Oct 27, 2013 - 11:45 am - Arizona State Sun Devils
Tempe, AZ - Through seven games in 2013, ASU 5-2 (3-1) sits atop the Pac-12 South.
With the toughest part of the schedule behind them, the Devils feel confident going into their final five conference games. However, the competition is tough: Washington St., Utah, Oregon St., UCLA and Arizona.
We are at what is hopefully the perfect half-way mark of 2013. Because to play seven more games, the Devils will have to win the PAC-12 South title which would ensure a 13th game in the PAC-12 Championship. Then win or lose, game #14 will come in the form of a Bowl game.
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Looking back a year ago, one thing can't be overstated about 2012. In one year, new Head Coach Todd Graham's staff and team who "bought in" established a new identity for Sun Devil Football, finishing 8-5 including three straight Wins and ASU's victory in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
There's truth in the old cliche, "To know where you're going, you have to know from where you came."
Let's look back at key developments from the first seven games of 2012, when the Sun Devils sat at exactly the same record that they are at now, 5-2 (3-1).
Game #1, Aug. 30, 2012 - ASU vs. NAU: W, 63-6
Marion Grice led all rushers with 107 yards on 14 carries and three touchdowns
The Sun Devils rushed for a combined 305 yards on 51 attempts (5.98 per attempt)
Taylor Kelly made his first career start going 15-19 for 247 yards and one touchdown.
Kelly also rushed six times for 43 yards.
Brandon Magee made two tackles and one interception, which he returned 45 yards for a touchdown. It was his first and only career pick six.
ASU allowed 237 total yards (88 rushing, 149 passing)
Game #2, Sept. 8, 2012 - ASU vs. Illinois: W, 45-14
#52 Carl Bradford pulls Illinois QB's Jersey
The Sun Devils forced three interceptions, two from linebacker Carlos Mendoza.
A shoulder injury would end Mendoza’s season against the Illini
QB Michael Eubank threw five passes completing all of them for 69 yards and tossing two touchdowns.
Eubank also ran seven times for 51 yards and another score.
TE Chris Coyle hauled in 10 passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns.
ASU sacked Illinois six times for -35 yards.
ASU racked up 510 total yards of offense, (192 rush, 318 pass)
Game #3, Sept. 15, 2012 - ASU at Missouri: L, 20-24
Taylor Kelly was 14 for 23 passing for 178 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Kelly had a team-high 15 rushes for 59 yards.
The Sun Devils were held to 113 yards rushing, their second lowest total of the season.
LB Brandon Magee recorded his second interception in three games.
Magee led all Sun Devils with 12 total tackles.
ASU controlled time of possession, holding the ball for 34:51 to Missouri’s 25:09
The Sun Devils were lights-out on third down, allowing Missouri to convert only twice in 12 attempts.
Game #4, Sept. 22, 2012 - ASU vs. Utah: W, 37-7
Freshman RB, #8 D.J. Foster
Utah’s two-time 1,000 yard rusher, John White, was shut down by ASU’s defense, gaining only 18 net yards on 14 carries.
ASU’s defense allowed only 129 yards of total offense.
The defense only allowed two drives of more than 26 yards.
21 of ASU’s 37 points came in the first quarter.
QB Taylor Kelly threw 326 yards on 19 completions as well as three touchdowns and one interception.
RB D.J. Foster rushed a team-high seven times and 70 yards as well as catching one pass for 26 yards.
LB Brandon Magee had a game-high 10 tackles as well as a forced fumble that he recovered.
Game #5, Sept. 29, 2012 - ASU at Cal: W, 27-17
ASU sacked Cal QB Zach Maynard seven times, tied for the most in a game all-season
DT Will Sutton and DE Junior Onyeali combined for five of the seven sacks.
The Sun Devil offense ran a whopping 94 offensive plays for 409 yards.
Of those 94 plays, ASU ran the ball 48 times (51%) but only gained 116 yards (2.4 yards per rush) and didn’t score a rushing touchdown.
K Alex Garoutte had a rough day going 2 for 5 on field goals, one of which was blocked.
ASU fumbled the ball three times but didn’t lose any of them.
WR Kevin Ozier caught three passes for 41 yards and two touchdowns.
Game #6, Oct. 11, 2012 - ASU at Colorado: W, 51-17
The Sun Devils put on their second-best offensive performance of the year with 593 yards of total offense (261 rush, 332 pass)
Taylor Kelly passed for 308 yards on 20-28 passing and tossed five touchdowns.
RB Marion Grice did most of his damage as a receiver, catching five passes for 101 yards and three touchdowns.
RB Cameron Marshall rumbled for 98 yards on 13 carries.
RB D.J. Foster led the team with 132 all-purpose yards (61 rush, 71 receiving)
LB Brandon Magee made a game-high nine solo tackles as well as sacking Colorado QB Jordan Webb twice
DT Will Sutton also chipped in two sacks.
Game #7, Oct 18, 2012 - ASU vs. No. 2 Oregon: L, 21-43
Sun Devil #10 Keelan Johnson jumping to block an Oregon Field goal
ASU scored on its very first offensive play, a 28-yard strike from QB Taylor Kelly to WR Kevin Ozier.
ASU suffered demoralizing injuries to DT Will Sutton and DE Junior Onyeali in the first quarter.
The Sun Devil defense was gashed for a season-high 406 rushing yards.
The Sun Devil defense gave up touchdown runs of 71 and 86 yards.
QB Taylor Kelly was 10 of 18 passing for 93 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He was also sacked five times.
QB Michael Eubank didn’t fare much better, going 10 for 19 passing for 123 yards, one touchdown and two picks.
S Alden Darby led ASU in tackles with 12.
The Sun Devils outscored Oregon 14-0 in the second half but it was too little, too late by then.
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There are certainly some similarities and differences between what ASU did in the first half of 2012 and what we have seen in 2013.
But the question is, will the 2013 Sun Devils push that rock further up the hill with their remaining schedule?
Sep 11, 2012 - 08:54 am - By James Romo
ASU followed up an impressive win over NAU in week one with an even more precise and surgical dismantling of Illinois on Saturday night. I truly believed that ASU would have to play a near perfect game on offense to have a chance at victory against a vaunted Illinois defense that has four future NFL players in their front seven. As it turned out, the Sun Devils were able to achieve near perfection on offense. But not to be outdone, the defense also came out ready to play, resulting in a complete mauling of a team who prior to the season were self-proclaimed contenders for the Big-10 title.
(Photo by Peter Vander Stoep for DieHardDevil.com)
Offensively, it was very evident that the ASU coaching staff had studied the Illinois defense with great detail and a solid scheme in place. Taylor Kelly was a machine as he completed his first 12 passes to wide open receivers. In order to loosen up the Illini linebacker core, many of the initial passes were to the short flat. This forced the Illinois front seven to respect the ASU passing game, and would not allow them to just pin their ears back and attack the running game. The Sun Devil offense kept the Illini defense off balance all night with creative play calling, an improved pace of play, and a very unorthodox substitution pattern with Kelly and Michael Eubank, sometimes subbing in for each other mid-series. Regardless of the signal caller, ASU marched up and down the field with what appeared to be zero resistance and an ability to pick out and connect with primary receiver targets all night. After seeing true freshman DJ Foster lined up mostly in the flanker position against NAU, we saw much more of him in the running back and tailback positions. Between Marshall and Foster, ASU has a very effective running back tandem with very different skill sets. After the game, Coach Todd Graham said that their goal offensively was to have the Illinois defense reading false keys that would inevitably get their personnel in the wrong places to make plays. After it was all said and done, ASU out gained their Big-10 rival 510 to 332 yards. Even more impressive than the total yards stat is the 7.6 yards per play that ASU was able to achieve while only facing a third down situation on seven occasions.
Despite the gaudy numbers put up by Taylor Kelly (18-24 for 249 yard, 1 TD, 0 interceptions) and Michael Eubank (5-5 for 69 yards, 2 TD, 0 interceptions), it was junior tight end Chris Coyle who had the jaw dropping stats of the evening with 10 catches for 131 yards and 2 TD's. To put that into perspective, Coyle had more yards receiving on Saturday night than all Sun Devil TE's combined throughout the 2011 season. Illinois had no answer for Coyle or any of the speed that ASU possesses with its skill position personnel. DJ Foster ended he game with 37 rush yards and 72 receiving. In what might be the only black mark on the offensive performance were lost fumbles by Marshall and Jamal Miles, both inside the Illinois ten yard line, raising the ire of Coach Graham. A ton of credit has to go to the ASU offensive line for providing protection for Kelly and Eubank all night, and opening holes in the running game. ASU rushed for a combined 192 yards and passed for 318.
Sun Devil Chris Coyle had a monster game against Illinois. (Photo by Peter Vander Stoep for DieHardDevil.com)
As awe inspiring as the performance by the offense, the ASU defense was equally impressive and with maybe even more story lines. Senior captain and standout linebacker Brandon Magee failed concussion tests on Friday and was held out of the game after being expected to play. Having to replace the leader on the defense with only a day to prepare sent a ripple effect across the depth chart. Originally, in an attempt to be more dynamic and disruptive on defense, Anthony Jones was expected to take over the Sam linebacker position, but was forced into action as Magee's replacement at the Will linebacker spot. And Steffon Martin, slated all week to start at the Devil Backer position, was moved back to his Sam linebacker spot. Jones had not received any practice reps in practice at the Will and was spotted out of place and lined up incorrectly a number of times. The coaching staff, having enough confidence in true freshman Carlos Mendoza, made the switch and it immediately paid off with Mendoza stepping in front of two first half Reilly O'Toole passes for his first and second interceptions of his young college career. The celebration for Mendoza was short-lived, however, as he was taken off the field at the end of the half with a shoulder separation. This was a shoulder that he'd had surgery on in the off-season and limited him through the beginning of fall camp.
Because Illinois starting QB Nathan Scheelhaase was injured in their week-one matchup with Western Michigan University and was held out against ASU. This severely handicapped the Illini offense, as neither backup O'Toole nor Miles Osei could move the ball effectively against the ASU defense. The Illini routinely saw way too much of ASU DT Will Sutton, Spur LB Chris Young, and Devil backer Carl Bradford in their backfield disrupting their entire offensive game plan. Bradford had a breakout game this weak after a sub par performance in week one that would have moved him out of the starting lineup if not for Magee's injury. A combination of a relentless pass rush and solid coverage by the ASU secondary limited the number of pass attempts by the Illinois QB tandem (14 of 24 for 101 yards). Safety Alden Darby killed any chances of an Illini comeback on their first possession of the second half with an interception that he returned 34 yards setting up a Sun Devil touchdown and an insurmountable 35-7 lead. In what appeared to be a makeshift defensive formation of a 3-4 defensive front minus a nose tackle that traditionally lines up on the center, ASU used defensive tackles lined up wide with Bradford as a stand-up rusher at end. The quickness of Sutton against offensive guards, Bradford lined up on the end, and Young rushing off of the opposite edge gave the Illini O-line and offensive coordinator fits. But it was the Illinois quarterbacks that woke up physically hurting on Sunday morning. The Sun Devils ended up with 6 sacks and forcing 12 total plays for minus yardage.
Again this week, the most impressive part of a complete sixty minute domination was the self-control and poise with which ASU displayed. There were several opportunities to lay a borderline personal foul hit on Illinois players. All over the field, Sun Devil players on both sides of the ball pulled up on would be hits that would have certainly been capitalized on in recent seasons. Graham has clearly gotten his point across to several players that I was fully expecting to take sideline shots on Illini players since that was what they'd routinely done prior to the new coaching regime. Hats off to maintaining an aggressive and intimidating style while being disciplined and sportsmanlike in their approach. Some very frustrated Illinois players attempted to engage ASU players in some pushing and jawing, but our guys just walked away and prepared for the next play.
Another very impressive statistic that needs to be mentioned this week was the single flag thrown against ASU. The flag was an intentional delay of game penalty strategically taken to back the Devils up five yards in order to give punter Josh Hubner more field to punt the ball. In two games now, both of which were dominated by ASU, the propensity to lose focus, discipline, and intensity would usually lead to mental mistakes and penalties. The constant preaching by this coaching staff to avoid such situations is paying off. Every player knows that a mental mistake leading to a penalty will land them on the sideline next to a coach watching the game.
DieHard After Party. Tonight, We Are Young. (Photo by Peter Vander Stoep for DieHardDevil.com)
After two games in the books, many will again point to reasons why and how ASU was able to completely control its opponent for the second week in a row. First, skeptics pointed to NAU being a lesser opponent, and now it will be the absence of standout QB Nathan Scheelhaase. As dominant as the Sun Devil defense was against backup quarterbacks, it was the complete clinic that the offense put on the Illini defense that caught my attention. Coach Graham has told his team that adversity is difficult to handle, yet success is even more difficult deal with. A team that started the season completely off of the national radar is now starting to receive rave reviews across the country. ASU will be tested this coming Saturday and we will see if the Sun Devils are able to handle their success to this point, and put together another near flawless performance against an even better opponent in Missouri.
Sep 09, 2012 - 06:47 am - Early on tonight in Tempe, the Sun Devil offense was unstoppable in the first quarter racking up 193 yards of total offense and two touchdowns. It should have been three scores, but Cameron Marshall fumbled during the first drive on the one yard line. The offensive assault continued in the second quarter as the Sun Devils scored two more touchdowns and drove down the field at will on the Illinois defense.
Taylor Kelly and the Sun Devil offense dominated Illinois on Saturday.
The Sun Devil defense did their part in the first half by containing the Illinois offense and limiting them to 185 total yards and only one score. In Brandon Magee’s absence, true freshman Carlos Mendoza led the defense had two interceptions in the first half. The Sun Devils finished the first half with 15 first downs, 82 yards rushing and 241 yards passing. Chris Coyle led the offense with 101 yards and two touchdowns.
The momentum continued into the second half as Alden Darby intercepted an Illinois pass on their first series and returned it for 34 yards. The Sun Devils scored two plays later on a one yard run by DJ Foster. Illinois fought back with 4:02 left in the third quarter and scored on fourth and goal to cut the ASU lead to 35-14. The scoring pace slowed down in the fourth quarter as Alex Garoutte made his first field goal of the year and Michael Eubank scored the final Sun Devil touchdown to make the final score 45-14. ASU finished the game with 510 yards of total offense.
Sep 06, 2012 - 08:19 am - By James Romo
Coming off of an impressive win against NAU, the Sun Devils will face Big-10 foe Illinois at home on Saturday in Tempe with revenge on their minds. Turnovers were key a year ago, as a dominant Illini defense intercepted two Brock Osweiler passes, recovered a fumble, and had 6 sacks in a narrow 17-14 win over ASU in Champaign. Less than a year later, each program has a new head coach on the sidelines with a renewed sense of optimism running through their respective programs. Tim Beckman takes over in 2012 from Ron Zook’s team that started 6-0 and finished at 7-6 (2-6 in conference) in 2011. Illinois will be looking to make a statement with a signature win against its first BCS conference opponent after a 24-7 handling of Western Michigan University in week one.
Coach Beckman inherited a stout defense that includes LB Jonathan Brown, DE Michael Buchanan, and DT Akeem Spence who are all listed on National pre-season honors and watch lists. Combine these standouts with other very formidable defensive front seven play-makers, and you have the makings of an extremely difficult team to run on. Beckman's defensive coordinator of choice, Tim Banks (formerly of Cincinnati), installed a hybrid 4-3/4-2-5 defense, with the third linebacker (Ashante Williams), the "STAR" linebacker (much like ASU’s “Spur” LB) serving partially as a LB, partially as a safety. The Illini secondary is by far the most experienced unit for Illinois, led by three senior starters, including ball-hawk cornerback Terry Hawthorne. So, even if the ASU QB tandem of Taylor Kelly and Michael Eubank get the time needed to look downfield, they will still have plenty of a challenge on their hands throwing against this defensive back unit. Look for Illinois to really prioritize stopping the run and forcing the ASU’s inexperienced quarterbacks to avoid a relentless pass rush and throw under duress.
The deep stable of running backs and a much improved offensive line for ASU matched up against the Illini defensive front will be fun to watch, as the one-on-one battles in the trenches are going to go a long way in determining the outcome of this one. On paper, it looks like the strength of the ASU offense, the running game, plays right into the strength of the Illinois defense. Cameron Marshall and Marion Grice will be tagged with the responsibility of running into the teeth of the Illini defense between the tackles while true freshmen DJ Foster and Richard Smith will be relied upon to help loosen the Illini offense with their elusiveness, forcing the second level of the defense to make plays in space. It is uncertain how much of a factor Jamal Miles will be, as he is coming off of suspension for the NAU game, but his explosiveness in the open field would go a long way in keeping a very talented defense off balance.
On offense, the Illini were dealt a huge blow in week one against Western Michigan University when dual-threat QB Nathan Scheelhaase was taken out of the game with an undisclosed ankle injury. Illinois was unable to score after Scheelhaase was taken out of the game. His status for this weekend is still unknown, although he was able to practice earlier in the week. Coach Beckman has stated that if Scheelhaase is able to practice on Wednesday, he is likely to play. The Junior QB put a ton of stress on the ASU defense last year with his athleticism, as he rushed for 80 yards in the contest. In the event that Scheelhaase is on the shelf this Saturday, Coach Beckman will look to sophomore Reilly O’Toole to lead the offense. O’Toole is not nearly as dynamic on the ground, but Coach Beckman has stated that the offensive game plan will not change regardless of who is behind center, but the athleticism, experience, and stability Scheelhaase brings would surely be missed. As is going to be the theme throughout the schedule, a very inexperienced Sun Devil defense will have to be assignment sound, aggressive, and sure in their tackling to have a chance in this ball game.
Bad luck continued this week as ASU learned that depth at cornerback was further depleted as Rashad Wadood, a second-teamer, will be lost for the season with a torn labrum in his shoulder. In an attempt to create depth in an area where they are thin, the ASU coaching staff is moving guys into new positions to fill out the depth chart with as much talent as possible. That’s a risky proposition as it also creates a ton of inexperience with guys that have never played in certain spots who are now backing up the starting eleven. Sun Devil Nation will be holding their collective breath throughout this game, as it promises to be extremely physical. There really are no positions on the ASU defense that can afford to successfully replace any of the current starters.
ASU will be one of, if not the, fastest and most athletic teams Illinois will face this season. But as we’ve see in seasons past, speed means nothing without discipline, fundamentals, being assignment sound, and avoiding mental mistakes. Watching the contest between these teams from last season, it was very apparent that what happened only a year ago is highly irrelevant now as both schools introduced new coaching staffs, schemes, philosophies, and impact players that were not involved in the 2011 game. What hasn’t changed is Illinois’ desire to repeat its manhandling of ASU in the trenches. Conversely, ASU will rely on its speed and up-tempo offense to wear down a much bigger opponent. Either way, any matchup between the Pac-12 and Big-10 is always one to circle on the calendar. Like most of these matchups, this will be a battle of contrasting styles with both teams looking to stay undefeated and claim bragging rights for their respective conference. We know that there will be huge contingency of Illinois fans in the house supporting their team. But temperatures in the triple digits on Saturday and a late start time give ASU a slight advantage. Combine those intangibles with what should be a raucous home crowd in the first ever maroon "monsoon" out, and the table is set for Coach Graham to get his first big win at ASU and for the Sun Devils to continue their undefeated streak against Big-10 opponents at Sun Devil Stadium.
DHD - Are You? Prove it. See you Saturday Night in the House of Heat.
WEAR MAROON - BEAT ILLINOIS.
Sep 05, 2012 - 12:49 pm - By Pat Gammill and Mike Howell, DieHardDevil.com
As all DieHard Sun Devil fans know, Frank Kush set an ASU Football coaching standard by which all future Head Coaches are measured. Kush’s winning percentage was .764. He won more than three of every four games throughout his 22 seasons in Tempe. To appreciate just how exceptional that is, consider that the winningest coach in Division I college football history is Knute Rockne of Notre Dame, who tallied an .881 winning percentage over 13 seasons, 9 less than Kush. Where does or shall we say, did, Todd Graham rank upon his arrival to Tempe? Today, let’s take a closer look at his head coaching career that includes last Thursday’s defeat of NAU.
After spending five years as an assistant coach, the last three as Defensive Coordinator at Tulsa, Todd Graham's first head coaching job came in 2006 when he took over a struggling Rice University program in Houston, Texas. The Owls were coming off a 1-10 season under 11-year head coach, Ken Hatfield. The next year in 2006, Graham lead Rice to seven wins and five losses while earning the Owls their first bowl bid in 46 years. What’s more, his team started the season with four straight losses before winning seven of their last eight regular season contests. In the New Orleans Bowl, Rice lost to Troy, 41-17. As a result of Graham’s impact at Rice over one season, Tulsa University, where Graham served as Defensive Coordinator the three years prior, wanted him back and offered him the reigns of the Golden Hurricane program. Graham took it.
In 2009, Graham suffered his only losing season as a head coach when Tulsa finished 5-7. However in 2010, Graham’s Golden Hurricane finished 9-3 in the regular season which included a notable 28-27 upset of Notre Dame in South Bend. Tulsa would play in the Hawaii Bowl where they were matched against the University of Hawaii. They beat Hawaii in their own bowl game 62-35, which was Graham’s third victory in four bowl appearances. With that victory Tulsa had won their tenth game of the season, meaning that they had won 10 or more games (Conference Title and Bowl games included) in three of the last four years under Graham's leadership. Graham would depart Tulsa with a .673 winning percentage and a record of 35-17.
Graham’s success at Tulsa garnered the attention of the University of Pittsburgh, who under unusual circumstances was seeking a new head coach for 2011. Graham accepted the position at Pitt on short notice. His Panthers would struggle through a 6-6 season filled with close, agonizing losses. In one game, Pitt would blow a double digit fourth quarter lead at Iowa, losing 31-27. The next week Pittsburgh lead Notre Dame in the final quarter, only to lose the game 15-12. Finally, Graham’s Panthers would lose the “Backyard Brawl” to rival, West Virginia, by one point. One year after his hiring at Pitt, Graham left. He has made no apologies for his abrupt departure from Pitt and the circumstances surrounding his leave, but has outwardly admitted that his decision to go to the steel town was not in the best interest of himself or his family.
Todd Graham is Speaking Victory for ASU.
2012. Enter the Arizona State Sun Devils, Coach Todd Graham, Speaking Victory and a program based firmly on discipline, somewhat reminiscent of Coach Kush’s teams. Last Thursday night in his first game in Tempe, Coach Todd Graham earned his 50th head coaching victory in bold fashion as our Devils trampled NAU 63-6. Today, his head coaching record stands at 50-29 for a winning percentage of .633 over seven seasons including a 3-1 bowl record.
Make no bones about it, Graham knows how to win football games. He’s said that he wants to restore our program to the standards that Coach Kush employed, which earned ASU a national reputation as a formidable, winning program over two decades. Graham has proven that his “Speaking Victory” and “ALL IN” mantras are not just convenient catch phrases. His actions have made them the new mode of operation at ASU. With one victory in Tempe under his belt, we don’t believe Graham is building the foundation of a successful season. However, we do believe he is building the foundation of a successful football program. And who knows, maybe he can deliver a big 2012 as well.
Are you a DieHard Sun Devil? Prove it. See you Saturday night, 7:30pm in our House.
WEAR MAROON - BEAT ILLINOIS
Sep 21, 2011 - 08:26 pm - By Pat Marrujo for DieHardDevil.com
Against UC Davis & Missouri, the Sun Devils showed improvement in ball security over 2010’s turnover problem. But last week’s game in Champaign was different. The ASU offense turned the ball over three times, two interceptions and one fumble. The fumble, in which Osweiler was hit from behind around the ASU 40 yard line, led to Illinois go-ahead touchdown drive.
If ASU wants to be a force in the Pac 12, it is essential that turnovers are minimized.
Prior to last week’s game, arguably the brightest spot of the 2011 squad had been the play of the offensive line. However, that all changed last Saturday. Brock Osweiler was sacked six times and pressured on countless downs as the offensive line looked confused and overwhelmed by the Illinois defensive front.
However, not all the blame should be directed to the big guys up front. Osweiler was taking a very long time checking his reads and seemed to be confused by the Illini coverage at times.
From 6 weeks to the remainder of the season, defensive end Junior Onyeali may not be in the huddle. He partially tore his meniscus against the Fighting Illini on Saturday. The extent of the damage will be determined after the surgery procedure which will happen in the coming week. The defense is already without linebacker Brandon Magee, cornerback Omar Bolden, cornerback Devan Spann, and possibly safety Eddie Elder. Another injury was the last thing they needed. Davon Coleman, who had a solid performance against Illinois, will be expected to replace Onyeali moving forward.
Both bad numbers. The first represents total penalties, and the second is penalty yards. For the second week in a row, this has been a killer for the maroon and gold. The penalties have been a consistent theme during the Dennis Erickson era in Tempe. The preparation and mental focus required on a college football field is as much a part of the game as executing plays for yardage. If this is not fixed starting Saturday against USC, the edge will be lost on close games like Illinois and others where the margin for error is very small.
It’s ugly and too familiar, and it happened again. The Sun Devils did the right things to lose this game as they had too many times in ’10. They played a solid team in Illinois, but from most angles, the Devils had the edge. However “ASU came up short” which is basically a nicer way to say “The Devils Lost”. The books are closed on September 17, 2011.
A solid season will be shaped by Victory in the close ones. Sun Devils must close.
Aaron Plfugrad - These are his receiving stats to start the season. He has 18 catches for 305 yards and four touchdowns. Pflugrad has been one of the best receivers in the country, and he’s continuing to put up gaudy numbers game in and game out.
At the end of the first half, kicker Alex Garoutte lined up for a 32 yard field goal…and missed. The Sun Devils ended up losing by three points, and Garoutte’s struggles are a concern moving forward. Arizona State will need Garoutte to find his range and start hitting these easy looks, or else his inconsistency is sure to cost the Sun Devils a game down the road.
The Sun Devil defense managed to hold a solid Illinois offense to just 240 yards.
Just one week after a disappointing showing against Missouri, the injury-riddled defense showed that they are still a top threat in the Pac 12. Linebacker, Vontaze Burfict looked like an All-American for the first time this season, and the defensive line played their best game to date. If ASU can continue to play this way on the defensive side of the ball, wins will come easier.
After gaining a combined total of 1,009 yards in the previous two games, the Sun Devils only managed to gain 362 total yards on the Illinois. Quarterback Brock Osweiler and the offensive line had their most challenging game of the season, and running back Cameron Marshall got banged up early in the game.
The 362 yards is not horrible, but Sun Devil fans have already come to expect better from this ASU offense.
. . . and It all comes back to one.
After Saturday at Illinois, the 2011 Sun Devils have recorded two Wins and a Loss. This Loss hurts, but it is not necessarily devastating to the season. Conference play starts this week, and most of the hangover from ASU’s trip to Champaign can be eased with one game, a Victory over the Trojans at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday.
DieHardDevil. Are You?
Sep 19, 2011 - 03:34 pm - By Juan Roque for DieHardDevil.com
For its first road game of the year Arizona State went to Champaign Illinois with a 2-0 record, a national ranking and looking for its first 3-0 start since 2007. The Sun Devils’ opponent, the Fighting Illini, were 2-0 and feeling disrespected due to not being ranked in the polls despite two blowout wins over Arkansas State and South Dakota State. The level of competition was undoubtedly the reason. Illinois was looking to establish themselves as a contender in the Big Ten Leaders Division after a bowl win last season. Leading both teams were two veteran coaches looking to cool the “Hot Seat” talk that’s been surrounding them in their respective schools. ASU’s Dennis Erickson has brought talent to Tempe yet has not been able to win after a 10-3 maiden season in 2007. 2011 was the year when it was to fully bloom into a winning season and prove the critics wrong. Illinois’ Ron Zook is known as an excellent recruiter but just cannot seem to get over the hump and build a consistent winner.
One of the traits that makes college football special are the subplots that exist in these types of games: two teams looking for legitimacy and recognition, two veteran coaches in must win situations and two quarterbacks looking to make a name for themselves in ASU’s Brock Osweiler and Illinois’ Nathan Scheelhaase. There were many that felt that ASU would win this game and have a 3-0 record going into their most important game in September; a showdown with rival USC at home. The Illini were supposed to be another building block to a team looking to win its conference. They were supposed to be a test to see how the team has improved after an emotional win against Missouri the week prior.
The Illini did not get the memo.
In a close and physical game that could have gone either way, it was Illinois who persevered and found a way to win. It was Illinois who avoided the costly mistakes at the end and came up with a huge four and out to seal the victory. From the opening kick off it was evident that ASU was going to be in for a dog fight. The Illini came out fired up and ready to play and were not at all intimidated by the ranked Sun Devils. In the first offensive series the Illini stuffed the Sun Devil offense by making two huge plays: a big hit and tackle by Trulon Henry on first down then a sack of Osweiler on third down. ASU was forced to punt and a shanked kick gave Illinois the ball in great field position. Nathan Scheelhaase, the mobile and athletic Illinois quarterback, then used a combination of running and passing to march his team down the field and into the end zone for a 7-0 lead. ASU responded and tied the game 7-7 on a Brock Osweiler to Gerell Robinson pass. Illinois answered the touchdown by driving to the ASU 2 yard line after a 45 yard completion from Scheelhaase to A.J. Jenkins but was denied a touchdown by the ASU defense and had to settle for a Field Goal. Despite taking the lead 14-10 in the fourth quarter, ASU could not overcome its own errors on offense. The Illini rallied and won the game 17-14 when Scheelhaase connected again with A.J. Jenkins for 13 yards after Brock Osweiller was hit & fumbled on a pass play.
GRADING THE GAME
Brock Osweiler may get some heat for the turnovers and the loss, but it was not entirely his fault. From the start of the game Brock was harassed by the Illini defense. The pocket collapsed frequently and forced him to vacate his progressions and scramble. He was sacked six times, and on the fumble late in the game he was hit by a defender that came free on the edge. While he overthrew a couple passes, he was the victim of several drops by ASU receivers. Brock was gallant in defeat completing 25-45 passes for 267 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted twice: one on a fluke bounce off of ASU tackle Dan Knapp and the second on a tipped ball. He ran the ball well again and despite having happy feet in the second half, he was in control of the offense and had them in position to win the game after the Illini scored.
Dropped balls plagued this unit Saturday. Even the sure handed Aaron Pflugrad dropped a critical fourth down pass in the Devil’s final possession, but had a productive day by catching 7 passes for 75 yards. Gerrel Robinson had his best day to date by snagging 8 passes for 88 yards, but dropped a possible touchdown pass late in the game. Mike Willie caught 3 passes for 65 yards, but had a costly Pass Interference penalty that killed an ASU drive. Thomas Coyle couldn’t keep his feet in the end-zone on one play and dropped a pass in the 4th quarter that hit him squarely in the hands. They did make big plays and at times looked like a threat, but the drops at the end when the game was on the line cost them a better grade.
Cameron Marshall sat out the second quarter with an injury but returned to the game and had his best day this season rushing for 69 yards on 13 carries for a 5.3 per carry average. Kyle Middlebrooks struggled a bit and ran for 17 yards on 6 carries, and Jamal Miles was not able to get into the swing of things by rushing twice for 3 yards. When is Deantre Lewis coming back?
When a unit gives up six sacks, not much more needs to be said. The Illini were constantly in the backfield pressuring Osweiler. Defensive linemen Michael Buchanan and Mercilus Whitney combined for 3.5 sacks and linebacker Jonathan Brown had one and a half. The Illini were frequently in Brock’s face and flushed him from the pocket on several occasions. Run blocking was better but still not where it needs to be. Penalties killed potential scoring drives. Not a good day at the office for the Hell Hogs.
The unit suffered a huge loss at the beginning of the game when end Junior Onyeali left the game with a knee sprain. However, the line picked up the slack and had its best showing after two mediocre games. Corey Adams was disruptive and productive recording four tackles and a half sack. Will Sutton played his best game so far this season by registering four stops and half a sack. Bo Moos played hard and recovered a fumble along with two tackles. Jamar Jarrett had three tackles but also was a factor in pressuring Schoolhouse. Davon Coleman filled in admirably for the injured Onyeali by recording seven tackles and a half sack. The goal line stop in the first quarter was impressive, and they held their own against the big Illinois linemen for four quarters.
They were much improved after two less than stellar games to start the season. Vontaze Burfict showed flashes of his dominant self by recording nine tackles, and he had several hits on Illini ball carriers. He was constantly around the football and played hard until the end. Colin Parker continues to impress by getting a half sack along with eight tackles. Shelly Lyons had five tackles as did Oliver Aaron.
Despite the huge 45 yard completion in the Illini’s second series, the unit played a very good game. Coverage and tackling were much improved from the previous two weeks. Illinois’ talented receiver, A.J. Jenkins, was kept in check, and even though he had 103 yards receiving 58 of them came on two plays. Eddie Elder showed true grit by recording ten tackles, and Clint Floyd forced a fumble along with his three tackles. Osahon Irabor was much improved and confident in his coverage, recorded nine tackles. And finally, Keelan Johnson came off the bench to give the unit its first interception of the season.
A shanked punt that led to an Illini touchdown and a missed Field Goal that ended up making a huge difference in the game. Enough said.
DieHard Devils demand a much better performance in the quest to defeat rival USC, this Saturday. Watch for developments of Game #4 vs USC this week at DieHardDevil.com.
Sep 16, 2011 - 12:49 am - By: Juan Roque for DieHardDevil.com
Arizona State will be traveling for the first time in 2011 to Champaign, Illinois to face the 2-0 Fighting Illini of the University of Illinois. The Sun Devils, 2-0 and ranked #22 in the AP Poll and #18 in the Coaches Poll, are coming off a huge emotional overtime win against then ranked Missouri last Friday. The Illini are on a three game winning streak that dates back to last December when they beat Baylor in the Texas Bowl 38-14. Under Head Coach Ron Zook, Illinois is looking to make some noise in the new Big Ten Conference “Leaders Division.” The Illini have had nominal success recently and want to develop consistency in their football program. In 2007 they earned a Rose Bowl berth but lost the game 49-17 to USC and they were victorious in their bowl appearance last year. They are a veteran team that is used to playing top caliber competition within their own conference like Ohio State and Wisconsin every year. They will be amped up for this contest as it will be their first true test of the season after wins against Arkansas State and South Dakota State. ASU, ranked for the first time since 2008, is looking to win its fifth game in a row which is something the Sun Devils have not done since 2007 when they shared the conference title and went to the Holiday Bowl. For the Sun Devils, this is also the final opportunity to not only win on the road against a quality opponent before opening conference play but to show they are able to play at a high level after a huge emotional win. The Illini, of course, will be looking to stop their momentum and gain their own heading into their conference games.
Meet the Illini Offense
Illinois offensive coordinator Paul Petrino likes to mix it up by using different formations and personnel. The Illini, for the most part, run a Pro Style offense with a tight end and fullback but they also go into three receiver sets. They like power football with their big offensive line and will also run a Zone Option package where the quarterback can either hand off or run. When they go to three receiver sets they use their speed at those positions to get the ball into the open field for big yardage, and it all revolves around their second year quarterback; sophomore Nathan Scheelhaase. Scheelhaase (pronounced “Sheel-house”) is a unique type of signal caller in that he is athletic, fast, can throw and has excellent field vision given he is 6’03”. He is very effective running the Illini scheme and in his second year is looking to earn some honors after a successful freshman campaign. He has a good strong arm, has the ability to throw either out of the pocket in a classic drop-back or on the run in play action and delivers the ball in what’s called a “tight window” where only the receiver can catch it. He has great vision in the Zone Option and reacts quickly to the defense. He has the ability to “pull” the ball from the running back and carry it himself if he sees the defense commit to the inside run. Scheelhaaase is also very smart with the football. In two games he is yet to be intercepted.
The Illinois offensive line is an experienced bunch led by All America candidate and Outland/Lombardi Watch List player Jeff Allen. Allen, a 6’05” 315 pound mountain, plays the old school “Weak Tackle” position where he lines up on the “open” side of the formation where the opponent’s best speed rushers will attack from. He is big and moves extremely well for a young man of his size. As a unit the Illini are all huge up front. All players, except for “Strong Tackle” Michael Heitz, are well over 300 pounds and are all 6’05” and above. They are the typical Big Ten line in that they are big, can run you over in the run game yet have the athletic ability to pass protect effectively against smaller quicker defenders. Center Graham Pocic is a potential All Big Ten player and anchors the line. The guards are both over 6’05” 310 pounds. This is a physical group that plays with a mean streak and does a great job opening holes for Illini running backs.
The Illini are very talented at the skill positions and have a star in the making in freshman tailback Donovan Young. Young, only one year removed from high school, has all the skills necessary to be an All American. He is fast, strong, nimble and can get the tough yards by churning his legs. He scored two touchdowns against South Dakota State in limited action due to the game being a blowout. Senior wide receiver A.J. Jenkins is a speedster who can break a game wide open with his pass catching abilities. He runs his routes and catches the ball in traffic extremely well. Jenkins had five catches for 71 yards last week in limited action due to the lopsided score. The Illini have suffered a blow to their offense in that they lost their all purpose player Zach Becker for the season due to a broken leg suffered last week. Becker, a senior, was the Illini’s “do it all” guy. He played fullback but also lined up as a tight end and receiver.
How ASU matches up
This is a critical game for the front seven of ASU. The defensive line and linebackers will need to play smart in order to stop the Illini offense. This is especially true when Scheelhaase runs the Zone Option play. The defensive line will need to get penetration in order to disrupt the option’s progression and force Scheelhaase into making bad decisions with the football. This will then open up the door for Vontaze Burfict, Shelly Lyons and Colin Parker to make plays at the line of scrimmage and keep either Scheelhaase or Young from running free into the second level. Discipline will be crucial for the Sun Devils to identify the option and then attack it with their speed and talent at linebacker. The defensive line will have their work cut out for them but they need to find a way to keep those big Illini linemen off the linebackers so that they are free to make plays and clog up the interior of the Illini offense, thus forcing the running backs or Scheelhaase to run outside. This will give ASU the advantage.
Pressuring Sheelhaase this week is another very important part of stopping Illinois. The defensive linemen need to use their quickness on passing downs and get pressure on Scheelhaase and disrupt his progressions in making his reads. This is an absolute must if they are to win this game. Through the first two games the defensive line has only registered two sacks which is far below their ability; this needs to change if they are to be successful. They have to limit Scheelhaase’s game breaking ability by finding a way to pressure him, hit him and sack him without relying on the blitz. The defensive backs are going to face a talented receiver tandem this week but not the caliber of Missouri. By getting pressure on the quarterback it will help the Sun Devil defensive backs and linebackers in their coverage and create turnovers. Contrarily, pass coverage needs to hold up in order for the front seven to get to Scheelhaase. They cannot allow receivers to get open off the line of scrimmage by not reading their keys correctly or using bad coverage techniques.
Tackling must also improve this week.
Key Matchup: ASU Front Seven vs. Scheelhaase
Meet the Illini Defense
Illinois runs a version of the 3-4 defense by using what they call a “Bandit” position. The Bandit is a hybrid player that is a defensive end linebacker type who can speed rush in the passing game, attack in the running game but also be able to drop into coverage. This position is what helps the Illini disguise their coverage in the secondary and get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Bandit for the Illini is Michael Buchanan who is 6’06” and weighs 240 pounds. He is a very dangerous player in that he can rush the passer using his speed and agility but can also drop into coverage and use his height to knock down passes. He is similar in body type to ex-NFL star Jevon Kearse. He is a player that must be accounted for on every down.
The defensive line for the Illini is active and athletic and is anchored by senior defensive tackle Akeem Spence. Spence is a stalwart at the position and is tough to move off the line of scrimmage due to his 300 pounds. He is a technician and uses his hands well to get leverage and pursue in the run game or rush the passer. He is a preseason All America candidate and has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Bronko Nagurski Award and Outland Trophy. Through two games he’s only had six tackles and no sacks but that’s due to teams double teaming him or running away from him. Whitney Mercilus is a good player for them as well up front. The 6’04” 265 pound junior already has a sack this season and has had 4 tackles, two of them for loss.
The strength of the Illini defense is their linebackers led by senior Ian Thomas. Thomas, coming off an injury last week, was dominant against South Dakota State. In two and a half quarters of play he was outstanding. He recorded nine tackles, sacked the quarterback and was always around the football. He is a smart football player who reacts with his feet to get to the point of attack. He is tough to block but is not afraid to get physical. Trulon Henry is also a great player. The converted safety had a pick six last week and had five tackles. Henry reads the offense very well and uses the ball hawking instincts of his safety pedigree to break passes up and is a terrific open field tackler.
In the secondary the Illini have talent and speed. Senior cornerback Tavon Wilson is their best player. He can cover, tackle and he is physical in supporting the run. Supo Sanni is a fierce hitter at free safety. Strong safety Steve Hull is built like a linebacker and hits like one too. They do a great job in using their speed to keep up with opposing receivers and avoid separation.
How ASU matches up
This defense will present a challenge for the Sun Devils. Brock Osweiler and the offensive line will need to account for the Bandit at all times. Michael Buchanan cannot be allowed to come full speed at Osweiler and get cheap sacks due to an error in protection. The offensive line will need to adjust their assignments in order to account for him and must be disciplined at the tackle position in pass protection. Osweiler must also be able to identify when Buchanan is dropping into coverage and exploit a potential mismatch with one of ASU’s slot receivers. This will force the Illini to adjust their coverage to compensate for this which would then open up down field for the rest of the Sun Devil receivers. ASU has the speed advantage at the skill positions. If Osweiler finds the weaknesses in the Illini coverage, he’ll succeed at connecting with his best receivers, Aaron Pflugrad and Gerell Robinson.
The interior offensive line will have their hands full with Akeem Spence and must keep him from making plays. They need to double team this guy, get him off the line of scrimmage and find a way to get to the linebackers. The second level is very important in this game if ASU is to effectively run the ball. The Sun Devils will need to control the line of scrimmage to open up running lanes. Also, they must pressure Ian Thomas and Trulon Henry to keep them from teeing off on ASU running backs. A break out game for Cameron Marshall would be timely this week. By being effective in the running game, ASU will keep drives alive and keep the Illini offense on the bench. Last week ASU averaged 3.6 yards per carry in the running game which is unacceptable for a team looking to compete for a championship. If they are to win this Saturday they will need to drastically improve in this phase of the game.
Key Matchup: Aaron Pflugrad vs. Illini Secondary
This is a statement game for ASU. This is another test that they need to pass if they are going to develop into a championship team. The last time the Sun Devils travelled to a Big Ten school they suffered a heart breaking loss due to costly errors and penalties. Not this week. Even though they’re a good team, Illinois as a whole is a good fit for ASU. They do have great players on both sides of the ball, but ASU has the speed advantage at the skill positions on offense and at the linebacker position on defense. If ASU avoids the errors and penalties, they win this game. This will be a close one, but I’m predicting the Sun Devils will find a way to beat the Illini.
Prediction: ASU 24 Illinois 20
Sep 14, 2011 - 10:54 am - By Chris Morris for DieHardDevil.com
ASU all-time vs. Illinois: 2-0 overall, 1-0 in Champaign
First stop Champaign. After going 2-4 away from Tempe in 2010, the Sun Devils enter Memorial Stadium for their first shot at redemption. Built in 1923, Memorial Stadium was so-named in honor of the fallen Illinois soldiers from World War I whose names are inscribed on the stadium’s columns. Last season the Illini drew an average of 54,188 fans per home game. Capacity has been slightly reduced for 2011 to hold 60,670. The largest crowd was 78,297, drawn against Missouri in the Rose Bowl season of 1984. Before home games Illinois players touch Grange Rock in the Stadium’s north end. The Rock was dedicated in 1994 in honor of Illini legend Red Grange. Want to get a better feel for Memorial Stadium? Check out these behind the scenes videos.
For the third straight week ASU meets a program it hasn’t played in more than two decades. The Sun Devils have not made the trip to Champaign since 1987 when they opened John Cooper’s final season with a 21-7 road victory. The only other meeting with Illinois came the following season when the Larry Marmie era kicked-off with a 21-16 victory in Tempe. In six seasons as head coach of the Illini, Ron Zook has not beaten a Pac-12 opponent-- losing to Cal in 2005 and USC in the 2008 Rose Bowl. The Sun Devils are 14-6 all-time against the Big Ten, the last victory coming in 2005 when they completed a home/home sweep over Northwestern.
Strength vs. Strength: Arizona State’s top-ranked rush defense could face an early test. Illinois is tops in the Big Ten in rushing since Ron Zook took over the program. 2010 saw the Illini lead the conference in rushing for the third time during Zook’s tenure and finish top-20 in the nation for the 4th time in five seasons. They ran for more than 300 yards four times and eclipsed 200 yards four others. Mikel Leshoure, who led the Illini ground attack last season, became a 2nd round draft pick of the Lions in April, but Illinois’ top three returning rushers still combined for 12 scores and nearly 1500 yards last year. The Sun Devils will be up to the challenge however. ASU surrendered a Pac-10 low 120.2 yards-per-game on the ground and held Oregon, the nation’s 4th best rushing team, to just 145 yards, nearly half its season average.
Illinois is looking to continue their surprise resurgence of 2010. The 2007 Illini stunned the college football world with victories over 5th ranked Wisconsin and No. 1 Ohio State earning their 1st Rose Bowl berth since 1984. Facing huge expectations Illinois struggled through two disappointing seasons, notching only eight wins in 2008 and 2009 combined. Last season the Illini were picked to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten, but Zook’s squad bounced back. They earned the program’s first ever road victory over Penn State and beat Baylor 38-14 in the Texas Bowl as part of a seven win year. With six starters on defense and eight coming back on offense including sophomore quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois has the makings of another Big Ten surprise.
Like the Pac-12, the Big Ten is undergoing expansion and division in 2011. With Nebraska beginning conference play this year, the Big Ten now features 12 teams which it has broken into two, six-team divisions. Illinois begins play in the Leaders Division this season where it must overcome Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin to reach the Big Ten Championship Game against the winner of the Legends Division which includes Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern.
Game #3 at Illinois - September 17, 2011, 4:00 p.m. PT
Memorial Stadium, Champaign, IL
Sep 14, 2011 - 10:31 am - ILLINOIS' Arizona State (#22/18) Game Notes
GAME 3: #22/18 Arizona State (2-0) at Illinois (2-0)
Sept. 17, 2011 // 6:07 pm CDT kick // BTN
Champaign, Ill. // Memorial Stadium (60,670)
Illinois dominated South Dakota State, 56-3, last weekend to improve to 2-0 for the first time since 2005, Ron Zook's first season at Illinois. The Illini are looking to start the season 3-0 for the first time since 2001 and for their first four-game winning streak since 2007.
Saturday's game will mark the third of five straight home games to start the 2011 season. Illinois has eight total home games this season for the first time in the Memorial Stadium era and first time since 1903, when the Illini played nine home games.
After last Saturday's victory, the Illini have an all-time record of 249-209-14 at Memorial Stadium. Illinois' 53-point margin of victory against South Dakota State is its largest since 1944, when the Illini defeated Illinois-Normal (Illinois State), 79-6. Illinois' 56 points were its most at home since 2002, when the Illini scored 59 against Arkansas State.
Illinois leads the nation in third-down efficiency, converting 21-of-29 (.724) third downs during the first two weeks. The Illini converted 12-of-18 third downs in the season-opener against Arkansas State and were successful on 9-of-11 third downs last week against SDSU.
Fresh off a record-breaking 2010 season, the Illini offense has picked up the pace even more in 2011. Through two games, the Illini lead the Big Ten in scoring offense (44.5 ppg), total offense (496.0 ypg) and rushing offense (283.0). Last season, the Illini broke school records for both total points scored (423) and points per game (32.53) and led the Big Ten in rushing (246.1 ypg).
Not to be outdone, the Illini defense has allowed only 18 total points (9.0 ppg), including only one touchdown, in 2011. Illinois ranks sixth nationally in rushing defense (42.5 ypg) and 13th in both scoring defense (9.0 ppg) and total defense (223.0 ypg).
The Illini allowed only 96 yards to South Dakota State, marking the first time since 1998 that a UI opponent had fewer than 100 total yards in a game (69 yards by Middle Tennessee State).
The Illini were penalty-free in the opener, marking the first time in 18 years that an Illinois team did not commit a penalty in a game. The last time it happened was on Nov. 20, 1993, against Wisconsin. With only five penalties for 37 yards on the season, the Illini rank fifth nationally in in fewest penalties committed (2.5 per game) and third in fewest penalty yards per game (18.5 ypg).
Sophomore QB Nathan Scheelhaase has picked up where he left off last season, completing 22-of-31 passes for 369 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, and rushing for another 117 yards and two TDs so far in 2011. His passing efficiency rating of 192.25 ranks eighth nationally and second in the Big Ten. Scheelhaase has thrown 15 TDs against just one INT over the last nine games.
Senior WR A.J. Jenkins is saving his best season for his last. He had a career-high 11 receptions for a career-best 148 yards against Arkansas State, including a career-long 72-yard touchdown. Through two games, Jenkins lead the Big Ten in both receptions per game (8.0) and receiving yards per game (109.5), which rank 12th and 20th in the nation, respectively.
Ron Zook is in his seventh season as the Illinois head coach. Zook was the 2007 Liberty Mutual National Coach of the Year after taking the Illini to the Rose Bowl. His has an overall record of 30-45 at Illinois.
ILLINOIS VS. RANKED OPPONENTS
• Illinois faces its first top-25 opponent of the season on Saturday as Arizona State is ranked No. 22 in this week's Associated Press poll and No. 18 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Future 2011 opponents in the current AP Top 25 include No. 10 Wisconsin and No. 17 Ohio State. Michigan, Penn State and Northwestern all are receiving votes in this week's poll.
• The Illini have dropped 10 straight games to opponents ranked in the AP poll, with their last win coming on Nov. 10, 2007 at No. 1 Ohio State (28-21). Last season, the Illini beat Northwestern when they were ranked 25th in the coaches poll, but they were unranked in the AP poll.
• The last Illini win over an AP-ranked foe at home was on Oct. 6, 2007 against No. 5 Wisconsin (31-26). Illinois has not played a ranked non-conference opponent at Memorial Stadium since beating No. 25 Louisville, 34-10, in 2001.
• In the Ron Zook era, the Illini are 3-18 against ranked teams, with all three wins coming in the 2007 Rose Bowl season - No. 21 Penn State, No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 1 Ohio State. In his nine-plus years as a head coach, Zook has posted nine wins over ranked opponents.
ARIZONA STATE SERIES NOTES
• Saturday's game will be the first meeting between the two schools in 23 years. Arizona State leads the all-time series 2-0, picking up back-to-back wins over the Illini in 1987 (21-7 in Champaign) and 1988 (21-16 in Tempe).
• The Illini have not beaten a Pac-12 opponent since 2001, when they topped California on the road, 44-17. Since then, Illinois has dropped five straight to Pac-12 teams, falling to both UCLA and Cal in 2003, UCLA in 2004, Cal in 2005 and USC in the 2008 Rose Bowl. Illinois coach Ron Zook is 0-2 all-time against the Pac-12, falling to Cal in 2005 and USC in 2008.
• Illinois offensive coordinator Paul Petrino and Arizona State cornerbacks coach Greg Burns were on the same coaching staff at Louisville in 1998 and '99. Petrino was the receivers coach, while Burns was the secondary coach for the Cardinals.
• Arizona State Director of Football Operations John Wrenn was an assistant coach at Illinois in 1985 and '86 under former UI coach Mike White. A native of Moline, Ill., and a graduate of Western Illinois, Wrenn was a successful high school coach in Illinois in the '80s and '90s.
Click here for Quotes & Video of Illinois’s Head coach Ron Zook, who addressed the media about this Saturday’s game vs the SUN DEVILS.
The Illinois/Arizona State game will be nationally televised on the Big Ten Network with an air time of 6 p.m. CT. Eric Collins (play-by-play), Chris Martin (color analyst) and Dionne Miller (sidelines) will call the action with Jim Ressler producing and Dennis Lanius directing.
The 41-station Illini Sports Network will carry the radio broadcast with the pregame show beginning at 5:30 p.m. CT. Calling the action will be Brian Barnhart (play-by-play), Kurt Kittner (color analyst) and Steve Kelly (pregame, halftime and postgame). The broadcast also can be heard on SIRIUS (135) XM (195) satellite radio.
University of Illinois Game Notes
Sep 14, 2011 - 09:35 am - Game #3- SUN DEVILS at Illinois - Saturday, September 17, KICK-OFF 6:00 CT / 4:00 PT
The Fighting Illini’s Memorial Stadium
Located in Champaign, IL, Memorial Stadium has been the home of the Illinois Fighting Illini for more than eight decades. Prior to its opening in 1923, the Fighting Illini played at Illinois Field. This stadium became to small and by 1923 contributions of nearly $1.7 million were made to the University of Illinois in order to build a new stadium, to honor men and women who fought during World War I, and later World War II. Named Memorial Stadium, it was completed by November 3, 1923 when Illinois beat Chicago.
-Tenant: Illinois Fighting Illini
-Conference: Big Ten
-Opened: November 3, 1923
Throughout it’s nearly eight decades of existence Memorial Stadium has underwent numerous improvement and additions. Today, the stadium has a capacity of 62,872. The stadium consists of two tiers of bleachers. The lower level forms a horseshoe, and upper decks are found on both sides of the field. The press box is located on top of the west side upper deck. A huge 23 foot by 34 foot scoreboard is located at the west end of the stadium. Originally, Memorial Stadium had a grass field, but in 1974 the grass was replaced with Astroturf. Today, Memorial Stadium continues to be the home of the University of Illinois Fighting Illini. Like many other colleges, Illinois has replaced the Astroturf field with Fieldturf. It was the home of the Chicago Bears for one season in 2002 as Soldier Field was renovated. After the 2006 season work began on a $116 million expansion project to Memorial Stadium. Completed by the 2008 season, this expansion and renovation project included the construction of a new pressbox and luxury suite area on the west side, 10,000 seats on the north side, connecting the south endzone to the east and west grandstands, renovating the concourses and moving the main video/scoreboard to the south endzone. In April 2011 the university announced that 2,200 seats would be removed from the south end of the stadium due to the age of the aluminum structure. This reduces the seating capacity to 60,600.