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TEMPE -- The No. 19 Arizona State University football team (No. 17 BCS/No. 22 Coaches) will wrap up its 2013 road schedule on Saturday, Nov. 23 in a pivotal contest against Pac-12 South foe No. 14 UCLA in Pasadena, Calif., at the historic Rose Bowl at 4 p.m. PT/5 p.m. AT.
The Sun Devil football program is currently in its 101st season of competition in 2013. The Sun Devils are 576-364-24 (.610) 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, 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 two straight road victries, knocking of Washington State, 55-21, before edging Utah, 20-19, in a thriller in Salt Lake City. The Sun Devils followed that with a 30-17 victory at home over Oregon State. Complete game recaps can be found on Page 11 of this Game Notes.
#10THINGS (Twitter-Friendly Notes)
1. @MarionGrice1 is the 15th different Pac-10/12 player since 1978 with 20 or more touchdowns in a single season. #TheGriceIsRight
2. @FootballASU has 17 INTs this year, ranked 1st in the conference/7th nationally, and has 51 passes defensed, 35th nationally. #NoFlyZone
3. Robert Nelson (@Nelson_Isle) has an interception in four of the last five games and has five in that span overall with two against OSU.
4. Saturday is 1st time ASU-UCLA meet with both ranked in AP Poll since ‘86 (No. 16 ASU, No. 15 UCLA). ASU won game, went on to win #RoseBowl.
5. In the last 4 games, @FootballASU is averaging 235.5 ypg on the ground compared to just 58.8 ypg that opponents have posted.
6. ASU has reached six Pac-10/12 wins for just the fourth time in 36 seasons since it joined the league in 1978.
7. @FootballASU has committed just 92 penalties in 23 games under @CoachGrahamASU, an average of just four per game.
8. @FootballASU has scored off 18-of-25 opponent turnovers compared to 5-of-15 for opposition. 101-35 POT advantage.
9. @MarionGrice1 is the only player in FBS with 300+ yards rushing, receiving and on kickoff returns. @HornungAward folks take note.
10. @FootballASU has forced a turnover in 24 straight games, including all 23 of the @CoachGrahamASU era.
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 205, though that broadcast will be the UCLA home broadcast.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION Saturday’s contest will mark the second appearance for ASU on FOX this season. ASU lost to Stanford earlier this season in the team’s only other appearance. The Sun Devils will kick off at approximately 5:00 p.m. Arizona time. Gus Johnson will be on the call with Charles Davis alongside as analyst. Kristina Pink will provide reports from the sideline.
ON THE BRUINS UCLA leads the all-time series between the schools, 18-10-1, and has won three of the last four against the Sun Devils - including the last two matchups in Pasadena. This year’s matchup serves as a miniature Pac-12 South championship battle considering an ASU victory would lock up the Pac-12 South and seal a spot in the Pac-12 Championship game. A loss wouldn’t necessarily eliminate ASU, but the Sun Devils would need to defeat Arizona in the final week of the season while UCLA would need to lose to USC. UCLA enters the game with an 8-2 record on the season and is 6-2 in conference play, one game behind the Sun Devils. Saturday’s contest carries some historical significance as it will be the first time the two team’s have squared off with both ranked in the AP Top-25 Poll since Oct. 4, 1986 when ASU was ranked 16 and UCLA was No 15. ASU won the contest 16-9 in Pasadena and wouldn go on to a 10-1-1 season and a victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
OTHER NOTES - OREGON STATE
-ASU is now 6-0 at home this year and 10-2 under Todd Graham with one home game remaining (Arizona on Nov. 30).
-ASU has now scored first in 19 of 23 games under Todd Graham and has outscored its opponents 93-33 in the first quarter this year, and 238-102 under Todd Graham (145-69 last year). ASU also has outscored opponents 171-44 in the first half at home this season. ASU has scored on their opening drive in six of 10 games this year.
-Robert Nelson has an interception in four of the last five games and has five in that span overall with two against OSU. He collected ASU’s third pick-six of the season.
-ASU has now forced a turnover in 24 straight games (all 23 of Todd Graham era), a streak that is third in the nation behind only Missouri and Stanford.
-ASU has reached six Pac-10/12 wins for just the fourth time in 36 seasons since it joined the league in 1978. It was 8-0 in 1996. 6-2 in 1997 and 7-2 in 2007.
-ASU has now outscored the opposition 101-35 in points off turnovers and has scored on 18-of-25 opponent turnovers. Opponents have scored on just 5-of-15 ASU turnovers.
--ASU has committed just 92 penalties in 23 games under Todd Graham, an average of just four per game.
--ASU intercepted OSU quarterback Sean Mannion four times on Satruday. Mannion had thrown only six interceptions all season coming into the game (nine games). With 17 interceptions ASU is now tied for the Pac-12 Conference lead in that category with Oregon State.
--The Sun Devils held OSU’s standout receiver Bradin Cooks without a touchdown for just the second time this season.
IN THE RANKINGS Arizona State remained in the AP Poll this week, moving up to No. 19. The team remained at No 22 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and continued to move up in the BCS rankings, now sitting at No. 17 overall. Below are the individual and team categories that ASU ranks in the top-20 in nationally:
Marion Grice is No. 8 nationally in all purpose yards (167.30)
Taylor Kelly is No. 11 nationally in completions per game (23.60)
Zane Gonzalez is No. 6 nationally in field goals per game (1.8)
Carl Bradford is No. 17 nationally in forced fumbles (0.30)
Robert Nelson is No. 4 nationally in interceptions (0.5)
Taylor Kelly is No. 9 nationally in passing TDs (24)
Taylor Kelly is No. 16 nationally in passing yards (2,838)
Taylor Kelly is No. 15 nationally in passing yards per game (283.8)
Taylor Kelly is No. 11 nationally in points responsible for (186)
Taylor Kelly is No. 8 nationally in points responsible for per game (19.2)
Marion Grice is No. 6 nationally in rushing TDs (14)
Marion Grice is No. 2 nationally in scoring (12.0)
Zane Gonzalez is No. 7 nationally in scoring (10.1)
Taylor Kelly is No. 16 in total offense (315.0)
ASU is No. 5 nationally in fewest penalties per game (3.70)
ASU is No. 4 nationally in fewest penalty yards per game (30.20)
ASU is No. 7 nationally in first downs defense (160)
ASU is No. 13 nationally in first downs offense (259)
ASU is No. 18 nationally in fumbles lost (5)
ASU is No. 7 nationally in passes intercepted (17)
ASU is No. 11 nationally in red zone offense (0.914)
ASU is No. 17 nationally in rushing defense (120.6)
ASU is No. 9 nationally in scoring offense (42.3)
ASU is No. 16 nationally in total defense (338.4)
ASU is No. 9 nationally in turnover margin (1.0)
ASU is No. 9 nationally in turnovers gained (25)
--A year removed from scoring the third-most touchdowns in a single season (19) in ASU history, Marion Grice is still well on pace to demolish the single-season scoring record (22, Wilford White/1950) in 2013 as he already has 20 touchdowns through nine games this season - despite going scoreless in his last two of the last three games. In his last 13 games dating back to last season, Grice has found the end zone 26 times (19 rushing, seven receiving). In 2013, he is averaging a touchdown roughly every 10.8 times he touches the ball (20 TDs on 216 touches/9.3 percent of touches).
--Additionally Grice has posted over 100 all-purpose yards in 12 straight games following his 156 all-purpose yards against Oregon State. That marks the fourth longest active streak among all FBS players.
--The Sun Devils have forced an opponent turnover in 24 consecutive games, the third-longest active streak among all FBS institutions behind only Stanford and Missouri.
--Third down is Taylor Kelly down. The junior quarterback is second on the team in third down rushes this season with 17. Nine of those have gone for a first down and five have gone for a touchdown, more than the entire team has combined on third down this season, rushing or receiving (3). Kelly averages a team leading 6.1 yards per rush on third down and is currently second nationally in touchdown rushes on third down with five, sitting behind only Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford (6).
--ASU is one of only five teams in the nation to rank in the top-20 in both total offense and total defense this season alongside Florida State, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Baylor.
--Robert Nelson has an interception in four of the last five games and has five in that span overall with two against OSU. That is the most since Troy Nolan had six in 2007. The most prior to that was six by Nathan LaDuke in 1989. Eric Allen had eight in 1987. Both Nolan and LaDuke were safeties so Nelson has the most interceptions in a season by a cornerback since Allen.
STRIKE FIRST With Marion Grice’s one-yard rush on ASU’s first possession against Oregon State, Arizona State has scored first in 19 of the 23 games with Todd Graham at the helm, and is 7-1 in such contests this season. The Sun Devils are now 14-5 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 96 of ASU’s 134 offensive scoring drives under Graham coming in three minutes or less (71.6 percent). That being said, ASU also has 11 scoring drives of four minutes or longer in 10 games this season, 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’s high-powered offense still resonates with the high number of quick scoring drives this season, scoring in three minutes or less on 46 of the team’s 67 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 6.3 points per drive. When the drive lasts longer than three minutes, ASU’s average drops to 5.3 points per drive. In ASU’s 10 drives this season lasting longer than four minutes, the team is averaging just 4.0 points per score.
START STRONG...FINISH STRONG The Sun Devils have now outscored their opposition 238-102 in the first quarter under Todd Graham. Perhaps the more telling statistic, however, is the fact the Sun Devils are 12-0 under Graham when holding their opposition scoreless in the first and have done so in five of the team’s eight wins this season. ASU improved to 14-0 when leading at halftime with Graham as coach following the Oregon State contest. ASU also knows how to close out games, outscoring teams 247-122 in the fourth quarter of games under Graham. ASU has outscored its opponent in eight of 10 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 24 touchdowns with 10 interceptions this season (one coming on a Hail Mary against Stanford). Through nine games, Kelly already has 2,838 passing yards and is averaging 283.8 yards per game and is on pace to challenge 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 5-7 with Kelly as the starter when he throws an interception, compared to an unblemished 11-0 record when he doesn’t. That being said, all five of those victories have come this season, showing ASU’s improved ability to overcome adversity at the hands of turnovers. Kelly had been on a bit of a hot streak of late as he currently ranks 11th nationally in points responsible for with 186, with 84 of those coming in the three games prior to OSU - 42 of which against Washington State (5 TD passes, 2 rush TD). Kelly accounted for all three of ASU’s touchdowns against Utah (two rushing, one passing).
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 450 rushing yards on 67 attempts (6.7 ypc) and has been on fire in the last five games with seven rushing touchdowns while rushing for 251 yards (sack excluded) on 39 carries (6.4 yards per rush). Those seven touchdowns are notable as Kelly had just one rushing touchdown in 18 games prior to the current streak. Kelly is second on the team with 25 rushes for first down, trailing only Marion Grice (41) in the category. He is also second on the team in “explosive plays” on the ground (rushes of 12 or more yards) with 12 this season, trailing only Grice’s 17. Additionally, Kelly has now punted 13 times in his career, with 10 of those being downed inside of the 20-yard line. Kelly had a season-long 50-yarder against Oregon 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 11 of the last 13 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 10.4 times he touches the ball (20 TDs on 216 touches/9.3 percent of touches). He currently is second in the conference among players with at least 120 touches with a touchdown every 10.8 touches behind Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks (TD per 7.1 touches),
#LOOKGRICEBEFORECROSSING Despite not scoring in two of the last three games, Marion Grice is still second in scoring this year at 12.0 points per game and 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 39 career touchdowns, ranking him fifth all-time in ASU history, despite playing in just 23 games. It is 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 1.69 per game. Grice’s early season tear was impress as he 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 19 of ASU’s 63 successful conversion attempts (30.2 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 58 first down conversions (41 rushing, 17 receiving) on 235 non-penalty induced first downs (24.7 percent). Grice also doesn’t put ASU in many loss-of-yardage positions, having posted nearly twice as many touchdowns in his career (39) as negative-yardage plays in his (21). Oh, and he doesn’t drop the ball. Grice has toted the ball 377 times in his career (276 rushes, 84 receptions and 17 returns) without losing a single fumble during the span.
#THEPRICEISGRICE Grice became just the just the 15th conference player in the Pac-10/12 era to notch 20 touchdowns in the past 36 seasons with his two touchdown performance against OSU. It has happened 16 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 12 games dating back to the season, marking the fourth-longest active streak in the FBS. Only Western Kentucky’s Antonio Andrews (23), Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey (13) and Tulsa’s Trey Watts (13) 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 all told in 2013, the duo has combined for 1,965 yards of total offense and 24 touchdowns, representing 41.3 percent of ASU’s 4,753 yards for scrimmage this season and 48.0 percent of the team’s offensive touchdowns. The duo has been instrumental in moving the chains as well, accounting for 92 of the team’s 235 non-penalty induced first downs this season (39.1 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 15 such plays already this season (10 receiving, five rushing), currently third on the team. Foster has made his mark in the receiving game this season with 50 grabs for 523 yards (10.5 ypc) through 10 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 34 first downs on 88 touches this season (38.6 percent).
A STRONG START All told, 23 Sun Devils have made their debuts this season, but few are turning as many heads as Jaelen Strong. The junior college transfer leads the team in receptions and yards with 59 grabs for 834 yards (5.9 rpg/83.4 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 in that span and currently has six 100+ yard games through his first 10 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 36 of his receptions have gone for first downs while he has also drawn eight pass interference penalties against opposing defenses (five of which resulted in first downs, three were declined), thus playing a role in 41 of ASU’s 259 total first downs this season (15.8 percent). Putting that in perspective, ASU’s leading wide receiver last season has just 28 in the entirety of 2012. His nine 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 and four receptions on fourth down this season lead the nation while his two touchdowns when facing fourth down are second nationally. Additionally, Strong is second on the team in explosive plays (rushes over 12 yards and receptions over 16 yards) with 22 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.
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 six tackles for loss against Oregon State and two stops at the line of scrimmage along with 15 incomplete passes (23 negative or zero-yardage plays out of 72 or 31.9 percent of plays from scrimmage). To date this season, the ASU defense has held offenses to 259 plays (out of 659 by the opposition) that have not earned positive yardage (includes incomplete passes) - a 39.3 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. 12 of ASU’s 15 least penalized games since 2006 have come under Todd Graham, including six of the nine games played this season.
MORE ON PENALTIES Todd Graham has had a knack for having some of the most disciplined teams in the nation when it comes to penalty yards. In each of his seven seasons as a head coach, Graham’s teams have been consistently ranked among in the top half of the least penalized teams in the country in both yards and penalties per game. In 2012, the Sun Devils finished 10th in fewest penalties (4.23) and eighth in fewest penalty yards per game (34.9). In 2013, ASU ranks fifth nationally in penalties per game (3.7) and is fourth in penalty yards per game at (30.2), 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 39.1 passing attempts per game - a figure that sits 17th in the country. The number is also notable as ASU is also averaging 24.0 completions per game this season against FBS opponents, and is 20th 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 475.3 yards of total offense per game in nine games this season - over 20 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 ninth nationally at 42.3 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 were notable because prior to this season, the Sun Devils had only ever scored 40+ against consecutive 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 just 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 101-35 on points off turnovers while posting a +10 takeaway number. ASU has put points on the board following 72.0 percent of oppponent turnovers (18-of-25) compared to just the 33.3 (5-of-15) percent clip ASU opponents are scoring off of Sun Devil turnovers. ASU has 12 touchdowns this season on 25 opponent turnovers, aided by three 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 24 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. Robert Nelson added one of his own against OSU. 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 defense directly responsible for 23 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 103 of ASU’s 423 points (24.3 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 110 points. ASU now has six 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 95.7 percent of the time against FBS opponents, ranking fourth nationally in the category, as per TeamRankings.com (and outside of mercy kneel to run out the clock inside the red zone against CU and OSU, is a perfect 100 percent in the last eight 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 the mercy kneel vs. CU/OSU, ASU has now scored on 49-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 92.3 percent of the time this season when entering the red zone (ranked 116th 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 30 times this season (compared to 58 trips for the Sun Devil offense, fifth nationally), a figure that is tied for the 19th-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 58 times this season. Grice has carried the football 47 times through 10 games and has scored a touchdown on just over a quarter of those with 13 touchdown rushes - a total that ranks tied for fourth nationally as far as red zone rushing scores. That being said, Grice leads the nation’s running backs with eight receptions inside the red zone - ranked 21st nationally among ALL FBS players - with five touchdowns on those eight grabs. All told, Grice has 55 red zone touches this season and 18 touchdowns on those plays, finding paydirt approximately 32.7 percent of the time. Grice’s stability inside the 20 has been beneficial to ASU’s pass happy offense as ASU ranks 10th nationally with 55 pass attempts within the red zone but have only completed 29 of those (52.7 percent). This is especially notable as Taylor Kelly has completed 207-of-320 passes (64.7 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 didn’t allow a single Oregon State drive to start in Sun Devil territory. Under Todd Graham, ASU has had an average starting yard line of its own 37.0 in 16 victories compared to a starting yard line of the 24.2 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’s eight losses under Graham. Some of this year’s credit goes to placekicker Alex Garoutte, who has 35 touchbacks on 79 kickoffs - but also has done a good job placing balls, helping the ASU coverage team to limit the opposition to just 19.3 yards per return this season, a tally that ranks fourth in the conference and 39th 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 eight scoring drives of 80 yards or longer through 10 games this season (including the game-winning drive aganst Utah), a notable feat as ASU had six such drives in the entirety of the 2013 season.
HALFTIME PEP TALKS ASU is outscoring opponents 190-134 in the second half of games this season and has outscored opponents 112-66 in the fourth quarter of this year’s contests. As whole, ASU has outscored other teams 241-138 in the fourth quarter under Todd Graham. ASU is second in the nation in points per fourth quarter this season against FBS opposition (12.4) after finishing the 2012 season wtih 9.3 points per fourth quarter, which was good for eighth nationally. ASU’s 19.7 second-half points per game against FBS squads this season is currently 10th nationally. The team’s victory over Utah marked the second fourth-quarter comeback of the Todd Graham era and the first of the 2013 campaign. All these numbers are made more impressive by the fact that ASU had played in three consecutive blowouts prior to the Utah game and 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 (45) has more starts than Finkenberg and Irabor, who each have 43. Irabor’s statistic is particularly notable as he has started all 43 of his games consecutively - a mark that paces the Pac-12 Conference ahead of Washington State’s John Fullington, who has 40.
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 36 tackles in the last nine contests with 11.0 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 .33 fumbles forced per game average that ranks 14th nationally. He also has four passes defensed on the year, a total that is currently fifth 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 33.0 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks with a fumble recovery, and interception and two pass breakups. Sutton was stellar against Utah, posting a career-high nine tackles while also adding his first career interception to seal the game against the Utes. 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 19.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, seven PBUs, three fumbles forced, one fumble recovered and an interception.
#NOFIRSTDOWNFORYOU The ASU defense has forced opponents to 68 three-and-outs on 144 drives (46.2 percent), leading the nation in the category. 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 held Utah to four straight fourth-quarter drives that resulted in three-and-outs out of its eight on the day to help pave the way for the team’s comeback. ASU leads the nation this season in forcing defensive three-and-outs at 7.11 per game and their 64 three-and-outs forced this season at the most among all FBS programs. Baylor is second at 7.00 per game with 56 total this season.
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 12 timeouts this season with its opponents facing third down. The Sun Devil defense has forced a fourth down on nine of those occassions (75.0 percent).
NO FLY ZONE The Sun Devil defense has been up to task in the recent five-game winning streak though, holding opponents to an average of 93.2 fewer passing yards than teams were averaging prior to the ASU tilt and an incredible average of 166.7 fewer total offensive yards than teams were averaging prior to taking on the Devils. ASU ranks fourth in the conference in passing yards allowed (217.8 per game) and fourth in pass efficiency defense (115.7) and are 39th and 21st nationally in those categories. ASU has 17 interceptions this season, ranked first in the conference and seventh nationally, and has 51 passes defensed, ranked 35th nationally.
NELSON ISLE Cornerback Robert Nelson, who collected two interceptions in the victory over Oregon State, now has six interceptions on the season. That is the most since Troy Nolan had six in 2007. The most prior to that was six by Nathan LaDuke in 1989. Eric Allen had eight in 1987. Both Nolan and LaDuke were safeties so Nelson has the most interceptions in a season by a cornerback since Allen. Nelson has an interception in four of the last five games and five total interceptions in that time, returning his first for a touchdown against Oregon State. He is averaging 0.5 interceptions per game, a total that ranks fourth nationally and is six total interceptions are third nationally and first in the Pac-12.
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 36 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 five passes defensed this season.
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 24 catches for 370 yards and four touchdowns to date this season, averaging a solid 15.4 yards per catch that ranks seventh among the nation’s tight ends. Coyle is currently tied for sixth among the nation’s tight ends with four touchdown receptions this season. Coyle now has 87 career receptions, holding sole 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.
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 added his ninth career interception against OSU. 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 11 passes defensed, currently tied for third in the Pac-12.
NO RUSH 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. After struggling against the run through the first five games of the season (allowing opponents an average of 182.8 yards per game and ranking 86th in the FBS in the category), the Sun Devil defense has found its groove in the recent five-game winning streak in holding opponents to a lowly 58.8 yards per game in that span. ASU has held five opponents under 100 rushing yards this season, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished since 2009 when the team had six such games.
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 182.7 yards per game and ranked 54th nationally. 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 25 seasons. ASU had rushed for over 200 yards in three straight contests prior to Utah, 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. In the recent five game winning streak, ASU is averaging 235.4 yards per game on the ground compared to just 58.8 yards per game that opponents have posted.
RARE TERRITORY ASU has eight wins through 10 games for the first time since it went 9-1 to start the 2007 season. Since joining the Pac-10 in 1978 - 36 seasons ago - this year marks the tenth time it has started at least 7-2. In all but one of those seasons, ASU won the next game so the Sun Devils have started at least 8-2 for the ninth time. ASU’s eight wins through 10 games mark just the ninth time in the Pac-10/12 era the team has accomplished the feat in the first 10 games. ASU has reached six Pac-10/12 wins for just the fourth time in 36 seasons since it joined the league in 1978. It was 8-0 in 1996, 6-2 in 1997 and 7-2 in 2007. Keep in mind the league only played seven league games in 1978 and 1979, played eight in 1980, then went to a seven-game slate from 1981-90. The league went to eight-game slate in 1991 and then a nine-game slate in 2006.
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 108 such plays this season (65 passing, 43 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 22 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 Oregon State, ASU moves to 6-0 at home this year and 10-2 under Todd Graham with one home game remaining (Arizona). ASU has gone undefeated at home just once in the past 16 seasons (1997-2012), when it was 6-0 in 2004. After 13 games under Todd Graham, the Sun Devils have averaged 45.1 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. ASU also has outscored opponents 171-44 in the first half at home this season.
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 30:30 minutes of possession time per game - a total that ranks fourth in the conference and 45th nationally. The team has nine scoring drives over four minutes this season, compared to just three in 2012. So, ASU’s offense scores fast and thus time of possession is irrelevent you say? Not so fast. ASU is 9-2 when leading in time of possession under Todd Graham compared to a 7-5 record when trailing in the time of possession category.
HANG ON TO YOUR SEATS ASU has played in three games this season decided by seven points or less, going 2-1 in those contests. The total is notable as ASU was just 4-13 in the previous four seasons in games decided by less than a touchdown.
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 18 of 21 field goals (86-percent) and has booted 47 of 49 extra points. Gonzalez is No. 7 in the nation in scoring and leads the Pac-12 in kick scoring (10.1) by a wide margin. The next kicker on the list is UCLA’s Kaim Fairbairn at 8.1. His 101 points by kick scoring are No. 1 in the Pac-12, far ahead of No. 2 Fairbairn (81 points). Gonzalez is No. 1 in the Pac-12 in field goals at 1.8 per game. Gonzalez leads the Pac-12 with 18 field goals, ahead of Colorado’s Will Oliver (16). Gonzalez leads the Pac-12 in total extra points at 47. Gonzalez was recently named one of 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award, given annually to the nation’s top kicker.
ROAD WARRIORS Winning away from home in college football is difficult, especially in conference games. Coach Todd Graham ASU is beginning to assemble a pretty good resume of road/neutral site victories, collecting four in 2012 (at California, Colorado, Arizona and vs. Navy at the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl). In 2013 ASU has garnered two straight road wins (at Washington State and at Utah). That is six road wins in the past 11 road games for ASU, including five Pac-12 Conference road wins in the past eight Pac-12 road games. ASU also has had two very close losses on the road under Graham, a four point loss at Missouri and a three-point loss to Notre Dame in Dallas.
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 50 of 132 drives this season (33.9 percent) and was 10th nationally in the category prior to the OSU contest. Ohio State led the nation with 57 touchdowns on 104 drives (54.8 percent) while only Oregon had done better at earning TDs in the Pac-12, scoring one on 60 of 119 drives this season (50.4 percent).
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).