The Arizona State University Sun Devil football program will host the lidlifter of the 2014 season on Thursday, Aug. 28 against Weber State at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., at 7:30 p.m. Arizona time.
Arizona State is entering its 102nd season of competition in 2014. The Sun Devils are 573-370-24 (.605) all-time and have appeared in 27 bowl games, compiling a 13-13-1 record in such contests. The Sun Devils are coming off an impressive 10-4 campaign in 2013 that saw ASU finish as the Pac-12 South Champions and advance to the National University Holiday Bowl as head coach Todd Graham earned Pac-12 Coach of the Year accolades.
#10THINGS (Twitter-Friendly Notes)
1. Under @CoachGrahamASU, ASU leads Pac-12 South teams with 13 conference victories in two seasons
2. @Taylor_Kelly10's 27 career starts are third most among all returning #BCS Conference QBS in 2014
3. D.J. Foster (@ASTATE_8) had 63 receptions last year, making him the only RB in country in top-100 in nation in receptions.
4. #FootballASU has #PT42 interceptions in the last two seasons, second among FBS schools behind Houston (44).
5. @FootballASU has forced 63 turnovers under @CoachGrahamASU in last 2 seasons, second most among FBS institutions behind only Houston (74).
6. In 2013, ASU outscored its opponents 146-42 on points off turnovers while posting a +15 takeaway number.
7. @FootballASU went 4-3 against teams in the final top-25. Its 7 games were second-most of anyone in the top 25 (Stanford had eight).
8. @FootballASU 1 of 3 teams in nation to return 3,000+ yard passer, 1,000+ receiver and 2 500+ yard rushers this yr. Houston/Marshall others
9. @FootballASU's 26 frosh/soph on intitial two-deep is the eight-highest total in D-1. 8 seniors on two-deep is third-lowest.
10. Zane Gonzalez (@ZaneG_5) tied an NCAA freshman record last season with 25 field goals, which were most in the #FBS on the year.
SEASON OPENERS Arizona State is 73-26-2 (.738) all-time in season openers, including victories in the last 11 straight, all coming at home. That streak currently ranks in a tie for the ninth longest active winning streak in season openers in the nation. ASU holds an all-time mark of 55-15-1 (.783) when opening the season at home and hasn't lost a home opener since 1998 to Washington - a streak of 15 straight victories - the longest active streak in the Pac-12. Last year, the Devils beat Sacramento State, 55-0, in Tempe to open the season, their 13th straight season opening victory at Sun Devil Stadium. Head Coach Todd Graham is 6-2 in season opening games in his eight years as a collegiate coach.
ON THE AIR Here the hometown call as legendary broadcaster Tim Healey along with color analyst Jeff Van Raaphorst and sideline reporter Doug Franz call all the action for Sun Devil Football. The MidFirst Bank Sun Devil IMG Sports Network airs statewide and is buoyed by Booneville's powerful sports/talk lineup of 620 AM KTAR, 98.7 KMVP and 92.3 KTAR FM. Don't miss a play this upcoming season with the additional worldwide coverage brought to you by the TuneIn App which can be downloaded to your smartphone, tablet or laptop. This week's game will broadcast on 92.3 KTAR News FM. The game will also be broadcast on Sirius Channel 139/XM Channel 197.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION Thursday's opener will mark the first game for the Sun Devils this season that will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks, now in its third year of operation. Roxy Bernstein will be on the call alongside analyst Yogi Roth while Ashley Adamson will roam the sidelines. The Pac-12 Networks have conveniently created a Channel Finder to allow you to search your local listing to help faciliate game viewing. The link is here: http://pac-12.com/AboutPac-12Enterprises/ChannelFinder.aspx. The Pac-12 will again provide access to Armed Forces Network for carriage of Pac-12 football games in 2014s for the benefit of the men and women in the military. The Pac-12 Networks has been a good omen for the Devils, who have compiled a 9-1 record in games competed on the network and are winners of seven straight.
ON THE WILDCATS AND THE BIG SKY This will be the first-ever meeting between Arizona State and Weber State. The Wildcats are currently a member of the Big Sky Conference and are an FCS football institution. Arizona State is 35-14-4 against members of the Big Sky, with the last victory coming over Sacramento State last season. That loss record is skewed by the early years of ASU football as all 14 losses came against the Lumberjacks prior to 1939, making ASU winners of the last 27 competitions against current Big Sky opponents with one tie (also against NAU in 1946) to boot. Longtime Utah assistant Jay Hill will be making his debut as a head coach on Thursday.
--The Sun Devils have forced an opponent turnover in 29 consecutive games, the second-longest active streak among all FBS institutions behind only Missouri. ASU has forced a turnover in every game under Todd Graham.
--ASU's victory over Arizona last season was the Sun Devils' eighth conference victory of the season, matching the school record set in 1996 (8-0). Additionally, all eight of ASU's victories came consecutively and capped a streak that marked just the 13th time in history the Sun Devils won five or more conference games in a row (Border and WAC years included). Prior to this season, ASU had won five or more conference games in a row just three times (‘96, ‘97, ‘07) since 1987.
--The Arizona State defense had an interception return for a touchdown five times in 2013. The team accomplished the feat three times in 2012 for a total of eight during Todd Graham's two years as head coach. The number is notable as ASU had just four interception returns for a touchdown in the three previous seasons prior to Todd Graham's arrival at ASU.
--Kelly threw for 28 touchdowns last season and has tossed 57 touchdowns over the past two seasons, the most for any Sun Devil quarterback in a two-game span.
--Kelly's 3,635 passing yards last season were the third most in a single season in school history and he is one of just seven Sun Devil quarterbacks to pass for more than 6,000 yards in their career. He is just the second quarterback to have thrown for over 3,000 yards in consecutive seasons in school history.
WE ARE THE YOUTH GONE WILD In a complete 180 from the strong veteran presence on the 2013 Sun Devil roster, the 2014 ASU squad will rely heavily on the youngsters to help lead the way as the season progresses. Entering the weekend, the Sun Devil two-deep depth chart features 26 freshmen and sophomores who could see playing time this season. That total ranks tied for ninth in the nation among Division I programs (Oklahoma State and Tulane lead with 32 underclassmen on the two-deep). Only Colorado is expected to see more underclassmen see game-time this season as far as Pac-12 schools are concerned.
SENIOR DISCOUNT With such an abundance of underclassmen set to make their presence felt this season, it should come as no surprise that there is a bit of a shortage on seniors. In fact, ASU's senior class this season sits at 11 members - a tally that ranks tied for the second fewest total among all Division I institutions behind only Temple's eight total seniors. The quality of those seniors is impressive however with eight of them appearing on the opening weekend two-deep depth chart and another set to participate on special teams. Even with the high percentage of total seniors playing on the two-deep, ASU's eight seniors on the two-deep is tied for the fourth-lowest total in the nation behind only Temple and Tennessee (6) and Baylor (7). The total is the fewest amount of seniors on the two-deep of all Pac-12 programs.
STRIKE FIRST Arizona State has scored first in 21 of the 26 games with Todd Graham at the helm, and was 9-1 in such contests in 2013. The Sun Devils are now 16-5 in the Todd Graham era when getting on the scoreboard first.
STRIKE FAST The quick-hitting offense has become a staple of the Todd Graham-coached Sun Devils, with 112 of ASU's 155 offensive scoring drives under Graham coming in three minutes or less (72.3 percent). That being said, ASU also had 15 scoring drives of four minutes or longer in 14 games last season, compared to having three such drives in the entirety of 2012. Nevertheless, ASU's high-powered offense still resonates with the high number of quick scoring drives, scoring in three minutes or less on 62 of the team's 89 scoring drives in 2013 (70.0 percent). There was a direct correlation between the time of ASU's scoring drives in 2013 and the points per scoring drive as well. When ASU scored in three minutes or less, it averaged 6.2 points per drive. When the drive lasted longer than three minutes, ASU's average dropped to 5.4 points per drive. In ASU's 14 drives in 2013 lasting longer than four minutes, the team averaged just 4.3 points per score.
START STRONG...FINISH STRONG The Sun Devils have now outscored their opposition 278-139 in the first quarter under Todd Graham and outscored opponents 130-70 in the first in 2013. The Sun Devils are 13-1 under Graham when holding their opposition scoreless in the first and did so in six of the team's 10 wins in 2013. ASU improved to 16-0 when leading at halftime with Graham as coach following the Arizona contest last season. ASU also knows how to close out games, outscoring teams 258-141 in the fourth quarter of games under Graham. ASU outscored its opponent in 10 of 14 games in the fourth quarter in 2013.
WINNING BY WAY OF TKO (TAYLOR KELLY OFFENSE) The school record holder in completion percentage and efficiency in 2012, Taylor Kelly threw for 28 touchdowns with 12 interceptions in 2013. In 14 games, Kelly had 3,635 passing yards and averaged 259.6 yards per game, both ranked in the top five in school history. He is just the second Sun Devil to have multiple seasons with 3,000+ passing yards behind only Andrew Walter (3). In 2013, Kelly moved into the top five on seven single season school record lists including: passing yards, passing yards per game, completions, attempts, total offense, total offense, yards per game, and points responsible for. Statistically, the team relies heavily on Kelly's ball protection, as ASU is 6-8 with Kelly as the starter when he throws an interception, compared to a 12-1 record when he doesn't - the lone loss coming in the Pac-12 Championship game against Stanford.. All six of the victories with interceptions came in 2013, showing an improved ability to overcome adversity at the hands of turnovers. Kelly finished the season ranked 13th nationally in points responsible for with 222 (28 passing TDs, nine rushing), breaking the previous school record in the category of 198 previously set by Mike Pagel in 1981.
VETERAN LEADERSHIP There won't be a lot of turnover in the Pac-12 this season at the quarterback position. All but two teams return their starting quarterback from last season. Even with that in mind, Kelly will enter the season tied with UCLA's Brett Hundley with the most second most career starts for a QB in the conference at 27. Only Sean Mannion (31) will return next year with more starts. In fact, among all power conference programs, only Rutgers' Gary Nova (28 starts) has more than Kelly and Hundley following the injury to Ohio State's Braxton Miller (34 career starts would have led the country).
HE'S GOT LEGS, AND HE KNOWS HOW TO USE THEM Taylor Kelly's ability to extend plays has been exceptional from the start, as demonstrated by his 516 net rushing yards on 134 attempts in 2012 - 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 had 826 rushing yards on 134 attempts (6.2 ypc) and was on fire in the last nine games with nine rushing touchdowns while rushing for 599 yards (sacks excluded) on 106 carries (5.7 yards per rush). Those nine touchdowns were notable as Kelly had just one rushing touchdown in 18 games prior to the current streak. Kelly was second on the team with 43 rushes for first down, trailing only Marion Grice (45). He was also second on the team in "explosive plays" on the ground (rushes of 12 or more yards) with 18 in 2013, trailing only Marion Grice's 19. Additionally, Kelly has now punted 14 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.
TAYLOR MADE ON THIRD DOWN The junior quarterback led the team in third down rushes in 2013 with 30. Fifteen of those went for a first down and six for for a touchdown, more than the entire team has combined on third down on the season, rushing or receiving (3). Kelly averaged a team leading 7.6 yards per rush on third down and finished tied for second nationally in touchdown rushes on third down with six.
FOSTER THE PEOPLE For the second straight season, D.J. Foster was second on the team in all-purpose yardage with 1,170 yards in 2013 (501 on the ground. 653 by air and 16 on KR). He had 25 explosive plays on the year (12 receiving, 13 rushing), which was third on the team. Foster made his mark in the receiving game in 2013 with 63 grabs for 653 yards (10.4 ypc), 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 had a knack for getting to the first down marker as finished tied for second on the team with 53 first downs on 156 touches this season (34.0 percent).
A STRONG START All told, 23 Sun Devils made their debuts this 2013, but few turned as many heads as Jaelen Strong. The junior college transfer led the team in receptions and yards with 75 grabs for 1,122 yards (5.4 rpg/80.1 ypg) and seven touchdowns in 2013. In his first four games, Strong made his mark by posting the best four starts of 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 finished with seven 100+ yard games through his first 14 games at ASU. With 75 receptions last year, Strong finished fifth on ASU's all-time single season receptions list while his clip of 5.4 receptions per game was good for fifth as well.
THE FORCE IS STRONG Just as impressive as Jaelen Strong's statistics were, his ability to make catches when they count can't be overlooked. A total of 47 of his receptions went for first downs while he also drew 10 pass interference penalties against opposing defenses (six of which resulted in first downs, four were declined as they were all still caught for either a first down, touchdown or two-point conversion), thus playing a role in 53 of ASU's 340 total first downs last season. Putting that in perspective, ASU's leading wide receiver in the previous season had just 28 first downs in the entirety of 2012. His 12 receptions for a first down when the team is facing third or fourth down currently lead the team and two of his four touchdown grabs this season have come on fourth down. Additionally, Strong is second on the team in explosive plays (rushes over 12 yards and receptions over 16 yards) with 29 this season. The leading receiver for the Sun Devils over the entire 13 games in 2012 in the category had 18 explosive receiving plays, a figure Strong took just six games to break last year.
HOLD ‘EM BACK ASU prides itself on its aggressive defense under Todd Graham, forcing 117 tackles for a loss of 497 total yards in 2012 - 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 with incomplete passes added to the mix, ASU forced 341 plays that did not result in positive yardage (35.8 percent of opponent's plays from scrimmage). In 2013, the ASU defense had 101 tackles for loss and held offenses to 353 plays (out of 942 by the opposition) that did not earn positive yardage (including incomplete passes) - a 37.4 percentage rate of plays run from the line of scrimmage. The Sun Devils finished 20th nationally and second in the conference in tackles for loss per game (7.2). All told, in two seasons under Graham, ASU has forced 693 plays that have not resulted in positive yardage out of 1,895 total plays (36.6 percent).
LIGHT ‘EM UP Putting points on the scoreboard won't typically be a problem with Mike Norvell heading the offense, as ASU eclipsed 50 points six times in games in 2013, breaking the school record held by the 1973 team. ASU's 265 points at the midway point in 2013 (six games) were the second-most in program history through the first six games of a 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 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 finished 10th nationally at 39.7 points per game and scored 556 total points, just six points behind the 1972 school record.
RETURNING FIRE Perhaps the most exciting part about last year's offense breakout is the fact that ASU returns a good majority of those players for the 2014 campaign. In fact, ASU is the only school in the Pac-12 Conference to return a 3,000+ yard passer (Kelly), a 1,000+ yard receiver (Strong) and two 500+ yard rushers (Kelly/Foster). The Sun Devils are actually one of just three teams in the entire country to lay such a claim with Houston and Marshall being the only others.
BETTER SUITED FOR HANDKERCHIEFS 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 eight 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 2013, the Sun Devils finished eighth in fewest penalties (4.00) and seventh in fewest penalty yards per game (31.4).
MORE ON PENALTIES The Sun Devils don't give referees much reason to reach for their pockets under Todd Graham. Fourteen of ASU's 18 least penalized games since 2006 have come under Todd Graham, including eight of the 14 games played in 2013. SInce Todd Graham arrived at Arizona State, the Sun Devils have had just 111 penalties in 27 games (4.1 penalties per game). The team only has 56 penalities to date is 2013 compared to 55 in 2012 under Graham.
DROPPIN' A 50 SPOT ASU posted six games with over 50 points last season, including a four-game stretch in Pac-12 action. 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 has managed to score 30+ in four straight games in just three seasons during the Pac-10/12 era: 1993, 1996 and 2013. 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. The Sun Devils also set a Territorial Cup point record as far as Pac-10/12 era games (58) in the victory over Arizona. ASU's six games last year of 50 or more points surpassed its total from the previous four seasons combined (5).
MAKE ‘EM PAY ASU isn't in the habit of leaving points off the board following turnovers. In 2013, ASU outscored its opponents 146-42 on points off turnovers while posting a +15 takeaway number. ASU put points on the board following 75.8 percent of oppponent turnovers (25-of-33) compared to just the 33.3 (6-of-18) percent clip ASU opponents scored off of Sun Devil turnovers. ASU had 18 touchdowns in 2013 on 33 opponent turnovers, aided by five interception returns for touchdowns. In 2012, 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 that year, despite posting just a middling +6 number in the takeaway category. That year, ASU's opponents scored on just 41.7 percent of their drives following an ASU turnover and scored just seven touchdowns on 24 turnovers. In two years under Todd Graham, ASU has outscored opponents 275-100 in points of turnovers.
TURNOVER FACTORY The Sun Devils have forced a turnover in 29 consecutive games (including every game of the Todd Graham era), an active streak that currently ranks second among FBS institutions behind Missouri. Stanford previously had ranked ahead of the Sun Devils but ASU did not give up a turnover in the Pac-12 Championship game. ASU led the Pac-12 with 33 takeaways in 2013, finishing fifth nationally. The team was seventh nationally with a 1.1 turnover margin. The squad has forced 63 turnovers under Todd Graham in the last two seasons, second most among FBS institutions behind only Houston (74). In the Pac-12, only Oregon, ASU and Washington have had a positive turnover ration in each of the last three seasons. Additionally, ASU is the only team in the league with at least 30 takeaways in each of those seasons.
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 is working to re-write that definition with a defense that finds a way to directly lead to points on the board. The Sun Devils had five interception returns for touchdowns in 2013 and one safety, making the ASU defense directly responsible for 37 of ASU's points on the year. In 2012, ASU had three interceptions returned for touchdowns. 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 in 2012 and placed their stamp on 148 of ASU's 566 points (26.0 percent) scored in 2013. The icing on the cake for this statistic came on a goaline touchdown pass to defensive tackle Davon Coleman against Colorado, technically increasing ASU's defensive total to 155 points.
#NOFLYZONE The Sun Devil secondary had been up to task in the six-game winning streak leading up to the Pac-12 Championship, holding opponents to an average of 68.7 fewer passing yards per game than teams were averaging prior and no team in that time had thrown for more than their average coming in to that game. ASU finished third in the conference in passing yards allowed in Pac-12 games (222.3 per game). ASU now has eight interception returns for touchdowns under Graham, compared to posting just four total in the previous three seasons prior to 2012. The total is tied for second with Baylor behind only SMU (9) for the most in the past two seasons. ASU had 21 interceptions in 2013, ranked first in the conference and third nationally, and had 62 passes defensed, ranked 42nd nationally. ASU's five interception returns for touchdowns in 2013 were tied for first nationally with Florida State ,Baylor and Arizona. The Sun Devils have 42 interceptions in the last two seasons, second in the FBS behind only Houston (44).
GOLD ZONE One area that saw improvement last season for the Sun Devils was red zone offense, with ASU putting points on the board 91.3 percent of the time against FBS opponents in 2013, finishing sixth nationally in the category, as per TeamRankings.com. With the exception of a couple mercy kneels in the middle of the season, ASU had scored on 58-straight red zone drives prior to having two series fall short against Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship game. On the flip side, ASU allowed its FBS opponents to score 88.9 percent of the time in 2013 when entering the red zone (ranked 106th nationally), compared to an 80.5 percent figure last season that was 51st in the nation. That being said, the Sun Devils didn't let opponents into the red zone often, doing so just 46 times in 2013, ranked 56th nationally for fewest opponent red zone drives (compared to 75 trips for the Sun Devil offense, which leds the nation). In 2012, ASU scored on just 76.1 percent of their drives inside the 20 and ranked a lowly 93rd in the nation against FBS opponents.
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 makes about being successful in the field position battle to win games. Under Todd Graham, ASU has had an average starting yard line of its own 36.8 in 18 victories compared to a starting yard line of the 25.1 for their opponents in such contests. Conversely, opponents have an average starting field position of their own 33.7 yard line compared to ASU starting at its own 29.2 in ASU's nine losses under Graham. in 2012, ASU posted an average starting spot of its own 33-yard line that ranked 10th in the nation, according to the folks at Football Outsiders (www.footballoutsiders.com) and in 2013, the team ranked 13th nationally (average starting yard line: 33.3). The Sun Devils also held their opponents to an average starting line of their own 28-yard-line, a total that ranked 24th nationally in 2013, though the squad dropped a bit to 32nd this season (average opp. starting yardline: 28.2). ASU had 10 scoring drives of 80 yards or longer through in 2013 (including the game-winning drive aganst Utah), a notable feat as ASU had six such drives in the entirety of the 2012 season.
CLOSING THINGS OUT ASU outscored opponents 132-79 in the fourth quarter of 2013 contests. As whole, ASU has outscored other teams 258-141 in the fourth quarter under Todd Graham. ASU finished 10th in the nation in points per fourth quarter in 2013 against FBS opposition (9.9) after finishing the 2012 season wtih 9.3 points per fourth quarter, which was good for eighth nationally. ASU's 16.8 second-half points per game against FBS squads in 2013 was 24th 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.
HALFTIME MOMENTUM The Sun Devils did a good job of building some cushion heading into halftime last season, finishing fourth nationally in second quarter points per game at 12.6. The Sun Devils scored 20 or more points in five second quarters in 2013 and outscored the opposition 192-115 on the season in the second quarter of games - the highest point discrepency between ASU and its opponents in any quarter on the 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 used 15 timeouts last season with its opponents facing third down and forced a fourth down on 10 of those occassions (66.7 percent).
#NOFIRSTDOWNFORYOU The ASU defense forced opponents to 80 three-and-outs on 189 drives (42.3 percent), ranked fifth nationally with 5.71 three-and-outs per game in 2013. 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's 80 total three and outs forced during the 2013 season were the second most nationally behind only Baylor (83).
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 2013 season (allowing opponents an average of 182.8 yards per game and ranking 86th in the FBS in the category at the time), the Sun Devil defense found its groove during the squad's seven-game winning streak in holding opponents to a lowly 98.8 yards per game in that span despite facing one of the top-ranked rushing programs in the country in Arizona. Even then, Arizona was held under their season average with 249 rushing yards in the contest. ASU held six opponents under 100 rushing yards last season, a feat that hadn't been accomplished since 2009 when the team also had six such games. The Sun Devils finished the season ranked 26th nationally and fourth in the Pac-12, allowing opponents to average just 137.6 yards per game on the ground.
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 found its running legs by the end, averaging 191.4 yards per game and ranked 40th nationally. Even after ASU's slow start to the season in the category, the squad still posted the fourth-highest single season rushing mark of the last 25 seasons. ASU 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. During the seven game winning streak, ASU averaged 229.1 yards per game on the ground compared to just 98.8 yards per game that opponents posted.
ROAD WARRIORS Winning away from home in college football is difficult, especially in conference games. Under 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 garnered three straight road wins (at Washington State, at Utah and at #14 UCLA) and are winners of four of the last five road games under Graham. That is seven road wins in the past 12 road games for ASU, including six Pac-12 Conference road wins in the past nine 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.
RECORD NOTABLES Last season, ASU 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. The league only played seven league games in 1978 and 1979, eight in 1980, then went to a seven-game slate from 1981-90. The league went to an eight-game slate in 1991 and then a nine-game slate in 2006. The team's eight wins matched the 1996 school record for the most conference wins in Sun Devil history (including Border and WAC schedules). With the Territorial Cup win, ASU reached 10 wins for the first time since the 2007 season. In fact, in the history of Sun Devil football, ASU has reached the 10-win plateau just 12 times. Additionally, all eight of ASU's conference victories came consecutively and capped a streak that marked just the 13th time in history the Sun Devils won five or more conference games in a row (Border and WAC years included). Prior to this season, ASU had won five or more conference games in a row just three times (‘96, ‘97, ‘07) since 1987.
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 finished with 142 such plays in 2013 (82 passing, 60 rushing) and 165 (90 passing, 75 rushing) in 2012. Jaelen Strong finished with 29 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. The Sun Devils finished the season tied for seventh in the nation in plays longer than 20 yards in 2013 with 86 after having 72 in 2012, which was good for 19th in the country in the category.
PROTECT THIS HOUSE With the loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship, ASU finished the season with a 7-1 record at Sun Devil Stadium and is now 11-3 under Todd Graham in Tempe. The 2013 season marked just the second time ASU has gone undefeated at home in the regular season in the past 16 seasons (since 1997), also going 6-0 in 2004. ASU also had a perfect record at home in ‘59, ‘64, ‘68, ‘70, ‘71, ‘73, ‘75, ‘81 and ‘96. After 13 games under Todd Graham, the Sun Devils have averaged 46.1 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 in a regular season home game under Graham is 21 against Oregon in 2012 and ASU has scored 20 or more in 20 consecutive regular season home games, dating back to 2010. ASU outscored opponents 198-51 in the first half at home last season. ASU's 49.1 points per game at home in 2013 were sixth in the nation, just shy of the school record for scoring offense at home, which was 49.2 points set by the 1972 team.
RUN THE CLOCK One of the biggest areas improvement for the Sun Devils in 2013 was the clock management side of things. In 2012, 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 averaged 30:21 minutes of possession time per game - a total that ranked fourth in the conference and 51st nationally. The team had 13 scoring drives over four minutes in 2013, compared to just three in 2012. "So, ASU's offense scores fast and thus time of possession is irrelevent," you say? Not so fast, my friend. ASU is 11-2 when leading in time of possession under Todd Graham compared to a 7-8 record when trailing in the time of possession category.
IN-ZANE IN THE MEMBRANE True freshman placekicker Zane Gonzalez had a nice hot streak in 2013, hitting 18 straight field goals beginning the USC game on September 28 before missing one in the Pac-12 Championship game against Stanford. The Deer Park, Texas, product did, however, earn Pac-12 First Team honors for his incredible season. Gonzalez finished the year hitting 25 of 30 field goals (83.3 percent) and booted 63 of 65 extra points. Gonzalez finished No. 10 in the nation in scoring at 9.9 points per game and led the Pac-12 kick scoring category by a large margin. The next kicker on the list was Stanford's Jordan Williamson at 8.8. His 138 points by kick scoring were No. 1 in the Pac-12, far ahead of No. 2 Travis Coons of Colorado (107 points). Gonzalez was No. 1 in the Pac-12 in field goals at 1.7 per game. Gonzalez led the Pac-12 with 25 field goals, seven ahead of Williamson's 18 field goals this season. Gonzalez was named one of 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award, given annually to the nation's top kicker.
FG-onzal-EZ Gonzalez finished with 138 points on the season, breaking the long-standing school record in the category that was previous held by Wilford White's 136 in 1950. Gonzalez's 138 points demolished the previous scoring record by an ASU kicker that was 118, set by Thomas Weber (2007) and Mike Barth (2002). With 25 field goals last season, Gonzalez tied the NCAA freshman record of 25 that was set by UCLA's Kai Forbath in 2007 (25-30) and made more field goals than any other player in the FBS in the process and four more than any other freshman in the nation.
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. The 2012 Sun Devils rushed the ball on 59.1 percent of their total plays followed by a 55.2 percent tally in 2013. In 2011, ASU rushed just 44.5 percent of the time. Over the past eight seasons at Pitt, Tulsa, Rice and now ASU, only one Graham-coached team has ranked outside the top 50 nationally in sacks. The Sun Devils averaged 4.0 sacks per game in 2012, the second-best mark in the nation, and then 2.9 in 2013 to finish 17th nationally in the category. In eight seasons, Graham is 25-22 in true road games. ASU was 3-3 in such games in 2012 and 3-2 in road games in 2013. In the previous four seasons prior to Graham's arrival, ASU was 5-16. In seven of the past eight years, Graham's teams have ranked 39th or better nationally in fewest penalty yards per game. The Sun Devils averaged only 34.92 penalty yards per game in 2012, which was good for eighth in the nation, and bettered that in 2013 at just 31.36 penalty yards per game (seventh nationally).
HANG ON TO YOUR SEATS ASU played in four games in 2013 decided by seven points or less, going 3-1 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.
TODD'S WINNING WAYS At one point ranked 11th in the AP Poll, Todd Graham achieved his highest ranking as a head coach in his career in 2013. The team also peaked at 11th in the BCS standings, also a new high for Graham. Graham has won 18 games in his first two seasons at Arizona State. To put that into perspective, Frank Kush won 17 games in his first two seasons as head coach. Of all the coaching hires made in prior to the 2012 season, Graham has posted the fifth-best record alongside UCLA's Jim Mora during his first two years at the helm at 18-8 behind only Urban Meyer (24-2), Tim DeRuyter (20-6), Kevin Sumlin (20-6) and Jim Mora (19-8).
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE The Sun Devils' 10 wins in 2013 were made even more impressive by the fact that the team held the nation's sixth toughest schedule based on the winning percentage of opponents played. ASU's non-FCS opponents in 2013 posted a 84-50 record on the season (62.7) and marked the toughest schedule played by a Pac-12 institution.
TAKING DOWN THE TOP ASU was 3-2 last season against team's ranked in the AP Top-25 Poll. ASU defeated No. 20 Wisconsin, No. 20 Washington and No. 14 UCLA in 2013 while losing to Stanford twice. ASU's three victories were the most since 1997 when the team went 3-1 against teams ranked in the AP poll. The school record for AP wins is five, set by the 1986 Rose Bowl team.
EIGHT WINS AND NO EASY LAYUPS In 2013, California went 0-9 in Pac-12 play, the 13th team to go winless in league play since the Pac-10 was created in 1978. ASU missed Cal on the schedule, making ASU's eight-wins in Pac-12 play even more impressive. Only twice prior has the team that has won a Pac-10 or Pac-12 championship not played a winless team in those 12 seasons. In 1982, the Pac-10 Champion UCLA Bruins did not play the Oregon State Beavers, who went 0-7 in the conference. And in 1997, Washington State - who was named co-champions with UCLA - did not play a Beavers team that went 0-7 in the conference that year.
SCHOLAR-BALLERS The Sun Devils have had a recent history of putting numerous student-athletes on the field that have already earned their degrees and the 2014 roster is no different. ASU will feature eight players this season that have earned their undergraduate degrees and will be pursuing graduate coursework. That total ranks in a tie for 13th nationally and is tops amoung Pac-12 institutions. Additionally. ASU has 40 student-athletes on its roster that are members of Sun Devil Athletics' Scholar-Baller Program, which honors athletes who maintain over a 3.00 GPA in the classroom.
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