Stanford Preview

Last year the ASU-Stanford game was a catalyst, albeit negative, for the rest of the Sun Devils' 2001 season. As luck would have it, Dirk Koetter's squad opens the Pac-10 season for the second year in a row against the team from Palo Alto. Will ASU fair better on Saturday, than they did in a 51-28 loss last September? Let's meet the Stanford Cardinal and try to answer that question.

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Just like the Sun Devils, the Cardinal have two quarterbacks who played extensively this year. However, unlike ASU it seems that Stanford hasn't quite settled on a primary signal caller. Chris Lewis, who missed the team's first game due to a suspension, is expected to start on Saturday. In his only action thus far, he was 12-22 for 182 yards with a pair of TD's and INT's in just a quarter and a half of play in a win against San Jose State. Backup quarterback Kyle Matter, who played the rest of that game and started in the loss against Boston College, has been very impressive and is seriously pushing for a starting position. The first year player has 367 yards on 24-35 passing, with two TD's and one pick. ASU is undoubtedly preparing for both quarterbacks, which makes the Sun Devils' defensive preparation that much more challenging.

Whenever one speaks of Stanford's offense, it all starts with 6-7 wide receiver Teyo Johnson. Johnson who also plays power forward for the Basketball team is the "toughest wide receiver to prepare for in the Pac-10." according to Koetter. His 224 yards on 11 catches and 3 scores this season, validate all the accolades bestowed on him. Fellow receivers Luke Powell (6 catches, 98 yards) and Alex Smith (5-73, one TD) are capable of making big plays if Johnson draws double coverage. While Casey Moore is listed as a fullback on the roster, he has been the leading rusher for Stanford this season. Moore has carried the ball 123 yards on 19 carries. J.R. Lemon has recorded 71 yards thus far on the same number of attempts. Losing Kerry Carter due to injury will hamper the Cardinal's running game when they visit Tempe. The experienced offensive line has helped the ground attack averages 161 yards a game, but has also given up six sacks.

Losing nine starters, the Cardinal's defense was believed to go through a sharp learning curve this year. Nonetheless, after two games, they have held up quite well. The Stanford defenders have picked their opponents seven times, and are ranked tops in the conference in rushing defense with 86.5 yards a game. Linebacker Jake Covault is the team's leading tackler with 12. Line mates David Bergeron and Jon Alston have 9 tackles each, as well as one sack. Safety Oshiomgho Atogwe has the same number of tackles, to go along with team high two interceptions. Defensive tackle Matt Leonard surprisingly is the co-leader for interceptions with Atogwe. Overall, the well-balanced Stanford will pose quite a challenge to ASU's offense in the both the running and passing game.

Stanford's special teams seem to feature better kickers than returners. Place kicker Michael Sgroi has made both his field goal attempts, and all 11 PAT's. Punter Eric Johnson has an impressive average of 44.1 yards a punt. The Cardinal kick coverage team has allowed its opponents to average 34.8 yards a kickoff, while the kick return team is netting only 13.4 yards. The punt return team is averaging 8.5 yards, which virtually equals the number of yards allowed by the punt coverage team.

Stanford is the winner of its past three conference openers, as well as the last two road league openers. That streak doesn't bode well for ASU, who is aching to start Pac-10 play on a positive note, in hopes that it will propel them to a better 2002 season. The Cardinal features a team that is playing well on both sides of the ball, but has had only two games under its belt to try and iron out all the wrinkles. In contrast, the Sun Devils have played twice as many games, and have seem to bounce back from adversity on several times this season. The triple digit temperatures at kick-off will only further fuel what is shaping up as a heated and closely contested match up in Tempe this Saturday.

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