National University Holiday Bowl vs. Texas Tech Awaits ASU
TEMPE -- The No. 16 Arizona State University football program (No. 14 BCS/No. 17 Coaches) will face the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the 36th National University Holiday Bowl on Dec. 30 in San Diego.
ASU will play in its third consecutive bowl game for the first time since 2005-07, and its 27th overall, at Qualcomm Stadium at 8:15 p.m. MT on ESPN. This will be the Sun Devils’ fourth appearance in the Holiday Bowl and its first since being Pac-10 co-Champions in 2007. The Sun Devil football program is currently in its 101st season of competition in 2013. The Sun Devils are 578-365-24 (.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. ASU dropped then-No. 14 UCLA in Pasadena to clinch the Pac-12 South Championship before wrapping up the regular season with a 58-21 rout over Arizona for the Territorial Cup. The Sun Devils fell to Rose Bowl-bound Stanford a second time in the Pac-12 Championships game, 38-14. Complete game recaps from all games are located on Page 11.
#10THINGS (Twitter-Friendly Notes)
1. @FootballASU looks to end an ominous record at the @HolidayBowlGame, having gone 0-3 in prior appearances.
2. @FootballASU has 5 INT returns for TDs this season, tied for first nationally. Had 4 in 3 prior seasons to @CoachGrahamASU #NoFlyZone
3. Will Sutton was named to AP 1st Team All-America 2nd season in a row, becomes 15th #Devil to earn the honors
4. #FootballASU has #PT42 interceptions in the last two seasons, tied for the most among FBS schools with Houston.
5. @FootballASU has forced 61 turnovers under @CoachGrahamASU in last 2 seasons, second most among FBS institutions behind only Houston (71).
6. In 2013, ASU is outscoring it’s opponents 136-52 on points off turnovers while posting a +14 takeaway number.
7. With a victory in the @HolidayBowlGame, it would mark just the second 11-win season in the past 38 seasons (1976-2013) for ASU.
8. #Devils now have four freshman All-Americans in two years under @CoachGrahamASU - Fiso, Foster, Gonzalez, Hood #SunDevilPride
9. Some pretty good coaches were hired after 2011 season (27 in total) & @CoachGrahamASU 18-8 record ranks as 4th best
10. @SweetTeaWillie joins safeties David Fulcher (84-85) and Mike Richardson (81-82) as only 2-time AP 1st Team All-Americans in #ASU history
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. The Holiday Bowl will be broadcast on 92.3 KTAR FM. Weekly radio coverage begins two hours prior to kickoff with the “Talking Stick Resort Sun Devil Tailgate Show,” hosted by Doug Franz. The game will also be broadcast on Sirius Channel 84.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION Saturday’s contest will mark the fifth appearance for ASU on the ESPN Family of Networks this season. ASU is currently 3-1 on games played on the ESPN channels this season with victories over #20 Wisconsin, USC and Washington State. The Sun Devils will kick off at approximately 8:15 p.m. Arizona time. Joe Tessitore will provide the call with Matt Millen alongside on color while Maria Taylor will provide insight from the sidelines.
ON THE RED RAIDERS There is not much history between ASU and Texas Tech as the teams have played just once before in history, a 31-13 Sun Devil victory back in 1999. The 2013 matchup between the Sun Devils and Texas Tech features a Red Raider offense that averages 392 passing yards per game, the second most in the nation, and an ASU defense that ranks in the top eight in the nation in interceptions, turnovers forced and sacks. Of note of the lone matchup between the two teams: the 1999 battle marked just the first time in ASU history the team had played on a Monday. This year’s contest will also be on a Monday, just the fourth time ever after the 2000 Aloha Bowl and 2011 Las Vegas Bowl .
ON THE HOLIDAY BOWL ASU is 0-3 in previous Holiday Bowls with a 18-17 loss to Arkansas in 1985, a 34-27 loss to Kansas State in 2002 and a 52-34 loss to Texas in 2007. Two Sun Devils have been named the Holiday Bowl Defensive Player of the Game, including Greg Battle in 1985 and Terrell Suggs in 2002. Coach Graham is 4-1 in bowl games in his career and has won in his past three appearances, including a 62-28 win over Navy in the 2012 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in his first season at ASU. The Sun Devils are 13-12-1 all-time in bowl appearances.
GAME NOTES FROM THE PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP
-With the loss, Arizona State dropped to 16-13 all-time against Stanford and 10-5 against them at home. The Sun Devils have dropped their last four games between these two teams.
-ASU finished 7-1 at home in Sun Devil Stadium/Frank Kush Field in 2013. The last time it went undefeated at home came in 2004 with a 6-0 record but fell just short of the mark this year after dropping its conference championship.
-D.J. Foster’s 65-yard touchdown reception which sent him scampering down the ASU sideline and into the end zone set a new Pac-12 Football Championship Game record for longest passing play.
-The Sun Devils have forced a turnover in 27-straight games, including one or more in all 26 games under Coach Graham’s helm.
-Arizona State scored seven points against Stanford in the first quarter Saturday, but gave up 14 to the Cardinals. That mark was the most the Devils have given up in a first quarter this season.
-A total of 69,535 people packed Sun Devil Stadium for the Pac-12 Championship game, a Pac-12 Championship game record.
IN THE RANKINGS Arizona State fell to No. 16 in the most recent AP Poll while dropping to No. 17 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and 14th in the BCS standings. Below are the individual and team categories that ASU ranks in the top-25 in nationally:
ASU is No. 7 in fewest penalties per game (3.77)
ASU is No. 4 in fewest penalty yards per game (29.23)
ASU is No. 17 in first downs defense (219)
ASU is No. 10 in first downs offense (320)
ASU is No. 15 in fumbles lost (6)
ASU is No. 3 in passes intercepted (21)
ASU is No. 13 in red zone offense (0.901)
ASU is No. 9 in scoring offense (41.0)
ASU is No. 7 in team pass sacks (3.08)
ASU is No. 20 in team tackles for loss (7.2)
ASU is No. 7 in turnover margin (1.1)
ASU is No. 5 in turnovers gained (31)
Marion Grice is No. 3 in all purpose (176.45)
Taylor Kelly is No. 15 in completions per game (22.00)
Zane Gonzalez is No. 6 in field goals per game (1.7)
Robert Nelson is No. 13 in interceptions (0.5)
Taylor Kelly is No. 13 in passing TDs (28)
Taylor Kelly is No. 13 in passing yards (3,510)
Taylor Kelly is No. 20 in passing yards per game (270.0)
Taylor Kelly is No. 12 in points responsible for (216)
Taylor Kelly is No. 17 in points responsible for per game (17.1)
Marion Grice is No. 14 in rushing TDs (14)
Marion Grice is No. 5 in scoring (10.9)
Zane Gonzalez is No. 13 in scoring (9.8)
Carl Bradford is No. 15 in tackles for loss (1.4)
Taylor Kelly is No. 17 in total offense (306.4)
Jaelen Strong is No. 25 in receiving yards (1,094)
Chris Young is No. 22 in solo tackles (5.6)
--The Sun Devils have forced an opponent turnover in 28 consecutive games, the third-longest active streak among all FBS institutions behind only Stanford and Missouri.
--ASU’s victory over Arizona 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 has had an interception return for a touchdown five times this season and once in three of the last four games. 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 has thrown for 28 touchdowns this 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 3,510 passing yards are 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.
STRIKE FIRST With Zane Gonazalez’s 38-yard field goal on ASU’s first possession against Arizona, Arizona State has scored first in 21 of the 26 games with Todd Graham at the helm, and is 9-1 in such contests this season. 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 108 of ASU’s 150 offensive scoring drives under Graham coming in three minutes or less (72.0 percent). That being said, ASU also has 14 scoring drives of four minutes or longer in 12 games this season, compared to having three such drives in the entirety of 2012. ASU’s high-powered offense still resonates with the high number of quick scoring drives, however, scoring in three minutes or less on 58 of the team’s 84 scoring drives to date (69.0 percent). 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 5.4 points per drive. In ASU’s 14 drives this season lasting longer than four minutes, the team is averaging just 4.1 points per score.
START STRONG...FINISH STRONG The Sun Devils have now outscored their opposition 272-126 in the first quarter under Todd Graham and are outscoring opponents 124-57 in the first this season. The Sun Devils are 13-1 under Graham when holding their opposition scoreless in the first and have done so in six of the team’s 10 wins this season. ASU improved to 16-0 when leading at halftime with Graham as coach following the Arizona contest. ASU also knows how to close out games, outscoring teams 255-141 in the fourth quarter of games under Graham. ASU has outscored its opponent in nine of 13 games in the fourth quarter this season, with two exceptions coming in games that were well in hand against USC and Colorado.
EIGHT WINS AND NO EASY LAYUPS This past season 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 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.
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 28 touchdowns with 11 interceptions this season (one coming on a Hail Mary against Stanford). Through 13 games, Kelly has 3,510 passing yards and is averaging 270.0 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). This season, Kelly has moved into the top five in 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 6-7 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 have come this year, showing an 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 13th nationally in points responsible for with 216 (28 passing, eight rushing), breaking the previous school record in the category of 198 previously set by Mike Pagel in 1981.
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 668 rushing yards on 112 attempts (6.0 ypc) and has been on fire in the last eight games with eight rushing touchdowns while rushing for 462 yards (sacks excluded) on 84 carries (5.5 yards per rush). Those eight 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 37 rushes for first down, trailing only Marion Grice (45). He is also second on the team in “explosive plays” on the ground (rushes of 12 or more yards) with 16 this season, 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 Third down is Taylor Kelly down. The junior quarterback leads the team in third down rushes this season with 25. Thirteen 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 6.8 yards per rush on third down and is currently tied for sixth nationally in touchdown rushes on third down with five.
#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 duo has combined for 2,433 yards of total offense and 29 touchdowns, representing 40.6 percent of ASU’s 5,990 yards for scrimmage this season and 47.0 percent of the team’s offensive touchdowns. The duo has been instrumental in moving the chains as well, accounting for 111 of the team’s 292 non-penalty induced first downs this season (38.0 percent). Foster and Grice are ranked first and fourth, respectively, this season in receiving yards by a running back (630 and 438).
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). He has 21 explosive plays this season (12 receiving, nine rushing), currently third on the team. Foster has made his mark in the receiving game this season with 58 grabs for 630 yards (10.9 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 has a knack for getting to the first down marker as he is currently tied for second on the team with 45 first downs on 131 touches this season (34.4 percent). Foster had a career day on the ground against Arizona with career highs in carries (23), yards (124) and touchdowns (2).
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 71 grabs for 1,094 yards (5.5 rpg/84.2 ypg) and seven touchdowns this season. 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 currently has seven 100+ yard games through his first 13 games at ASU. Despite it being his first season, Strong is on pace to leave his name in the record books. With 71 receptions this season, Strong is fifth on ASU’s all-time single season receptions list while his current clip of 5.5 receptions per game would finish fourth for a Sun Devil in a single season.
THE FORCE IS STRONG Just as impressive as Jaelen Strong’s statistics are, his ability to make catches when they count can’t be overlooked. A total of 46 of his receptions have gone for first downs while he has also drawn 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 52 of ASU’s 320 total first downs this season. Putting that in perspective, ASU’s leading wide receiver last season has 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. His 105 receiving yards on fourth down this season lead the nation while his two touchdowns and four receptions 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 29 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 nine tackles for loss against Stanford and three stops at the line of scrimmage along with eight incomplete passes (21 negative or zero-yardage plays out of 68 or 31.0 percent of plays from scrimmage). To date this season, the ASU defense has held offenses to 326 plays (out of 873 by the opposition) that have not earned positive yardage (includes incomplete passes) - a 37.3 percentage rate of plays run from the line of scrimmage. The Sun Devils are currently 20th nationally and second in the conference in tackles for loss per game (7.2).
BETTER SUITED FOR HANDKERCHIEFS 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 12 games played this season. SInce Todd Graham arrived at Arizona State, the Sun Devils have had just 104 penalties in 26 games (4.0 penalties per game). The team only has 49 penalities to date this season, on pace to stay below last year’s mark of 55.
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 seventh nationally in penalties per game (3.8) and is fourth in penalty yards per game at (29.2), leading the Pac-12 in both.
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 35.8 passing attempts per game - a figure that sits 30th in the country. The number is also notable as ASU is also averaging 22.2 completions per game this season against FBS opponents, and is 27th 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 460.8 yards of total offense per game this season - more than the team’s high powered offense of last season.
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 six times in games this season, breaking the school record held 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 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 currently rank ninth nationally at 41.0 points per game. ASU has scored 533 points in 2013 through 13 games. The 533 points scored in a single-season is the second-most in history. The 1972 team scored 562 points. ASU’s per-game average of 41.0 points ranks No. 4 on the all-time single-season list behind No. 3 1968 (41.4), No. 2 1973 (43.3) and No. 1 1972 (46.8).
DROPPIN’ A 50 SPOT ASU posted its fourth consecutive game scoring over 50 points against a Pac-12 opponent with 55 against Washington State has accomplished the feat six times this year. 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. The Sun Devils also set a Territorial Cup record as far as Pac-10/12 era games (58) in the victory over Arizona. ASU six games this season of 50 or more points surpasses 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 is outscoring it’s opponents 136-52 on points off turnovers while posting a +14 takeaway number. ASU has put points on the board following 74.2 percent of oppponent turnovers (23-of-31) compared to just the 35.3 (6-of-17) percent clip ASU opponents are scoring off of Sun Devil turnovers. ASU has 17 touchdowns this season on 31 opponent turnovers, aided by five 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. In two years under Todd Graham, ASU has outscored opponents 275-110 in points of turnovers.
TURNOVER FACTORY The Sun Devils have forced a turnover in 27 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 leads the Pac-12 with 31 takeaways this season and is fifth nationally. The team is seventh nationally with a 1.1 turnover margin. The squad has forced 61 turnovers under Todd Graham in the last two seasons, second most among FBS institutions behind only Houston (71).
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 have five interception returns for touchdowns this season and one safety, making the ASU defense directly responsible for 37 of ASU’s points this season. Last year, ASU had three interceptions returned for touchdowns on the year. 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 have placed their stamp on 138 of ASU’s 533 points (26.0 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 145 points.
#NOFLYZONE The Sun Devil defense 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 than teams were averaging prior and no team in that time had thrown for more than their average coming in to the game. ASU ranks fifth in the conference in passing yards allowed (221.8 per game) and fourth in pass efficiency defense (120.6). Against Arizona, the Sun Devils had three interceptions - notable as B.J. Denker had thrown four all season coming into the 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 has 21 interceptions this season, ranked first in the conference and third nationally, and has 59 passes defensed, ranked 40th nationally. ASU’s five interception returns for touchdowns this season are currently tied for first nationally with Florida State and Baylor. The Sun Devils have 42 interceptions in the last two seasons, tied for the most among FBS schools with Houston.
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 92.3 percent of the time against FBS opponents, ranking sixth 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 10 games). With exception of those mercy kneels, ASU had scored on 58-straight red zone drives prior to having two series fall short against Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship game. 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 87.8 percent of the time this season when entering the red zone (ranked 100th nationally), compared to an 80.5 percent figure last season that was 51st in the nation. That being said, the Sun Devils don’t let opponents into the red zone often, doing so just 42 times this season, ranked 47th nationally for fewest opponent red zone drives (compared to 71 trips for the Sun Devil offense, which leads the nation).
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 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 34.7 yard line compared to ASU starting at its own 28.4 in ASU’s eight losses under Graham. Last season, ASU posted an average starting spot of their 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 17th nationally (average starting yard line: 32.3). The Sun Devils also held their opponents to an average starting line of their own 28-yard-line, a total that ranked 24th nationally., though the squad dropped a bit to 38th this season (average opp. starting yardline: 28.6). All that being said, even facing bad field position this season, the Sun Devils haven’t necessarily fared badly. ASU has 10 scoring drives of 80 yards or longer through 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.
CLOSING THINGS OUT ASU is outscoring opponents 129-79 in the fourth quarter of this year’s contests. As whole, ASU has outscored other teams 255-141 in the fourth quarter under Todd Graham. ASU is sixth in the nation in points per fourth quarter this season against FBS opposition (10.5) after finishing the 2012 season wtih 9.3 points per fourth quarter, which was good for eighth nationally. ASU’s 17.3 second-half points per game against FBS squads this season is currently 18th 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 have done a good job of building some cushion heading into halftime this season, currently ranked fourth nationally in second quarter points per game at 13.1. The Sun Devils have scored 20 or more points in five of the second quarters this season and are outscoring the opposition 185-101 this season in the second quarter of games - the highest point discrepency between ASU and its opponent in any quarter this year.
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 14 timeouts this season with its opponents facing third down. The Sun Devil defense has forced a fourth down on 10 of those occassions (71.4 percent).
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 (47) has more starts than Finkenberg and Irabor, who each have 46. Irabor’s statistic is particularly notable as he has started all 46 of his games consecutively - a mark that paces the Pac-12 Conference ahead of Washington State’s John Fullington, who has 42.
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. Despite being held statless in two games this season, Bradford has 55 tackles (sixth on the team) with 18.0 coming for loss and 8.5 sacks in the process, both numbers leading the team. Additionally, Bradford has three forced fumbles while having five passes defensed, including his first career pick-six against UCLA. He had a career high four tackles for loss against Arizona.
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 44 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks with a fumble recovery, an interception and three passes defensed. 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). Sutton now has 43.5 tackles for loss in his career, good for ninth in ASU history. He earned his second consecutive Pat Tillman Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Award this season and has already been named an all American by several media and selection outlets.
#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 29.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, nine PBUs, three fumbles forced, one fumble recovered and two interceptions.
NO LUMP OF COLE It’s tough to get love in the media as a defensive lineman with guys like Carl Bradford and Will Sutton on your squad, but senior Davon Coleman is quietly putting up one of the most impressive numbers in recent memory. Coleman is tied for first on the team with 8.5 sacks this season and is second with 15.0 tackles for loss. Despite being a lineman, Coleman is fifth on the team with 58 tackles this season while adding one blocked field goal, one pass defensed and even throwing in an offensive touchdown reception on the year for good measure.
#NOFIRSTDOWNFORYOU The ASU defense has forced opponents to 80 three-and-outs on 181 drives (44.2 percent), ranked third 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 has held the opposition to an average of 6.2 three-and-outs per game and the 80 three-and-outs forced this season were the most among all FBS institutions.
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 six games and five total interceptions in that time, returning his first for a touchdown against Oregon State. His 0.5 interception per game mark is 13th nationally and third in the conference and his six total interceptions also pace 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 eighth on the team with 52 tackles this season. He has 5.5 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 seven passes defensed this season.
DON’T LEAVE POINTS ON THE FIELD 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 65 of 171 drives this season (38.0 percent) and is in the top 10 nationally in the category and second among Pac-12 institutions (Oregon is third nationally with 72 TDs on 154 drives).
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 28 catches for 413 yards and four touchdowns to date this season, averaging a solid 14.8 yards per catch. Coyle now has 91 career receptions, holding sole possession of third 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 and one more against Arizona for his 10th. He now has 253 all-time career interception return yards, which is the third-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 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 12 passes defensed, currently tied for fifth 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 at the time), the Sun Devil defense found its groove in the recent 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 seasons average with 249 rushing yards in the contest. 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. The Sun Devils are currently fourth in the conference and 31st nationally this season, allowing opponents to average just 132.0 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 appears to have found it’s running legs, now averaging 184.0 yards per game and ranked 47th 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. 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 have posted.
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 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.
FOREVER YOUNG Senior linebacker Chris Young led the team in tackles for the seventh game this season - and fourth in the last five - with eight in the game against Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship. Young had a career-high four tackles for loss in the process as well as a fumble recovered and a fumble forced to go along with a sack. Young currently leads the team by a wide margin with 103 tackles this season (Alden Darby is second with 66). In doing so, it marked just the second time since 1989-90 that two separate players in back-to-back seasons had reached 100 tackles (Brandon Magee also accomplished the feat last season).
RECORD NOTABLES 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. 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. The team’s eight wins match the 1996 school record for the most conference wins in Sun Devil history (including Border and WAC schedules). With the Territorial Cup win, ASU now has 10 wins on the 2013 season and that is the first time since the 2007 season. In fact, in the history of Sun Devil football ASU has reached the 10-win plateau on 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. With a victory in the bowl game, it would mark just the second 11-win season in the past 38 seasons (1976-2013) for ASU. Prior to the 11-1 1996 season, ASU won at least 11 games in 1975 (12-0), 1973 (11-1), 1971 (11-1) and 1970 (11-0).
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 134 such plays this season (80 passing, 54 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 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 are currently ninth in the nation in plays longer than 20 yards this season with 82 after having 72 a year ago and finishing 19th in the country in the category.
PROTECT THIS HOUSE With the loss to Stanford, ASU finished the seasons with a 7-1 record at Sun Devil Stadium and is now 11-3 under Todd Graham in Tempe. This is just the second time ASU has gone undefeated at home in the past 16 seasons (since 1997), when it was 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 at home under Graham is 21 against Oregon last season and have scored 20 or more in 20 consecutive games while playing at home, dating back to 2010. ASU also has outscored opponents 198-51 in the first half at home this season. ASU’s 49.1 points per game at home this season are currently sixth in the nation. The school record for scoring offense at home is 49.2 points, set by the 1972 team.
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 30:25 minutes of possession time per game - a total that ranks fourth in the conference and 49th nationally. The team has 12 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, my friend. ASU is 11-2 when leading in time of possession under Todd Graham compared to a 7-6 record when trailing in the time of possession category.
IN-ZANE IN THE MEMBRANE True freshman placekicker Zane Gonzalez had been on fire since late September, hitting 18 straight field goals since 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 now has hit 22 of 26 field goals (84.6 percent) and has booted 61 of 63 extra points. Gonzalez is No. 13 in the nation in scoring and leads the Pac-12 in kick scoring (9.8) by a wide margin. The next kicker on the list is Stanford’s Jordan Williamson at 8.9. His 127 points by kick scoring are No. 1 in the Pac-12, far ahead of No. 2 Travis Coons of Colorado (100 points). Gonzalez is No. 1 in the Pac-12 in field goals at 1.7 per game. Gonzalez leads the Pac-12 with 22 field goals, ahead of three who are tied at 17. Gonzalez was named one of 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award, given annually to the nation’s top kicker.
FG-ONZAL-EZ Gonzalez has 127 points on the season, second in ASU history only to Wilford White’s 136 in 1950. Gonzalez’s 125 points also puts him first in points by kicking in a single season for a Sun Devil, breaking the previous record of 118 set by Thomas Weber (2007) and Mike Barth (2002). With 22 field goals this season, Gonzalez is creeping up on the NCAA freshman record of 25 that was set by UCLA’s Kai Forbath in 2007 (25-30).
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.
HANG ON TO YOUR SEATS ASU has played in four games this season 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 this year. 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 with one game left to play. 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 fourth-best record alongside UCLA’s Jim Mora during his first two years at the helm at 18-8 behind only Urban Meyer (24-1), Tim DeRuyter (20-5) and Kevin Sumlin (19-6).
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE The Sun Devils’ 10 wins this season are made even more impressive by the fact that the team holds the nation’s seventh toughest schedule based on the winning percentage of opponents played this season. ASU non-FCS opponents this year have posted a 72-42 record this season (63.2). That is the highest opponent winning percentage by any school currently ranked in the AP Top 25 and is the second toughest schedule in the Pac-12 behind only Utah (72-41/63.7).
TAKING DOWN THE TOP ASU is 3-2 this season against team’s ranked in the AP Top-25 Poll. ASU defeated No. 20 Wisconsin, No. 20 Washington and No. 14 UCLA this season while losing to Stanford twice. ASU’s three victories are the most since 1997 when the team went 3-1 against teams ranked in the AP poll this week. The school record for AP wins is five, set by the 1986 Rose Bowl team.
#LOOKGRICEBEFORECROSSING Despite missing the past couple games to injury, Marion Grice is still fifth in the nation in scoring this year at 10.9 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’s touchdowns per game for a career record of 1.33 might also be in jeopardy with Grice currently averaging 1.63 per game. Grice’s early season tear was impressive 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 led the team before his injury in third down conversions this season with 21 of ASU’s 67 successful conversion attempts (31.3 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 66 first down conversions (45 rushing, 21 receiving) of the 258 non-penalty induced first downs (25.6 percent) prior to his injury. 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 406 times in his career (294 rushes, 91 receptions and 21 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 13 games dating back to the season, marking the fourth-longest active streak in the FBS. Only Western Kentucky’s Antonio Andrews (24), Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey (15) and Tulsa’s Trey Watts (15) have longer streaks.
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 had been inside the red zone 63 times this season prior to the Grice injury. Grice carried the football in the red zone 49 times through 11 games and 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 nine receptions inside the red zone - ranked 23rd nationally among ALL FBS players - with five touchdowns on those nine grabs. All told, Grice has 58 red zone touches this season and 18 touchdowns on those plays, finding paydirt approximately 31 percent of the time.
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 14 graduates competing on the roster in the bowl game. Davon Coleman, Chris Coyle, Evan Finkenberg, Alex Garoutte, Osahon Orabor, Kody Koebensky, Will Sutton, Carl Bradford, Jamil Douglas, Darwin Rogers, Grandville Taylor, Jake Sheffield, 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, several 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, Bradford, Sutton, Rogers, Douglas and Irabor).