highest total in a Pac-12 road game in school history.

-With three catches, tight end Chris Coyle moved into sole possession of fourth place on the school’s list for career receptions by a tight end with 84. He trails Ken Dyer for third all-time by five catches.

-Kelly threw five touchdown passes for the second time this season and the third time in his career. Andrew Walter holds the record for five or more touchdown passes in a career with four.

-Kelly was responsible for 42 points against the Cougars (five passing touchdowns, two rushing.  Entering the game he was 14th nationally in points responsible for (116). He now has accounted for 66 points in the last two games.  

-ASU’s 557 yards marked the third-best offensive output of the season and the fifth time this season ASU has recorded more than 500 yards of total offense – including the third straight game 

-Zane Gonzalez has now connected on 13 consecutive field goals following his 2-for-2 effort against Wazzu. He entered the game second in the season in scoring, averaging 11.4 points per game. He had 13 points in the Halloween contest and now has 17 field goals this season, good for a tie for 10th all-time in a single season at ASU.

-ASU moved to 25-13-2 all-time against the Cougars and has won 9 of its past 10, including four of last five in Pullman. The 55 points were the most ever scored by the Sun Devils against WSU.

IN THE RANKINGS Arizona State remained in the AP Poll this week, moving up to No. 25. The team also moved back into the USA Today Coaches Poll, coming in at No. 24 this week.  More important, the team entered the Top-25 in this week’s BCS rankings, posting the No. 22 spot over.  Below are the individual and team categories that ASU ranks in the top-20 in nationally. 

Marion Grice is No. 1 nationally in scoring (13.5)

Marion Grice is No. 11 nationally in all purpose yards (162.25)

Marion Grice is No. 4 nationally in rushing TDs (12)

Zane Gonzalez is No. 2 nationally in scoring (11.6)

Zane Gonzalez is No. 2 nationally in field goals per game (2.1)

Taylor Kelly is No. 5 nationally in passing TDs (23)

Taylor Kelly is No. 6 nationally in points responsible for (168)

Taylor Kelly is No. 7 nationally in total offense (353.3)

Taylor Kelly is No. 8 nationally in completions per game (24.38)

Taylor Kelly is No. 12 nationally in passing yards per game (313.9)

Taylor Kelly is No. 13 nationally in passing yards (2,511)

Carl Bradford is No. 12 nationally in forced fumbles (0.38)

ASU is No. 4 nationally in fewest penalties per game (3.63)

ASU is No. 8 nationally in fewest penalty yards per game (31.88)

ASU is No. 7 nationally in first downs defense (128)

ASU is No. 16 nationally in first downs offense (219)

ASU is No. 17 nationally in passing offense (324.9)

ASU is No. 13 nationally in red zone offense (0.920)

ASU is No. 17 nationally in total defense (343.4)

ASU is No. 10 nationally in total offense (515.1)

 

NOTABLE NUMBERS

--A year removed from scoring the third-most touchdowns in a single season (19) in ASU history, Marion Grice is well on pace to demolish the single-season scoring record (22, Wilford White/1950) in 2013 as he already has 18 touchdowns through eight games this season. In his last 11 games dating back to last season, Grice has found the end zone 24 times (17 rushing, seven receiving) - scoring at least one touchdown in each of those contests. In 2013, he is averaging a touchdown roughly every nine times he touches the ball (18 TDs on 164 touches/11.0 percent of touches).

--Additionally Grice has posted over 100 all-purpose yards in 10 straight games, good for the fourth-longest active winning streak in the FBS

--ASU posted its fourth consecutive game scoring over 50 points against a Pac-12 opponent with 55 against Washington State and the fifth game this season accomplishing the task. ASU’s four straight 50+ games against Pac-12 opponents are notable because prior to this season, the Sun Devils had only ever scored 40+ against Pac-10/12 foes once before in 1996 when the squad put up 45, 48, 42, 48 and 41 against UW, UO, UCLA, USC and Stanford, respectively, in 1996.  The team only has managed to score 30+ in four straight games in three seasons during the Pac-10/12 era: 1993, 1996 and this season.

--In holding Colorado (99), Washington (-5) and Washington State (2) under 100 yards rushing in back-to-back-to-back games, it marked the first time ASU had accomplished the feat against three FBS opponents since doing so in 2009.  Those were the third and fourth games of a four-game streak in which ASU held its opponents under 100 rushing yards, also including Oregon and Georgia.

--With ASU’s Halloween victory, the team became bowl eligible before November for just the fourth time since 1996. 

--The Sun Devils have forced an opponent turnover in 22 consecutive games, the third-longest active streak among all FBS institutions. 

STRIKE FIRST  With Taylor Kelly’s seven-yard rush on ASU’s first possession against Wazzu, Arizona State has scored first in 17 of the 21 games with Todd Graham at the helm, and is 5-1 in such contests this season. The Sun Devils are now 12-5 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 92 of ASU’s 127 offensive scoring drives under Graham coming in three minutes or less (72.4 percent). That being said, ASU also has 10 scoring drives of four minutes or longer in eight games, compared to having three 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 42 of the team’s 61 scoring drives to date. There has been a direct correlation between the time of ASU’s scoring drives this season and the points per scoring drive as well. When ASU scores in three minutes or less, it averages 6.2 points per drive.  When the drive lasts longer than three minutes, ASU’s average drops to 5.2 points per drive.  In ASU’s 10 drives this season lasting longer than four minutes, the team is averaging just 4.1 points per score. 

START STRONG...FINISH STRONG The Sun Devils have now outscored their opposition 218-96 in the first quarter under Todd Graham. Perhaps the more telling statistic, however, is the fact the Sun Devils are 11-0 under Graham when holding their opposition scoreless in the first and have done so in four of the team’s six wins this season. ASU improved to 13-0 when leading at halftime with Graham as coach following the Washington State contest. ASU also knows how to close out games, outscoring teams 2224-115 in the fourth quarter of games under Graham. ASU has outscored its opponent in six of eight games in the fourth quarter this season, with the only two exceptions coming in games that were well in hand against USC and Colorado. 

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 23 touchdowns with eight interceptions this season (one coming on a Hail Mary against Stanford). Through eight games, Kelly already has 2,511 passing yards and is averaging 313.9 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). Statistically, the team relies heavily on Kelly’s ball protection, as ASU is 4-7 with Kelly as the starter when he throws an interception, compared to an unblemished 10-0 record when he doesn’t. That being said, all four of those victories have come this season, showing ASU’s improved ability to overcome adversity at the hands of turnovers. Kelly has been on a bit of a hot streak of late as he currently ranks sixth nationally in points responsible for with 168, with 66 of those coming in the last two games - 42 of which against Washington State (5 TD passes, 2 rush TD). Against the Washington schools, Kelly combined for seven passing touchdowns and four rushing touchdowns.

HE’S GOT LEGS, AND HE KNOWS HOW TO USE THEM 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 408 rushing yards on 53 attempts (7.7 ypc) and has been on fire in the last three games with five rushing touchdowns while rushing for 209 yards (sack excluded) on 25 carries (8.4 yards per rush). Kelly is second on the team with 23 rushes for first down, trailing only Marion Grice (30) in the category. He is also second on the team in “explosive plays” on the ground (rushes of 12 or more yards) with 11 this season, trailing only Grice’s 13. Additionally, Kelly has now punted 12 times in his career, with 10 of those being downed inside of the 20-yard line. Kelly had a season-long 40-yarder against Washington State.

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 posted a touchdown in 10 of the last 11 games he has played, with his streak of 10 straight coming to a close against Washington State. In 2013, he is averaging a touchdown every 9.1 times he touches the ball (18 TDs on 164 touches/11.0 percent of touches).  He currently is second in the conference among players with at least 90 touches with a touchdown every 9.1 touches behind Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks (TD per 7.1 touches), 

 

#LOOKGRICEBEFORECROSSING Marion Grice not only leads the nation in scoring this year at 13.4 points per game (despite not scoring against Washington State), 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 six receiving TDs this year.  Grice is on pace to upend all manners of scoring records for ASU. He now has 37 career touchdowns, ranking him tied for fourth all-time in ASU history, despite playing in just 21 games. It is highly unlikely Grice will track down the ASU career touchdown record of 48 (held by Woody Green and Wilford White) but at Grice’s current rate, Leon Burton’s third-place hold with 42 touchdowns is just within sight. White holds the record for points per game in a season, scoring 13.6 per game back in 1950. White’s touchdowns per game for a career record of 1.33 might also be in jeopardy with Grice currently averaging 1.76 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 exceptional touchdown numbers aside, Grice also leads the team in third down conversions this season with 14 of ASU’s 52 successful conversion attempts (26.9 percent). The number is worth mentioning 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 44 first down conversions (30 rushing, 14 receiving) on 198 non-penalty induced first downs (22.2 percent). Grice also doesn’t put ASU in many loss-of-yardage positions, having posted more touchdowns this season (18) than negative-yardage plays in his career (16). Oh, and he doesn’t drop the ball.  Grice has toted the ball 322 times in his career (232 rushes, 76 receptions and 14 returns) and has not lost a single fumble in that time.  

#THEPRICEISGRICE With two more touchdowns, Grice will become just the just the 15th conference player in the Pac-10/12 era to notch 20 touchdowns in the past 36 seasons. It has happened 15 times, with LaMichael James of Oregon doing it twice. Grice is steadily closing in on the Pac-12 record for touchdowns in a season, 28, held by Stanford’s Toby Gerhert in 2009. Grice also has eclipsed 100 all-purpose yards in his last 10 games dating back to the season, marking the fourth-longest active streak in the FBS. Only Western Kentucky’s Antonio Andrews (22), Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey (11) and Tulsa’s Trey Watts (11) have longer streaks. 

#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 are back at it again this season. The pair combined for 276 of the team’s 585 total yards of offense against Notre Dame (47.2 percent) and thus far this season, the duo has combined for 1,602 yards of total offense and 21 touchdowns, representing 38.9 percent of ASU’s 4,121 yards for scrimmage this season and 50.0 percent of the team’s offensive touchdowns. The duo has been instrumental in moving the chains as well, accounting for 74 of the team’s 198 non-penalty induced first downs this season (37.4 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 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 14 such plays already this season (nine receiving, five rushing), currently third on the team. Foster has made his mark in the receiving game this season with 43 grabs for 467 yards (10.9 ypc) through eight games, ranking second on the team in both categories. He posted his first career multi-touchdown game against Washington State, logging two receiving touchdowns in the contest. He also has a knack for getting to the first down marker as he is currently tied for second on the team with 30 first downs on 77 touches this season (39.0 percent).

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 49 grabs for 720 yards (6.2 rpg/90.0 ypg) and five touchdowns this season. In his first four games, Strong made his mark by posting the best four starts on any receiver in term of 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 has five 100+ yard games through his first seven games at ASU.  

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 30 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 34 of ASU’s 219 total first downs this season (17.2 percent). His eight 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. His 105 receiving yards, four receptions and two touchdowns on fourth down this season all lead the nation. Additionally, Strong is second on 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 receiving plays, a figure Strong took just six games to break. It is worth noting Strong missed much of the Washington game due to a minor injury, thus affecting his normal productivity, and was still limited against WSU - despite grabbing a TD.

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 a quick-pass WSU squad and two stops at the line of scrimmage along with 25 incomplete passes (32 negative or zero-yardage plays out of 65 or 49.2 percent of plays from scrimmage).  To date this season, the ASU defense has held offenses to 206 plays (out of 520 by the opposition) that have not earned positive yardage (includes incomplete passes) - a 39.6 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. 11 of ASU’s 14 least penalized games since 2006 have come under Todd Graham, including four of the seven games played this season.  Five of those games have come this season following the four penalties for 20 yards against Washington State.

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 fourth nationally in penalties per game (3.6) and is eighth in penalty yards per game at (31.9), leading the Pac-12 in both categories. 

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 40.6 passing attempts per game - a figure that sits 14th in the country. The number is also notable as ASU is also averaging 25.0 completions per game this season against FBS opponents, and is 13th nationally in the statistic. While some might look at that as a bad statistic or a reflection of a weak running game, but ASU is still moving the ball admirably, averaging 515.1 yards of total offense per game in eight games this season - over 50 more yards than it averaged per game in 2012.

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 five times in games this season, matching the school record set by the 1973 team. ASU’s 265 points at the midway point this season (six games) were 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, which holds the school record for points per game (46.8) and total points (562). 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 three times (63 NAU, 62 Navy, 62 USC). The Sun Devils currently rank sixth nationally at 46.6 points per game.  

DROPPIN’ A 50 SPOT  ASU posted its fourth consecutive game scoring over 50 points against a Pac-12 opponent with 55 against Washington State and the fifth game this season accomplishing the task. ASU’s four straight 50+ games against Pac-12 opponents are notable because prior to this season, the Sun Devils had only ever scored 40+ against Pac-10/12 foes once before in 1996 when the squad put up 45, 48, 42, 48 and 41 against UW, UO, UCLA, USC and Stanford, respectively, in 1996.  The team only has managed to score 30+ in four straight games in three seasons during the Pac-10/12 era: 1993, 1996 and this season. ASU’s 55 points against Washington State were the most it had ever scored against the Cougars and the most the team had scored in an away conference matchup since scoring 56 against Arizona in 1996 and was the third-highest tally for a Pac-10/12 road game in history behind the 62 scored against Stanford in 1981. ASU five games this season of 50 or more points matches its total from the previous four seasons combined. 

MAKE ‘EM PAY  ASU isn’t in the habit of leaving points on the board following turnovers. In 2013, ASU is outscoring it’s opponents 81-35 on points off turnovers while posting a +6 takeaway number just past the midway point.  ASU has put points on the board following 83.3 percent of oppponent turnovers (15-of-18) compared to just the 41.7 (5-of-12) percent clip ASU opponents are scoring off of Sun Devil turnovers. ASU has nine touchdowns this season on 18 opponent turnovers, aided by two interception returns for touchdowns. Last season, 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 takeaway 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. The Sun Devils have forced a turnover in 22 consecutive games (including every game of the Todd Graham era), an active streak that currently ranks third among FBS institutions behind Missouri and Stanford.

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 numberthis year, having placed their stamp on 83 of ASU’s 373 points (22.2 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 90 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.

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 95.5 percent of the time against FBS opponents, ranking fifth nationally in the category, as per TeamRankings.com (and outside of a kneel to run out the clock inside the the five-yard line against Colorado, is a perfect 100 percent in the last six games). ASU was a perfect 10-for-10 against Washington inside the red zone followed by a 7-of-7 run against WSU. With exception of mercy kneel vs. CU, ASU has now scored on 42-straight red zone drives. Last season, ASU scored on just 76.1 percent of their drives inside the 20 and ranked a lowly 93rd in the nation against FBS opponents.  On the flip side, ASU is allowing its FBS opponents to score 91.7 percent of the time this season when entering the red zone (ranked 112th 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. That being said, the Sun Devils don’t let opponents into the red zone often, doing so just 25 times this season (compared to 50 trips for the Sun Devil offense), a figure that is tied for the 26th-lowest in the country. 

GRICING ON THE CAKE Thought you were done reading Marion Grice notes? Lucky for you, there’s more.  Not only has ASU established itself as one of the top red zone teams in the country this season, but Grice is also among the nation’s top red zone rushers as well.  Arizona State has been inside the red zone 43 times this season. Grice has carried the football 38 times through eight games and has scored a touchdown on just under a third of those with 11 touchdown rushes - a total that ranks tied for fourth nationally as far as red zone scores. Only three other players have more touches inside the red zone than Grice (Reynolds has 46, WKU’s Antonio Andrews has 42 and CSU’s Kapri Bibbs has 39). That being said, Grice leads the nation’s running backs with eight receptions inside the red zone - ranked 13th nationally among ALL FBS players - with five touchdowns on those eight grabs.  All told, Grice has 46 red zone touches this season and 16 touchdowns on those plays, finding paydirt approximately 34.8 percent of the time. Grice’s stability inside the 20 has been beneficial to ASU’s pass happy offense as ASU ranks eighth nationally with 49 pass attempts within the red zone but have only completed 25 of those (51.1 percent). This is especially notable as Kelly has completed 170-of-261 passes (65.1 percent) everywhere else on the field EXCEPT within the red zone. 

 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 habitually makes about being successful in the field position battle to win games. The Sun Devils held Washington State to six straight drives of not reaching their own 20-yard line on Halloween while posting three drives either on the 50 or in Cougar territory during that span. Under Todd Graham, ASU has had an average starting yard line of its own 37.5 in 14 victories compared to a starting yard line of the 23.7 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 30 touchbacks on 69 kickoffs - but also has done a good job placing balls, helping the ASU coverage team to limit the opposition to just 19.2 yards per return this season, a tally that ranks second in the conference and 28th nationally.  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. All that being said, 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 eight games this season (including three against Colorado), a notable feat as ASU had six such drives in the entirety of the 2013 season.

DON’T LEAVE POINTS ON THE BOARD Every team’s offense hits the field hoping to score a touchdown on every drive, but few have been at successful at the task as ASU. ASU has now scored touchdowns on 44 of 106 drives this season (41.5 percent) and is ninth nationally in the category. Baylor leads the nation with 57 touchdowns on 100 drives (57 percent) while only Oregon has done better at earning TDs in the Pac-12, scoring one on 59 of 112 drives this season (52.7 percent).

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 75-51 in the third this season, a +24 scoring margin eight games into the season that seems to have bucked the trend of coming out slow in second halves. ASU is averaging 9.3 points per third quarter against FBS programs this season - a tally that ranks 21st nationally - compared to a 7.0 points per third quarter total against FBS opponents total in 2012 that was 50th nationally.  ASU is outscoring opponents 167-110 in the second half of games this season and has outscored opponents 92-59 in the fourth quarter of this year’s contests.  ASU is second in the nation in points per fourth quarter this season against FBS opposition (12.7) after finishing the 2012 season wtih 9.3 points per fourth quarter, good for eighth nationally. ASU’s 22.0 second-half points per game against FBS squads this season is currently fifth nationally.  All these numbers are made more impressive by the fact that ASU has played in three consecutive blowouts and has spent much of those second halves running out the clock against their opposition. 

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 (43) has more starts than Finkenberg and Irabor, who each have 41. Irabor’s statistic is particularly notable as he has started all 41 of his games consecutively - a mark that paces the Pac-12 Conference ahead of Washington State’s John Fullington, who has 39.

 

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 is back in the thick of things, posting 29 tackles in the last seven contests with 10.5 coming for loss and 5.5 sacks in the process, both numbers leading the team. Additionally, Bradford has three forced fumbles this season and a .38 fumbles forced per game average that ranks 12th nationally.  He also has four passes defensed on the year, a total that is currently tied for third on 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 24.0 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks with a fumble recovery and one PBU. Sutton had the best game of the season against Washington, posted 3.0 tackles for loss and a sack in the contest. 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 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).  Thus far this season, the tandem has combined for 17 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, 5 PBUs, three fumbles forced and one fumble recovered. 

MOVING THE STICKS, AND VICE VERSA  On the season, the Sun Devil offense has only gone three-and-out on 24-of-117 drives (20.5 percent), a total that currently ranks tied for 12th nationally.  They have been even better on the other side of the ball as the ASU defense has forced opponents to 55 three-and-outs on 117 drives (47.0 percent). Washington entered the Homecoming contest ranked third-best in the FBS in not allowing teams to force them to three-and-outs, only having nine of them in 77 total drives. The Sun Devils held the Huskies to six in the first half alone, and forced them to surpass their season total in one game, holding the potent Husky offense to 10 three-and-outs in the contest. ASU now ranks second in the nation this season in forcing defensive three-and-outs at 6.88 per game and their 55 three-and-outs forced this season at the most among all FBS programs.

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 10 timeouts this season with its opponents facing third down. The Sun Devil defense has forced a fourth down on seven of those occassions, doing so twice against Notre Dame. 

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 21 catches for 330 yards and four touchdowns to date this season, averaging an solid 15.7 yards per catch. Coyle is currently tied for fifth among the nation’s tight ends with four touchdown receptions this season. Coyle now has 84 career receptions, holding soul possession of fourth on ASU’s all-time tight end receptions list.  His nine touchdowns rank tied for fourth in ASU history among tight ends with Jamaal Lewis.

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.  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 fifth on the team with 30 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 third on the team with four passes defensed this season. Also notable, after having seven pass interference calls made against him in 2011, Irabor has not had a single pass interference called in his two seasons working on Coach Graham and the current coaching staff.

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 Quarterfinalist, 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. Darby leads the team this season with 10 passes defensed and ranks second in the conference and 24th nationally with 1.3 passes defensed per game this season.

NEGATIVE THREE YARDS AND A CLOUD OF DUST Arizona State in the past two games has been its best at stopping the run. After holding Washington to –5 yards rushing on Oct. 19, the Sun Devils then took a step back and allowed Washington State to run wild for….two yards. Those two numbers are both top-five marks in the past 18 seasons. ASU will be looking to hold its fourth straight team to 100 or fewer rushing yards against Utah - a feat the team hasn’t accomplished since 2009.

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.  It was a little bit of a slow start for the Sun Devils in 2013 but the team appears to have found it’s running legs, now averaging 190.3 yards per game and ranked 44th nationally and third in the conference. For as much ado as has been made about ASU’s struggles in the run game compared to last year, if the season were to end today, ASU would still have the fourth-highest single season rushing mark of the last 20 seasons. ASU has rushed for over 200 yards in three straight contests, a feat the team accomplished over the course of the last three games last season. Prior to that however, the Sun Devils had not accomplished the feat since - well, most of you can predict the pattern by now - 1996. 

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 96 such plays this season (60 passing, 36 rushing), showing a renewed emphasis on the skill of ASU’s passing attack after the Sun Devils had a more even 90 passing explosive plays to 75 rushing explosions last season. 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.

PROTECT THIS HOUSE With the victory against Washington ASU moves to 5-0 at home this year and 9-2 under Todd Graham with two home games remaining (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 11 games under Todd Graham, the Sun Devils have averaged 46.5 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 19 consecutive games while playing at home, dating back to 2010.

RUN THE CLOCK One of the biggest areas improvement for the Sun Devils this season has been the clock management side of things.  Last season, ASU ranked seventh in the Pac-12 and 80th nationally in time of possession, holding the ball an average of 29:15 per game.  In 2013, ASU is averaging 31:17 minutes of possession time per game - a total that ranks third in the conference and 38th nationally.  The team has eight scoring drives over four minutes this season, compared to just three in 2012.  So, ASU’s offense scores fast and doesn’t need to dominate time of possession, you say? Not so fast. ASU is 9-2 when leading in time of possession under Todd Graham compared to a 5-5 record when trailing in the time of possession category.

IN-ZANE IN THE MEMBRANE True freshman placekicker Zane Gonzalez has been on fire since late September, hitting 13 straight field goals since the USC game on September 28.  The Deer Park, Texas, product has been making a case to become the first-team all-Pac-12 kicker in 2013 and perhaps even more.  Gonzalez now has hit 17 of 20 field goals (85-percent) and has booted 42 of 43 extra points.  Gonzalez is No. 2 in the nation in scoring and leads the Pac-12 in kick scoring (11.6) by a wide margin.  The next kicker at No. 2 is Stanford’s Jordan Williamson at 8.7.  His 93 points  by kick scoring is No. 1 in the Pac-12, far ahead of No. 2 Kaimi Fairbairn of UCLA and Andy Phillips of Utah at 69 points.  Gonzalez is No. 1 in the Pac-12 in field goals at 2.12 per game.  No. 2 is Colorado’s Will Oliver at a distant 1.75.  Gonzalez leads the Pac-12 with 17 field goals and his closest competitors are Colorado’s Will Oliver and Cal’s Vincent D’Amato at 14.  Gonzalez leads the Pac-12 in total extra points at 42 with his closest competitor being Oregon State’s Trevor Romaine at 38.  Gonzalez was recently named one of 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award, given annually to the nation’s top kicker. 

TODD-BITS OF INFO 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).

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