In the wake of Hurricane Katrina – the most vicious storm in U.S. history – not only will the Tigers be without a tune-up game, the fate of LSU's matchup with Arizona State remains somewhat up in the air.
As of press time Sunday, LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette said game week will commence on schedule. The game is set for Saturday at 7:45 to be nationally televised on ESPN.
"We are playing it here or we are not playing it," Bonnette said Sunday at noon.
There was plenty of speculation throughout much of last week whether or not LSU officials would play the game in Baton Rouge, move it to a neutral site or possibly flip the contractual agreement with Arizona State and move the game to Tempe, thus have ASU travel to Baton Rouge in 2008.
While it looks as if the game will be played, it will be the season opener for LSU. The Sun Devils (1-0), however, have a rather decisive victory on its resume – a 63-13 trouncing of Temple – as Arizona State makes its first-ever trip to Baton Rouge. It is also the team's first meeting. It is also ASU's first-ever meeting with an SEC school. The Sun Devils are 0-2 all-time (1951, 1985) against Arkansas, but the Razorbacks were a member of the old Southwest Conference at the time of both meetings.
While it will be LSU's first game under new coach Les Miles, Dirk Koetter's Sun Devils ripped through a hapless Temple squad.
Freshman Keegan Herring rushed for 134 yards on 12 carries in the most prolific debut by a running back in school history as Arizona State beat the Owls 63-16.
Sam Keller threw four touchdown passes, two to Derek Hagan, then sat out the final quarter while Arizona State finished off the Owls' 22nd consecutive loss to a ranked team and ninth straight defeat on the road.
The Sun Devils amassed 559 yards, 300 on the ground. Arizona State's reserves scored three times in the final quarter, the last with 36 seconds to go.
Despite losing Andrew Walter (Arizona State's career leader in passing), the offense looks to repeat the same success it did a year ago.
Sam Keller (6-4, 227, Jr.) steps up to take the reins of a high-octane offense. Last year, he was 42 of 71 for 606 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. His numbers include his first career start in the Sun Bowl, where he won MVP with his three-touchdown performance.
Keller picked up where he left off in last year's Sun Bowl. Against Temple, he completed 14 of 24 passes for 208 yards with four TDs.
"For the expectations that we have for Sam and that Sam has for himself, he can play a lot better than that,'' Koetter said.
"I played OK," Keller said. "I did good enough to make some good throws to score a lot of touchdowns because our guys are so explosive ... but there were some little things, throws that I normally make every day were just a little bit off."
From a year ago,the running backs had nowhere to go but up. But the offense found its newest weapon in Herring.
The 18-year-old Herring had runs of 33 and 28 yards, along with a four-yard touchdown run, en route to the school record for most yards in the first game of a career.
"When I turn around and watch him after I hand the ball off to him, he's impressive," Keller said. "He's out of the gate."
Rudy Burgess (5-11, 181, So.) is ASU's other back. As a two-way player last year, he notched 77 carries for 404 yards. Versus Temple, he notched 60 yards on 10 carries and scored once.
The wide receivers will make it easy for Keller to gel with the offense. The Sun Devils passing game will center heavily around Derek Hagan (6-2, 197, Jr.). Hagan's 2004 numbers were NFL caliber; 83 passes for 1,248 yards. He also grabbed 10 touchdowns while averaging 104 yards receiving per game.
Against the Owls, Hagan had an impressive season debut. On the verge of shattering the Sun Devil record books, Hagan's scoring catches of 18 and 31 yards give him 21 TD receptions for his career, four shy of Keith Poole's school record. Hagan caught three passes to boost his career total to 184, four fewer than John Jefferson's ASU record.
The remaining receivers are also nothing to underestimate. The trio of Terry Richardson (6-1, 184, Jr.), Matt Miller (6-2, 173, Sr.) and Moey Mutz (6-2, 180, Sr.) combined for 93 catches for 1,438 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2004.
The offensive line will provide the necessary protection to aid the offense.
Anchoring the line is center Grayling Love (6-3, 297, Sr.). He has played every position on the line during his career, ending 2004 at left tackle. In the offseason, he pleaded with the coaches to let him play center. They obliged, and it looks as if he has earned the spot.
Love's high school teammate, Zach Krula (6-7, 283, Jr.), starts at right guard. Second team All-Pac 10 performer Andrew Carnahan (6-8, 297, Jr.) will line up at right tackle. The left side of the line has more questions. Stephen Berg (6-6, 313, Jr.) should start at left guard, but the left tackle position is up for grabs. The race is between Brandon Rodd (6-4, 296, RFr.) and Chaz White (6-5, 297, Sr.).
The defense prepares for the myriad explosive offenses of the Pac-10. The defensive line lost three starters, but the drop-off was not as significant as one might think.
Kyle Caldwell (6-3, 253, Jr.) and Jordan Hill (6-2, 277, Jr.) will make a formidable defensive end/tackle duo. They each had seven sacks last season.
Hill tallied stats in many categories with 47 tackles, 12 for a loss, one interception and four pass breakups. The other tackle will be Quency Darley (6-2, 273, Sr.). The JUCO transfer is in his second year at ASU and looks to make an impact on the weak side. The other defensive end position is still hotly contested. Senior Mike Talbot (6-2, 235) has the experience to fill the spot. But former JUCO standout DeWayne Hollyfield (6-4, 287, Sr.) ended 2004 as a backup, but had an outstanding spring showing and will most likely begin the season at defensive end.
Two of last year¹' three starters at linebacker return to shore up the defense. Robert Jones (5-11, 213, So.) will start at weak side linebacker.
Dale Robinson (6-1, 236, Sr.) had 93 tackles last year and will continue to wreak havoc in the middle. And Jamar Williams (6-1, 244, Sr.) will look to build on an 83-tackle season in 2004, roaming the strong side.
The secondary is out to prove critics wrong. R.J. Oliver (5-9, 173, Sr.) was granted a sixth year from the NCAA and is finally healthy from injuries that detained him for the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Josh Golden (5-10, 174, Sr.) started 12 games last season and had 49 tackles and a pair of interceptions.
The Sun Devil secondary will miss three-time All-Pac-10 selection Riccardo Stewart. But Emmanuel Franklin (5-11, 196, Sr.) had an impressive 2004 with 49 tackles and four interceptions. Josh Barrett (6-2, 211, So.) steps in as the other safety.
Sporting News Freshman of the Year Chris MacDonald (6-4, 214, So.) will return to his punting duties. Kicker Jesse Ainsworth (6-3, 219, Jr.) was 40 of 40 on PAT'S last season. Rudy Burgess (5-11, 181, So.) will return kicks and punts.
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