Duke Preview

Arizona State looks to close out the 2014 season on a strong note as they travel to the Sun Bowl in El Paso to face an opponent it has never faced previously in Duke University. The Blue Devils are certainly known for their longtime success on the hardwood, but how do they measure up on the gridiron? Joe Healey examines ASU’s Sun Bowl Opponent.

Duke Offensive Personnel

A fifth-year senior, quarterback Anthony Boone has enjoyed successes and struggles on the field for the Blue Devils as he has been the starter during the best two-year stretch in program history but has also thrown 30 touchdowns to 20 interceptions during that span.

Mobile if undersized (6-0, 225), Boone has season totals of 2,507 passing yards with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing 56.9% of his passes.

Boone has been able to win important games but has also had issues with consistency, but generally will not be a stranger to the threat that the Sun Devil defense presents.

Also a notable running threat, Boone has 346 net rushing yards with five scores on the year, creating a need for the Sun Devils to be disciplined in their attack of the Duke quarterback.

At running back, the Blue Devils utilize as much of a platoon attack as ASU will have seen all year in 2014, as four players have at least 74 carries.

Shaquille Powell, a one-time ASU recruit during his high school years in Las Vegas, leads the Blue Devils with 105 carries and ranks second on the squad with 501 net rush yards, while Shaun Wilson has a team-high 590 yards while averaging a solid 8.0 yards-per-carry with five touchdowns. Josh Snead has added 399 yards on 79 carries with three scores, while QB Thomas Sirk has a team-high eight touchdown runs with 232 net yards on his 45 carries.

One of the top receivers in college football, Jamison Crowder enters his final collegiate game with 78 receptions for 942 yards with six scores, helping him earn First-Team All-ACC honors this season just as he did as a junior in 2013.

As good as Crowder’s senior season has been, he submitted a monster junior year in 2013 with 108 receptions for 1,360 yards, and putting him in a position to surpass the 1,000-yard mark for the third straight season should he total at least 58 receiving yards against ASU.

Also a dynamic special teams threat on a national level, don’t let Crowder’s 5-foot-9, 175-pound stature fool you as he is a complete playmaker that will be Duke’s primary target this Saturday.

Elsewhere on offense, Issac Blakeney and Max McCaffrey are slated to start with Crowder at wide receiver and David Reeves is listed as the top tight end.

On the year, Blakeney ranks second on the team in receiving (43-521-6) while McCaffrey ranks third (36-386-3). Reeves has seen limited action in the pass game, catching 13 passes for 103 yards but three of his receptions have gone for scores.

The Blue Devil offensive line from left-to-right figures to start tackle Takoby Cofield, guard Lucas Patrick, center Matt Skura, guard Laken Tomlinson and tackle Casey Blaser.

Tomlinson is the major headliner of the group, having earned First-Team All-ACC honors, while Cofield was a Third-Team honors recipient.

In total, Duke’s offensive line has been one of the absolute best in the nation as not team has allowed fewer tackles-for-loss than the Blue Devils.

Duke Offensive Summary

The clear matchup to watch when Duke has the ball is how the Blue Devil offensive line can protect Boone against Arizona State’s attack.

This clash will be a complete strength-versus-strength affair as Duke leads the nation in fewest tackles-for-loss allowed (40) while ranking 11th in the nation having only allowed 13 sacks on the year. ASU, on the other hand, ranks fifth in the nation in tackles for loss per game (8.1) and seventh nationally in sacks per game (3.25).

With Boone’s generally erratic play, if his protectors are overcome by ASU’s pressure, momentum shifts substantially to the Sun Devils as ASU specializes not only in backfield attacks but also opportunistically creating turnovers.

Crowder is an absolute force to be reckoned with and the Sun Devils undoubtedly will have him circled on Saturday as he looks to surpass the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the third straight year. However, if ASU can corral the star-studded senior in El Paso, the drop-off in skill position ability is noticeable and does not match up with the typical talent the Devils have faced in Pac-12 play.

Duke Defensive Personnel

The four-man Blue Devil front is slated to feature Dezmond Johnson and Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo at the ends with Jamal Bruce and Carlos Wray in between at defensive tackle.

DeWalt-Ondijo leads the defensive linemen in tackles (42), tackles-for-loss (6.5) and sacks (3.5), while Johnson has chipped in 19 tackles including 5.5 for loss in nine games at defensive end.

Wray has been productive from his tackle spot with 37 total stops on the year, while Bruce has added 23.

The heart and soul of the defense, David Helton starts at middle linebacker with C.J. France at weak side linebacker in the 4-2-5 defense for the Blue Devils – a trio of numbers that likely will give many readers painful flashbacks to the Sun Devil defense of about a decade ago.

A First-Team All-ACC selection, Helton leads Duke with 125 total tackles, ranking 15th nationally in tackles-per-game, adding 5.0 tackles-for-loss and 1.5 sacks. Helton also recently won the Campbell Trophy – nicknamed the ‘Academic Heisman’ – which also had Sun Devil QB as a finalist.

France has missed two games this year but ranks sixth on the squad with 52 tackles.

Duke’s secondary is headlined by a sensational pair of safeties in Jeremy Cash and Devon Edwards, with Deondre Singleton also starting at safety. Bryon Fields and Breon Borders start at cornerback for the Blue Devils.

A Second-Team All-ACC member this year, Cash leads Duke in tackles-for-loss (10.5) and sacks (5.5) while being one of three Blue Devils to surpass the 100-tackle mark with 103 total stops.

Edwards was an Honorable Mention All-ACC pick this season and ranks second on the team behind Helton with 119 total tackles, adding a team-high 10 passes defended. Singleton ranks fifth on the team with 60 tackles on the year.

At cornerback, Borders leads Duke with three interceptions and also has 38 total tackles, while Fields ranks fourth on the team with 66 total tackles.

Duke Defensive Summary

With a major talent at linebacker in Helton and some dynamic abilities throughout the secondary, Duke ranks 21st nationally in scoring defense (20.6 ppg.) and 34th in pass defense (204 ypg.). However, the Blue Devils rank 94th nationally in rush defense (196.3) while ranking 54th in sacks (2.25) and 105th in tackles-for-loss (4.8).

ASU will hope to use its four all-conference offensive linemen to control the line of scrimmage and open opportunities for D.J. Foster and Demario Richard, while a scrambling presence from Taylor Kelly would be a major asset for the Sun Devil offense.

As he does against virtually any defender in the nation, Jaelen Strong provides a matchup challenge for Duke’s secondary and will look to help Taylor Kelly conclude his college career on a high note.

Similar to the combination of Damarious Randall and Jordan Simone, Cash and Edwards bring versatile skill sets to the Blue Devil secondary and can make plays sideline-to-sideline, at the line of scrimmage as well as in coverage.

Duke Special Teams Preview

The Blue Devils showcase a highly potent return game with Crowder, a First-Team All-ACC selection at punt returner with at 10.1-yard average with a touchdown, while Edwards took home Third-Team All-ACC accolades at kick returner with his 25.4-yard average with a score.

Duke boasts one of the most accurate placekickers in the nation in Ross Martin, who at 90% (18-of-20) ranks fifth nationally in field goal percentage with his only misses coming from 40 and 51 yards. Will Monday averages 43.4 yards on punts.

Final Analysis

Duke has surely enjoyed a recent football resurrection, as after Saturday the Blue Devils will have appeared in three straight bowl games after having not seen prior postseason action since 1995.

Though names like Krzyzewski and Laettner carry legendary weight in Durham, David Cutcliffe has done what merely a few short years ago seemed unthinkable by making Duke a nationally relevant football program.

Todd Graham’s bowl game experiences at Arizona State have been yin-and-yang situations – the Devils’ 2012 effort against Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl was one of the most dominant games seen around these parts in several years, while last year’s Holiday Bowl dud against Texas Tech was one of the great head-shakers of Graham’s three-year Sun Devil era thus far.

Prior to last season’s letdown in San Diego, Graham had sensational postseason credentials as in addition to ASU’s near-perfect performance against the Midshipmen, he had won his three bowl appearances with Tulsa and has multiple 60-point postseason efforts.

Having not won a bowl game since its 7-6 victory over Arkansas in the 1961 Cotton Bowl Classic, Duke certainly would love to defeat its fellow Devils, while, despite a freefall from once being in the conversation for the College Football Playoff, Arizona State achieving 10 wins on the year has vast meaning for everyone in the program.

On the field, Taylor Kelly simply needs to play this game as if it’s the last football game he will ever play – a concept that could feasibly prove to be true. With nearly a month to prepare, one would hope that the fifth-year senior is ready to shed the ups-and-downs of the 2014 season and cap his Arizona State career on a high note.

Duke’s 21st-ranked scoring defense will look to limit Kelly, Foster, Strong and company, while ASU will strive to attack the typically sturdy Blue Devil offensive line with a defense that has become nationally prominent under Graham in terms of sacks and tackles-for-loss.

For both teams, the quarterbacks have made their share of impressive plays and costly mistakes, creating the logical assumption that the turnover battle will prove huge in this game.

Though Duke has been far from a power in football for several years, just as ASU is working to achieve its first set of consecutive 10-win seasons in over 40 years, the Blue Devils are hoping to do so for the first time in program history, as Cutcliffe guided Duke to 10 wins in 2013—the first 10-win season in Duke history—and has nine to his credit entering the Sun Bowl.

There is tangible and obvious disappointment with the way the final few weeks of the regular season transpired for Arizona State with a season-altering loss at Oregon State and the relinquishment of the Territorial Cup to Arizona. However, to gain a 10th win and redirect momentum heading into the offseason are potential outcomes that hopefully generate enough inspiration to avoid the disappointment witnessed last postseason for ASU.

Familiar Faces

• Duke DE Michael Mann was verbally committed to ASU under Dennis Erickson in 2011 before signing with Duke

• Duke OG William Perrott is an Arizona native and attended Phoenix Brophy Prep, as did ASU WR Frederick Gammage and K Alex Garoutte

• Duke TE Davis Koppenhaver attended Santa Clarita (Calif.) Hart High School, as does ASU signee Brady White

• Duke RB Joseph Ajeigbe and S Corbin McCarthy attended Norco (Calif.) High School, as did former ASU RB Deantre Lewis

• Duke RB Shaquille Powell and WR Ryan Smith attended Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, as did ASU CB Armand Perry

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