No. 22 Sun Devils Hit Road to Face Colorado

Sept. 11, 2006


Date: Saturday, September 16, 2006
Kickoff: 5 p.m. MDT
Site: Folsom Field (53,750), Boulder, Colo.
Television: TBS
Play-by-Play/Color: Ron Thulin/Charles Davis
Sideline Reporter: Craig Sager
Sun Devil Radio: KTAR 620 AM & KMVP/ESPN Radio 860
Play-by-Play: Tim Healey
Color: Former ASU QB and 1987 Rose Bowl MVP Jeff Van Raaphorst

• A win this week would give the Sun Devils their second 3-0 start in the last three seasons. In 2004 ASU won its first five games and went on to a 9-3 record.
• ASU's 19-8 record in its last 27 games is third-best in the Pac-10. Only USC (26-1) and California (20-7) have better records.
• ASU's defense currently leads the nation in sacks with 13 and is tied for first with 22 tackles for loss.
• ASU is tied for No. 8 in the country in scoring (43.5 points per game).
• The nation's leader in pass efficiency in 2005 and currently No. 4 in 2006, sophomore Rudy Carpenter is 6-1 as ASU's starting quarterback (last five games of 2005 and two games in 2006). Carpenter has thrown for 300 or more yards in five of his seven 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 (103 career receptions) needs 13 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 (125 career PATs) needs 13 PATs to pass former Sun Devil Luis Zendejas (1981-84) for first on ASU's all-time list.
• This week's game will be the first ever meeting between the Sun Devils and Buffaloes. The two teams are scheduled to meet again next season (Sept. 7) in Tempe. It will be ASU's first meeting against a Big XII opponent since 2002 when met Kansas State in the Holiday Bowl.
• Buffaloes head coach Dan Hawkins is in his first year at Colorado after spending five seasons as head coach at Boise State where he succeeded current Sun Devils head coach Dirk Koetter. Hawkins served as an assistant under Koetter at Boise State. Also, Mark Helfrich is in his first season as offensive coordinator at Colorado. Prior to joining Hawkins' staff, Helfrich spent eight years as an assistant under Koetter at both Boise State (1998-2000) and at ASU (2001-05).
• This will be Dirk Koetter's 100th game as a head coach.

TEMPE, Ariz. - After a pair of home victories over Northern Arizona (35-14) and Nevada (52-21) to open the season, the No. 22 Arizona State Sun Devils (2-0) go on the road for the first time in 2006 when they travel to Boulder, Colo., to take on the Colorado Buffaloes (0-2). This will be the first ever meeting between the Sun Devils and Buffaloes. Colorado comes into this week's game having dropped its first two contests of the season to Montana State (19-10) and Colorado State (14-10). The Buffaloes are coached by Dan Hawkins, who is in his first season at Colorado. Hawkins served as an assistant under current ASU head coach Dirk Koetter at Boise State and succeeded Koetter as the Broncos' head coach after Koetter accepted the top position at ASU in 2001.

LAST WEEK (ASU 52, Nevada 21)
Sophomore Rudy Carpenter passed for 333 yards and five scores as Arizona State rolled up 486 yards in total offense on its way to a 52-21 win over Nevada. Carpenter's five touchdown tosses went to five different receivers as the sophomore moved to 6-1 as ASU's starter. In all, nine different receivers would catch balls for ASU led by junior TE Zach Miller, who caught five passes for 53 yards and one touchdown. For the second consecutive week, the ASU defense had a big impact on the outcome as it forced four turnovers and sacked Nevada QB Jeff Rowe four times.

The Sun Devils exploded for 38 points in the second and third quarters to a turn a 7-7 tie into a 45-14 lead as they moved to 2-0 for the third time in four years.

ASU got on the board first after taking the opening kickoff and moving 80 yards in 11 plays to set up a two-yard touchdown pass from Carpenter to Miller for a 7-0 advantage. For Miller, the touchdown reception was the 11th of his career which tied him for first on ASU's all-time list with former Sun Devil Joe Petty (1998-2000) for most touchdown receptions by a tight end.

Nevada would tie the score early in the second quarter after Carpenter's throw went off course and was intercepted by Nevada LB Ezra Butler, who returned it 23 yards for a touchdown to knot the score at 7-7.

The Sun Devils would dominate the rest of the quarter as they put together a pair of 80-yard drives, which both culminated in touchdown passes by Carpenter - sophomore WR Michael Jones (20 yards) and sophomore Nate Kimbrough (52 yards). Sandwiched in-between the two 80-yard marches was a 32-yard field goal by senior Jesse Ainsworth.

On the first play of Nevada's ensuing drive following Kimbrough's touchdown reception, Rowe's pass was intercepted by freshman S Ryan McFoy, who returned it 30 yards for a touchdown to give ASU a 31-7 lead. The Wolf Pack would respond with a touchdown in the final moments of the first half to trim ASU's lead to 17 points (31-14) at the half.

In the third quarter Carpenter would continue to pick apart the Wolf Pack defense, finding both sophomore TB Shaun DeWitty (22 yards) and senior WR Terry Richardson (25 yards) for touchdowns which gave the Sun Devils a 45-14 lead. The two teams would exchange touchdowns in the fourth quarter to close out the scoring.

Head Coach Dirk Koetter Said ... 'What pleased us the most was that we showed some explosiveness. We were able to make some explosive plays and throw the ball vertically down the field a little bit, which we thought we'd be able to do, but we thought it would come off of a more productive running game. The running game part didn't materialize like we thought it would. But I'm pleased that we made some big plays in the passing game.'

'Other than maybe two drives, I'm real happy about the defense. The drive that ended the first half was not our best and one drive in the second half. Of the points that Nevada scored, really our offense gave up two touchdowns, the pick by Rudy (Carpenter) and the fumbled snap by Danny (Sullivan).

• QB Rudy Carpenter set a career-high with five touchdown passes, each time hooking up with a different receiver. His five scoring strikes ties him with Andrew Walter (three times, last vs. Washington State in 2004)) and Jeff Krohn (vs. Oregon in 2000) for the fourth-best single-game touchdown performance in ASU history.
• Arizona State's 52 points against the Wolf Pack marked the seventh time the Sun Devils have scored 50 or more points on an opponent under Dirk Koetter. The last time the Sun Devils scored 50 or more points came last season (Sept. 17) when ASU defeated visiting Northwestern, 52-21.
• With his touchdown reception in the first quarter, TE Zach Miller recorded his 11th career touchdown grab, tying him with Joe Petty (1970-72) for the school record among tight ends. The reception also was the 100th of his career, making him only the second Sun Devil tight end to break the century mark, joining school-record holder Todd Heap (115 receptions) to do so. Miller finished the game with five catches for 53 yards and one touchdown, bringing his reception total to 103.
• Senior PK Jesse Ainsworth connected on five PAT attempts to move into second on the all-time list at ASU with 125 PATs. Ainsworth ran his consecutive conversion streak to 109 in a row following his 7-7 performance on the night.
• Late in the second quarter, S Ryan McFoy intercepted a Jeff Rowe pass and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown, giving the Sun Devil defense its second return for a score on the season following Chris Baloney return of 35 yards against Northern Arizona last weekend.
• ASU's defense has yielded only 190 combined yards and seven points in the second half of its first two games (average of 95 yards and 3.5 points per half).
• With his 333 yards passing against Nevada, Rudy Carpenter has now thrown for 300 or more yards in five of his seven career starts.
• For his career, Carpenter now has 24 TD passes and only four INTs.
• With his two-yard TD pass to TE Zach Miller on the first drive of the game, Carpenter has now led ASU to points on its first possession five times in his seven starts (four TDs and one FG).
• True freshman QB Danny Sullivan saw the first action of his career in the fourth quarter. He completed 2-of-4 passes for 14 yards. The first completion of his career went to sophomore TE Dane Guthrie.

If the performance of Arizona State's defense in its first two games against Northern Arizona and Nevada is any indication of how it will perform, the 2006 season could be a special one for ASU. The Sun Devils have already started eight different players who had two or fewer starts at ASU prior to this season, including six players who were making the first start of their Sun Devil careers.

Below are some of the highlights from the unit's first two games of the season:
• Recorded 13 sacks in the first two games, already more than half the total of 2005 when it had 22 sacks.
• ASU's 13 sacks lead the nation while their 22 tackles for loss are tied for first in the nation (Kansas State).
• Currently tied for No. 6 in the country with four interceptions.
• No. 2 in the Pac-10 in rushing defense allowing 90.0 yards per game.
• Returned an interception for a touchdown in each of the first two games (junior CB Chris Baloney vs. NAU and freshman S Ryan McFoy vs. Nevada).
• Allowed just 53 net rushing yards to NAU, 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.
• Has yielded only 190 combined yards and seven points in the second half of its first two games (average of 95 yards and 3.5 points per half).
• In his first start as a Sun Devil vs. NAU, senior LB Derron Ware had four tackles for loss, including four sacks. The four sacks have him tied for No. 1 in the nation.
• In his first game as a Sun Devil vs. NAU, junior CB Chris Baloney had a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown. Baloney added another interception against Nevada last week giving him two this season which ties him for first in the Pac-10.
• In the second start of his career vs. Nevada, true freshman S Ryan McFoy collected a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown, a 15-yard quarterback sack, a pass breakup and five tackles.
• Nevada had 306 total yards, the tenth-best defensive effort under Dirk Koetter and the best since ASU gave up 265 vs. Temple in the season opener last year (Sept. 1, 2005).
• Nevada had just 170 passing yards, the best ASU mark since Oct. 30, 2004, when California had 165 and the ninth-best under Koetter.
• ASU has allowed only two scores in the six trips opponents have made inside the red zone. The 33.3 pct. opponent conversion rate is tied for first in the Pac-10 with UCLA.
• ASU has yet to allow a rushing TD.

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. 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.

This season Carpenter has continued to play brilliant in leading the Sun Devils to victories in their first two contests. Last week Carpenter moved his record as a starter to 6-1 after throwing for 333 yards and a career-best five touchdown passes (to five different receivers) in ASU's 52-21 win over Nevada. His yardage total vs. the Wolf Pack is the most of any quarterback in the Pac-10 this season.

Carpenter enters this week's play ranked No. 4 in the country in pass efficiency (206.0) and No. 5 in the country in total offense (309.5 yards per game).

Did you know? In his seven starts, Carpenter has led ASU to a score on its opening drive of the game five times (4 TDs, 1 FG). In the first half of his seven starts, Carpenter has a passer efficiency rating of 180.5 (86-of-133 for 1,395 yards, 13 TDs, 3 INTs).

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 (11, tied for first), receptions (103, second) and receiving yards (1,128, fourth). His 98 catches in 2004-05 were more than any other tight end in the nation the last two seasons while his receiving yardage and touchdown totals were also 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 13 receptions, 558 receiving yards and one touchdown reception to become the school's career leader for a tight end in each of the aforementioned categories.

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 Nevada the line enabled the Sun Devils to roll up 486 yards in total offense. Carpenter was sacked only once, the fourth consecutive game that ASU's line allowed only one sack going back to last season.

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 (Aug. 31). 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.

Last week against Nevada, Torain led ASU's rushing attack with 70 yards on only eight carries (8.8-yard average). Torain's night included a 15-yard TD run in addition to a 40-yard scamper, the longest rush by an ASU player in 2006.

In addition to Torain's success, DeWitty tallied a touchdown reception for the second consecutive week, this one a 22-yard strike from QB Rudy Carpenter.

Senior WR/KR/PR Terry Richardson, who earned Second Team All-America honors last season from, 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.

In his three years Jesse Ainsworth has made it a habit of being nearly perfect on PAT attempts, missing just three times in 133 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 109 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 38 field goals are fourth-most in a career and he needs one 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 244 points are nine behind Mike Barth (1999-2002) for second on the list.

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 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.

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.

The Sun Devils will play their second consecutive game on the road when they travel to Berkeley, Calif., to take on the California Golden Bears (Sat., Sept 23, 12:30 p.m. PT). It will be the Pac-10 opener for both schools.

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