Devilish at home: A look at Arizona State

In the annals of college football, you won't find too many men who were head football coaches at three different Division 1-A schools in three days. But that's the position Arizona State head coach Dirk Koetter found himself in late last November.

#11 Washington (3-1, 5-1) at ASU (1-2, 4-2)
Saturday, October 27 -- 7:15 PM
Sun Devil Stadium -- Tempe, AZ
Last Meeting: October 14, 2000 – UW 21, ASU 15
Series All-Time: Washington leads, 14-8-0

Winning 19 of his past 24 games with an offense as imaginative as it was high-scoring, Koetter was a commodity as hot as the Tempe sun after leading Boise State to a second straight Humanitarian Bowl appearance on their own home field.

The courters started falling over themselves.

The 42-year old Koetter, whose first collegiate coaching opportunity came at Texas El-Paso under former Husky assistant Bob Stull, was Oklahoma State athletic director Terry Don Phillips' first choice. And on November 30, Koetter was all set to fly to Stillwater to be announced as the new OSU head coach.

Problem was, all along, it wasn't Koetter's first choice.

"I did make a verbal commitment to Oklahoma State," Koetter recalls, "and in the interim between the time I made the commitment to them and the time I was going to go there and be announced, I was fortunate to receive a call from (ASU athletic director) Gene (Smith).

"I had told Oklahoma State from the get-go that Arizona State was my first choice. I told them if I had the opportunity at any point to go to Arizona State, that was my first choice."

And 48 hours later, on December 2, Koetter accepted his first choice when he was named to replace Bruce Snyder as the head coach of ASU. And in a bit of ironic whimsy, three weeks later, he won his last game on Boise's blue carpet, beating Texas El-Paso 38-23.

No question, it's been a home-cooking, road-apple season so far for Koetter's charges. With last week's 41-24 win over Oregon State -– Koetter's first in PAC-10 play –- the Sun Devils have gone 4-0 in their native Tempe, outscoring the opposition 195-73 in the process. In turn, they have lost their two road games (Stanford and USC) by an aggregate 99-45.

The same could be said for Washington –- winners of 12 straight at home, but squeaking past lowly Cal and being blown out by UCLA away from Husky Stadium.

Koetter was clearly encouraged by his team's performance against the Beavers, for it was the first time his team fought back after being down. And he thinks it will serve ASU well for this Saturday night's meeting with the Huskies. "It was certainly a great team win," Koetter said of his team's comeback win. "It was something this program and team really needed. I've never seen my guys happier. And I was really happy for them.

"It seems that every week, (Washington) finds a way to get it done, and that's exactly what we are trying to get done in our program. Against Oregon State, we finally found a way (to come from behind), and it will give us the confidence to know that we can find way in the fourth quarter -- just like Washington."

"In that respect, it should be a great match up."

And as Husky fans have come to know, there's nothing like some good home cooking.
ASU Two-deeps

Washington Two-deeps

TEAM STATS: 40.0 points, 457.5 yards (189.3 rush, 268.2 pass)
RUSHING: Delvon Flowers 82-545-3 TD (6.6)
Tom Pace 43-290-3 (6.4)
PASSING: Jeff Krohn 81-145-4, 1349 yds, 16 TD
RECEIVING: Shaun McDonald 22-502-8 TD (22.8)
Donnie O'Neal 20-421-3 (21.0)

Coach Koetter, who doubles as the offensive coordinator, immediately installed his Boise State system that features multiple sets and shifts, and will spread the field at any time. It's complicated, but very difficult to stop when it's rolling. It averages 40 points and 450 yards per game. Make no mistake; this offense can score.

Koetter threw the QB spot open at his first Camp Tontozona practice, and sophomore Jeff Krohn (6-2, 197) won it convincingly. The nation's sixth-leading passer in terms of efficiency, Krohn left the USC game early with an ankle sprain, but came back against Oregon State with a 185-yard, one touchdown performance -- though he only hit on 8-of-25. The former walk-on had a career day in the Stanford loss, throwing for 366 yards and three scores. RS-freshman Andrew Walter (6-5, 219) stepped into the backup role last week after junior Matt Cooper faltered with three interceptions against the Trojans in relief of Krohn.

Krohn has a lot of targets to hit. Sophomore Shaun McDonald (5-9, 166) and senior Donnie O'Neal (6-2, 181) both average over 20 yards per reception, and Ryan Dennard (6-4, 224) is not far behind at 19.3 per grab. McDonald caught four touchdown passes in the Lafayette game, tying a school and PAC-10 record; while Dennard had a four-TD day against San Jose State –- one of them a return of a fumbled interception. O'Neal has enjoyed three 100-yard receiving days on the year, and leads the Sun Devils in both receptions and yards. Olympia-Capital sophomore Skyler Fulton (6-0, 183) caught his first career touchdown against USC, while junior Justin Taplin (6-0, 190) threw 23 yards to Dennard for the backbreaking score against the Beavers –- ASU's first non-QB pass of the season.

Senior tailback Delvon Flowers (6-0, 204) missed all of last season with a torn ACL, but put a stamp on his recovery, torching Oregon State for a career-best 226 yards, including TD runs of 74 and 28 yards. Sophomore Mike Williams (6-0, 187) may miss the game with an injured toe and bruised ribs – Williams had 514 yards as a true freshman, but like the Huskies' Rich Alexis has found the going a bit tougher in year two. Senior everyman Tom Pace (5-10, 191) is a crowd favorite and is a multiple-threat as ASU's second-leading rusher, third-leading receiver, and lead kickoff-returner. Kentwood sophomore fullback Mike Karney (6-0, 265) is a punishing blocker and scored ASU's first touchdown of the season on a seven-yard TD reception.

Four seniors grace the Sun Devil offensive line. Averaging 312 pounds, it's the largest and most experienced front wall Washington has lined up against. Senior center Scott Peters (6-5, 300) is starting his 40th game for ASU, and could be the PAC-10's best in a conference full of star centers. A pair of seniors line up on the left side; guard Marquise Muldrow (6-3, 317) and huge tackle Levi Jones (6-6, 332). Jones was a second-team All PAC-10 pick last year, and used to wreak havoc on the defensive side as a freshman starter. On the right side, senior tackle Kyle Kosier (6-6, 302) recovered well from off-season shoulder surgery and is making his 19th straight start. Sophomore guard Regis Crawford (6-3, 307) saw action at three positions as a freshman and will likely be moved to center next year after Peters' eligibility expires. Senior Travis Scott (6-6, 305) can play either guard position, allowing for a nice rotation.

TEAM STATS: 28.6 points, 361.5 yards (114.2 rush, 247.3 pass)
TACKLES/TFL: Mason Unck 37/5, Jason Shivers 32/0, Terrell Suggs 31/16
SACKS: Suggs 9, Unck 2, Kurt Wallin 2
INTs: Emmanuel Franklin, Alfred Williams, Lamar Baker 1 each

Defensive coordinator Brent Guy came over with Koetter from Boise State, and employs a unique five-DB system involving three safeties. There's a lot of stunting, feigning, and "gapping"; but as with any sudden switch to an entirely new defense, gaps are sometimes blown, and blown gaps can mean big plays -- something Washington can easily attest to.

Though senior tackle Danny Masaniai will miss the entire season after tearing his ACL, the Sun Devils are deep on the defensive line. Sophomore DE Terrell Suggs (6-3, 232) was the PAC-10's Freshman of the Year, and so far his second season has been even better. Over half of his career tackles are for a loss, and he's the PAC-10's top pass-rusher -- already with 20 career sacks in his young career. Suggs specializes in running down plays away heading away from him, and forced a huge 4th-quarter fumble against Oregon State. Another sophomore, Brian Montesano (6-5, 245) starts at the other end, though RS-freshman Jimmy Verdon (6-4, 250) sees time, too. Seniors Tommie Townsend (6-3, 288) and Kurt Wallin (6-2, 290) stuff up the inside. Townsend is second on the team in tackles-for-loss, while Wallin has a pair of sacks.

Three guys rotate at the two LB spots in the 4-2-5 alignment, but they are all terrific. Starters Solomon Bates (6-2, 267) and Mason Unck (6-3, 240) have been there seemingly forever, though both are just juniors. Unck is ASU's surest tackler, while Bates just missed the century mark in stops last year. The linebackers play well off the line in coach Guy's scheme, so Solomon is still looking for his first sack of the season, while Unck has a pair. Bates knocked down a pair of Jonathan Smith aerials last week. Senior Eric Fields (6-3, 236) was the starting OLB last year, and has 31 career tackles-for-loss. He will appear as a third LB in short-yardage situations.

Safety Willie Daniel (6-0, 205) is the only senior in the five-man defensive backfield. Daniel has 168 career tackles to go with four INTs and four fumble recoveries. Junior Alfred Williams (6-1, 200) loves to force the play, making him an ideal second strong safety. Williams was an honorable mention All PAC-10 pick. Phoenix true freshman Jason Shivers (6-1, 187) has made an immediate impact at free safety, ranking second behind Unck in total tackles and leading the team in solo stops. Both starters at corner are freshmen; R.J. Oliver (5-9, 167) leads the Sun Devils in passes defensed, while Emmanuel Franklin (5-11, 187) returned an interception a record-tying 100 yards in the opener against San Diego State. True freshman Lamar Baker (5-10, 182) recorded his first career interception against San Jose State.

KICKING: Mike Barth 7-8 FG (long 47), 27-28 XP
PUNTING: Nick Murphy 24-42.4 (long 58)
KICK RETURNS: Tom Pace 12-29.8, Mike Williams 14-23.4
PUNT RETURNS: Justin Taplin 8-13.1

After 12 straight makes, junior place-kicker Mike Barth (6-1, 217) missed his first field goal attempt in more than a year last week -- and it was blocked. Barth is 24-of-33 in his career, with a best of 49 yards. Senior punter Nick Murphy (6-1, 188) is a master at putting the ball inside the opponent's 20, with a 33-percent success rate in his career. Tailbacks Tom Pace and Mike Williams handle the kickoffs –- Pace has 51 and 43-yard returns this year -- and Justin Taplin is returning punts while freshman speedster Darryl Lightfoot mends an ankle injury. Taplin had a 62-yard bolt against Oregon State.

The last three UW/ASU games played in Tempe have been decided by six points or less –- two of them Husky victories. Last year's contest was more a protest, with both teams combining for twelve turnovers and 558 total yards in a 21-15 Washington win . . . Washington "Grad Assistant" John Pettas was ASU's offensive coordinator last year, though it may not be much of a scouting advantage, since the ASU offensive philosophy has completely changed . . . Cody Pickett's 473-yards of total offense against Arizona was the second highest in Husky history (behind Marques Tuiasosopo's famous 509 against Stanford in 1999), and 10th-best day in PAC-10 conference history. Pickett was named the PAC-10's offensive Player-of-the-Week for his effort, Washington's sixth recipient in seven weeks. Opposing him is ASU's Alfred Williams, the PAC-10's defensive POW for his play against Oregon State -- the Sun Devils' first such recipient this year . . . Washington has led the PAC-10 in home attendance 10 out of the last 11 seasons. That could change to 10-out-of-12, if UCLA averages 78,000 fans for its' remaining two home games (Oregon and ASU). The Bruins' Cory Paus is 27 non-intercepted passes away from Brad Otton's all-time conference record of 216 straight . . . First pitch for Game 1 of the World Series takes place at the Phoenix BOB Saturday evening around 5:00. It could make for a smaller-than-usual walk-up crowd, and could also make for some unexpected crowd cheers, similar to what Husky Stadium experienced last Saturday. Given the likelihood of both games being in progress at the same time, coach Koetter feigned, "Is there any way they can move the start of the World Series to 8 a.m??" . . .

HELPFUL HINT: For those Husky fans flying down from Seattle, remember that Arizona does not follow Daylight Savings Time, so do NOT set your watches back an hour on Sunday morning (at least, until you get home). If you do, you just might miss your flight . . .

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