Sun Devils Play Host to Nevada Saturday Night

Sept. 4, 2006

FOOTBALL CENTRAL 


GAME INFORMATION
Date: Saturday, September 9, 2006
Kickoff: 7 p.m. PT
Site: Sun Devil Stadium (71,706), Tempe, Ariz.
Television: Fox Sports Net Arizona
Play-by-Play/Color: Trey Bender/Doug Plank
Sideline Reporter: Jody Jackson
Sun Devil Radio: KTAR 620 AM & KMVP/ESPN Radio 860
Play-by-Play
: Tim Healey
Color: Former Arizona State QB Jeff Van Raaphorst
Sideline Reporter: Amy Bender
Spanish Radio: KIDR 740
Play-by-Play: Ivan Lara
Color: Former Sun Devil All-American OL Juan Roque


WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS WEEK
• A win this week would give the Sun Devils their third 2-0 start in the last four seasons. ASU's best start during that span came in 2004 when they won their first five games and went on to a 9-3 record.
• ASU's 18-8 record in its last 26 games is third-best in the Pac-10. Only USC (25-1) and California (19-7) have better records.
• The nation's leader in pass efficiency in 2005, sophomore Rudy Carpenter is 5-1 as ASU's starting quarterback (last five games of 2005 and one game in 2006). Carpenter has thrown for 300 or more yards in four of his six career starts, including a career-best 467 yards in ASU's 45-40 win over Rutgers in the Insight Bowl last December.
• Junior All-America TE Zach Miller (98 career receptions) needs 18 receptions to pass former Sun Devil All-America and current Baltimore Ravens TE Todd Heap (115 receptions) for the most career receptions by a Sun Devil tight end.
• Senior PK Jesse Ainsworth (118 career PATs) needs two PATs to pass former Sun Devil Danny Kush (1973-76) for fourth on ASU's all-time list.
• This week's game represents only the third all-time meeting between the Sun Devils and Wolf Pack and the first since 1947.
• Arizona State's inclusion in the 2006 preseason Associated Press poll (24th) marks just the second time it has been ranked in the preseason poll in back-to-back years in 24 seasons (1983 to present). It was ranked 20th in the poll last year. In 1998, ASU was ranked eighth in the preseason poll and was 25th prior to the 1999 season.


TEMPE, Ariz. - Coming off their 35-14 victory over Northern Arizona last Thursday night, the No. 24 Arizona State Sun Devils (1-0) will look to stay unbeaten when they host the Nevada Wolf Pack (0-1) on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Frank Kush Field/Sun Devil Stadium.

The Wolf Pack is coming off a 28-19 loss at Fresno State. In that game Nevada nearly overcame a 15-point deficit, getting within two points (21-19) before Fresno State answered with a 15-play, 76-yard touchdown drive to put the game out of reach.

LAST WEEK (ASU 35, Northern Arizona 14)
Led by a stingy defense, which recorded nine sacks and accounted for one touchdown, No. 24 Arizona State opened its 2006 campaign with a 35-14 victory over Northern Arizona.
The Sun Devils exploded for 21 fourth-quarter points to break open what was a tie game (14-14) entering the fourth quarter. On the first play of the final stanza, junior CB Chris Baloney stepped in front of a pass by Lumberjacks QB Jason Murrietta and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown to put ASU up 21-14.

ASU's defense dominated the quarter allowing NAU only 39 yards in total offense. On the other side of the ball, the Sun Devils running game polished off the win, gaining 113 yards in the fourth quarter. Sophomore RB Keegan Herring and freshman RB Dimitri Nance both ran for touchdowns as the Sun Devils won their fourth consecutive season opener.

Defensively, senior LB Derron Ware led the way, accounting for eight solo stops, including three of ASU's nine sacks and four tackles for loss overall.

Sophomore QB Rudy Carpenter improved to 5-1 as a starter after throwing for 261 yards and two touchdowns. Junior WR Rudy Burgess led all Sun Devil receivers with seven receptions for a career-best 112 yards while junior RB Ryan Torain and sophomore RB Shaun DeWitty both recorded touchdown receptions.

POST-GAME NOTES
• For the third time under Dirk Koetter, ASU's defense recorded eight or more sacks in one game. ASU's nine sacks against NAU are the most in the Koetter era, eclipsing the previous high of eight sacks set twice before (at Oregon St., 2005 and vs. Washington, 2002).
• Derron Ware's three sacks were the most for a Sun Devil since former DL DeWayne Hollyfield had three last season at Oregon State (Sept. 24).
• Chris Baloney's 35-yard interception return for a touchdown was the first for the Sun Devil defense since former Sun Devil Josh Golden did so last season against Washington (Oct. 29).
• The Sun Devils allowed just 53 net rushing yards to the Lumberjacks, the team's best effort since holding Stanford to 37 yards on Nov. 6, 2004. It also marks the seventh-best defensive rushing effort under Koetter.
• ASU's 21 fourth quarter points were the most in a `fourth quarter' since it scored 21 points in last year's loss at Stanford (Oct. 22).
• Rudy Carpenter's first-quarter interception (pass was deflected) on his fourth attempt of the game snapped his school record of 149 consecutive attempts without an interception. Prior to his interception against NAU last interception came in the first quarter of last year's 27-24 win at Washington State. Just like against NAU, the interception came in the endzone.

SUN DEVILS-WOLF PACK SERIES NOTES
The Wolf Pack has won the only two meetings in the series, both coming in the 1940s.

CARPENTER GETS THE CALL
Record-setting sophomore Rudy Carpenter will continue to guide the Sun Devil offense in 2006 after being forced into duty midway through last season.

Despite not starting until the eighth game of the 2005 season, Carpenter finished the year ranked first in the nation with a school record 175.01 passer efficiency rating while also ranking third nationally in completion percentage (68.4). He also threw for a team-high and school freshman record 2,273 yards to go along with 17 touchdown passes. In addition, he achieved a nation-leading and team record-low interception percentage (.008), after throwing two interceptions out of 228 total passing attempts.

Carpenter, who led ASU to a 4-1 record last season, threw for 300 or more yards in four of his five starts. He capped-off his phenomenal rookie campaign by earning Offensive Player of the Game honors for his role in ASU's victory against Rutgers in the 2005 Insight Bowl. In that game, Carpenter accounted for ASU individual bowl game records of 467 passing yards and four touchdown passes.

Last week Carpenter moved his record as a starter to 5-1 after throwing for 261 yards and two scores in ASU's 35-14 win over Northern Arizona. His yardage total tied USC QB John David Booty for the second-most passing yards by a Pac-10 QB in week one of the 2006 season.

In the first quarter of last week's game vs. NAU, Carpenter threw an interception, his first in a school record 149 consecutive attempts going back to the ninth game of last season.

Below is a listing of where Carpenter's name stands in the ASU record books after only six career starts.

MILLER AMONG NATION'S ELITE TIGHT ENDS
As if he didn't already figure prominently in ASU's offense, junior All-America TE Zach Miller figures to have an even bigger role, particularly early in the season, in 2006 as ASU looks to replace key receiving threats from last season. Lost to graduation were the all-time leading receiver in Pac-10 history (Derek Hagan); ASU's best deep-threat (Matt Miller) and one of its most reliable third-down options (Moey Mutz).

After a little more than two seasons Miller, who was named to the John Mackey Award Watch List, is at or near the top of the career standards for ASU tight ends in touchdown receptions (10, tied for second), receptions (98, second) and receiving yards (1,075, fourth). His 98 catches are more than any other tight end in the nation the last two seasons while his receiving yardage and touchdown totals are both the second-most in the nation at his position during that same duration. According to his head coach, it is not only his ability as a receiver that makes him such a special player.

'In my opinion, Zach Miller is one of the best blocking tight ends in the nation,' Koetter said. 'He gets a ton of credit for his acrobatic catches, but when you watch cut-ups you see what a tremendous blocker he is.'

After his freshman season, Miller earned second-team All-America honors, just one of four freshmen to earn first team or second-team All-American accolades that season. Miller also earned first-team Freshman All-American accolades for his successful 2004 season. In 2004, he was named the Pacific-10 Conference Freshman of the Year, becoming just the second Sun Devil to earn the honor (Terrell Suggs, 2000).

As a freshman, Miller broke the ASU record for receptions in a season by a tight end with 56. His 56 receptions in 2004 tied for the most receptions in the NCAA by a tight end. Along with his 56 receptions, he tallied 552 receiving yards and six touchdowns. In 2005, Miller missed some time with an injury and still managed the team's third-highest amount of receptions with 38, four of which were touchdowns. He also recorded 476 receiving yards for an average of 12.5 yards per reception.

Currently, Miller needs 18 receptions, 611 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions to become the school's career leader for a tight end in each of the aforementioned categories.

NO SHORTAGE OF EXPERIENCE
One thing Rudy Carpenter can rest assured of this season is that he will be protected by one of the most experienced and reliable offensive lines in the country. Midway through last season such a statement might have been hard for anyone to fathom. In 2005, no position on the ASU roster was more depleted by injuries than the offensive line. Last season, nine Sun Devils started along the offensive line. However under offensive line coach Brent Myers, veteran leaders and qualified reserves emerged, enabling ASU to rank second in the nation in total offense, and also rush for 145.7 yards per game.

ASU's returning line has combined for 86 starts, the fifth-most experienced starting line in the nation entering the 2006 season. Last week against NAU the line enabled the Sun Devils to roll up 415 yards in total offense. Carpenter was sacked only once, the third consecutive game that ASU's line allowed only one sack going back to last season.

NCAA Division I Football Most experienced starting Offensive Line for 2006
(based on combined career starts)
1. Tulsa - 95 starts
2. Central Florida - 93 starts
3. Oregon State - 91 starts
4. Clemson - 90 starts
5. Arizona State - 86 starts

DEVILS BRING THE `D'
If the performance of Arizona State's defense against Northern Arizona is any indication of how it will perform this season the 2006 season could be a special one for ASU. The starting defensive unit against NAU included seven players who had two or fewer starts at ASU prior to Thursday's game, including five players who were making the first start of their Sun Devil careers.

Below are some of the highlights from the unit's Week 1 outing.
• Recorded nine sacks, the most in Dirk Koetter's six seasons at ASU. Eight of the nine sacks were by players who never had a sack at ASU prior to Thursday night.
• Allowed just 53 net rushing yards to the Lumberjacks, ASU's best effort since holding Stanford to 37 yards on Nov. 6, 2004. It also marked the seventh-best defensive rushing effort under Koetter.
• Gave up only 76 yards of total offense (2.8 yards per play) in the second half.
• In his first start as a Sun Devil, senior LB Derron Ware had four tackles for loss, including three sacks.
• In his first game as a Sun Devil, junior CB Chris Baloney had a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown.

BACK ATTACK
When a team ranks third in the country in passing offense it would not be hard to understand why its running game, no matter how solid, might be overlooked. Last season the Sun Devils averaged 145.7 yards per game, their highest average since head coach Dirk Koetter's first year at ASU in 2001.

As successful as last season was on the ground, the Sun Devils' running game has the potential for even bigger things in 2006. ASU has no shortage of talent in its backfield, which includes sophomore Keegan Herring, who led the team in rushing last season with 870 yards; sophomore Shaun DeWitty, a 6-2, 215-pound back who had an solid spring for ASU; junior college transfer Ryan Torain, who rushed for more than 800 yards and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore at Butler (Kan.) CC despite missing four games with an injury; and freshman Dimitri Nance, who ran up career totals of 3,173 yards and 41 touchdowns during his high school career.

The aforementioned quartet of running backs combined for 142 yards rushing (5.1 per-carry average) in ASU's season-opening victory over Northern Arizona. Nance led the way with 61 yards and one score. In addition to being able to run the football, Torain (3 rec, 58 yards, 1 TD) and DeWitty (2 rec, 34 yards, 1 TD) also showed they could catch the ball out of the backfield as the two combined for five receptions for 92 yards and two touchdowns. All together, ASU's running backs rolled up 234 yards (rushing and receiving) on 33 `touches' (7.1 yards per touch) against NAU.

MANY HAPPY RETURNS FOR T-RICH
Senior WR/KR/PR Terry Richardson, who earned Second Team All-America honors last season from SI.com, was named the US Bank Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance in last season's game against USC and he was ranked as one of the top returners in the nation last season.

His 84-yard punt return for a TD in the first quarter against USC (10/1) marked the first by a Sun Devil since current St. Louis Ram Shaun McDonald had a 78-yarder against USC on Nov. 4, 2000. It was the 10th-longest punt return in school history (9th-longest for a TD) and the longest by a Sun Devil since Eric Guliford had an 89-yarder against California in 1992.

In the last regular season game Richardson would deliver again with a momentum-turning return of 71 yards against Arizona for a touchdown that tied the game in the fourth quarter. It made him the sixth Sun Devil overall and first since Ron Washington (1977) to return a pair of kicks for touchdowns in a season.

Richardson ended last season No. 2 in the Pac-10 and No. 7 in the nation with an average of 15.3 yards per punt return while also sitting third in the Pac-10 and No. 15 in the nation with an average of 27.4 yards on kickoff returns. Both his punt (337 yards) and kick return (629) yardage totals for the season were good enough to make into the top five of the school's all-time single-season annals. On offense, Richardson finished fourth on the team with 37 catches for 495 yards (13.4 avg.) and five touchdowns.

JUST FOR KICKS
In his three years Jesse Ainsworth has made it a habit of being nearly perfect on PAT attempts, missing just three times in 126 tries. [Dating back to the final game of the 2003 season when he connected on 4-of-4 PATs to start his current streak of 102 in a row, a school record.]

Ainsworth, who was a perfect 53-of-53 last season after going 40-of-40 in 2004, moved past former program record holder Luis Zendejas, who netted 75 from 1981-83. Ainsworth tied Zendejas' mark when he connected on a try following ASU's first touchdown against Oregon last season, a 20-yard touchdown reception by Derek Hagan in the first quarter. In the third stanza, Ainsworth hit home the record-breaking 76th PAT in a row.

Ainsworth's 53 PATs last season put him fourth in ASU's record books for the most PATs made in a single season. Ainsworth's 37 field goals are fourth-most in a career and he needs two more to move into a tie for third. He also is just the sixth kicker in school annals to score 200 or more points as his 234 points are nine behind Robert Nycz (1995-97) for third on the list.

PRESEASON RANKINGS
Arizona State's inclusion in the 2006 preseason Associated Press poll (24th) marks just the second time it has been ranked in the preseason poll in back-to-back years in 24 seasons (1983 to present). It was ranked 20th in the poll last year. In 1998, ASU was ranked eighth in the preseason poll and was 25th prior to the 1999 season.

ASU In the Preseason Rankings
Associated Press - 24th
Athlon - 24th
CBS Sportsline (Dennis Dodd) - 24th
College Football News - 20th
USA Today Coaches Poll - NR
Sporting News - NR
Sports Illustrated - 16th

ASU PICKED TO FINISH FOURTH IN PRESEASON PAC-10 POLL
ASU was picked to finish fourth in the Pacific-10 Conference in a pre-season poll of West Coast media members who regularly cover the league. Defending Pac-10 champion USC earned 18 first-place votes and was picked to win its fourth straight Pac-10 title. The Sun Devils will travel to Los Angeles to face the Trojans on October 14th at Memorial Coliseum.

Four teams received first place votes this season after USC was the unanimous choice last year. The Trojans garnered 18 votes, while Cal was second with seven. Oregon received three votes and the Sun Devils also earned a first place vote.

The media poll has correctly selected the Conference Champion in 23 of 45 previous polls, including the last six years in a row.

ASU TO HONOR '86 AND '96 ROSE BOWL TEAMS

Scheduled in conjunction with ASU's football game against Washington State University at Sun Devil Stadium on November 11, ASU will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 1986 Rose Bowl team and the 10th anniversary of the 1996 Rose Bowl team.

Former Sun Devil head football coaches John Cooper (1986) and Bruce Snyder (1996) have been contacted and have committed to attend the weekend's festivities.

The 1986 Sun Devils captured the Pac-10 title and culminated their season with a 22-15 victory over Michigan in the 1987 Rose Bowl. It was the first Rose Bowl appearance in ASU history. The team would finish its season with a 10-1-1 record.

The 1996 Sun Devils had an undefeated regular season before falling to Ohio State in the 1997 Rose Bowl. Highlights of the year included shutting out top-ranked and two-time defending national champion Nebraska 19-0 on Sept. 21, 1996 and overcoming a three-touchdown deficit to beat UCLA on the road.

UP NEXT
ASU goes on the road for the first time in 2006 when it travels to Boulder, Colo., to take on the Colorado Buffaloes (Sat., Sept. 16, 5 p.m. MDT). It will be the first ever meeting in football between the two schools.

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