Arizona State Preview

The 2003 season was full of promise for ASU. A top 25 ranking, being picked second in the Pac-10, and a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback - it was all coming up roses for Sun Devil fans. Despite the fact that the Oregon State game is the Pac-10 opener for ASU, the team's sobering 2-1 start is causing some ASU followers to re-adjust their expectations on this year's prospects. How will the Devils fair in Corvallis? previews Oregon State's next opponent.

After two solid but unspectacular games earlier this month, signal caller Andrew Walter experienced his worst game not only this year, but probably in his whole Sun Devil tenure. The junior was a mere 25-44 for 160 yards and one interception, in a 21-2 loss to Iowa. Ironically, his performance against Oregon State last year was hardly a shinning moment either. Nevertheless, when Walter is on his game there are few better than him. His success, much like any other quarterback, hinges on his wide receivers. That group played as poor as can be in Iowa, and are looking to rebound from that debacle. Senior Skyler Fulton is Walter's main target, and he leads the team with 228 yards on 14 receptions. He also has two touchdowns to his credit. Speedster Daryl Lightfoot who played in only one game thus far, should return to the lineup and provide that much needed deep threat.

Andrew Walter struggled last week against Iowa completing 25-44 for 160 yards and one interception.

The Devils' running game has been a sore spot ever since 2002. In ASU's two wins it performed adequately, but in the loss to Iowa it never had a chance to be a factor and provide a much-coveted balanced offense. On paper, ASU has a stable of five talented running backs. Nevertheless, the "running back by committee" approach hasn't paid dividends to say the least. In all fairness, various injuries have not helped settled down this position, which puts the rotation in shambles. Redshirt freshman Loren Wade leads all rushers with 128 yards.

The Sun Devil defense has been a bag of mixed goods so far. It the season's first two games, it looked like a "bend but no break" type of group, and in the loss to Iowa they played admirably and gave the offense excellent field position throughout the game. ASU's front four will have the dubious task of trying to stop the Beavers' stellar running game. The senior defensive tackle tandem of Brain Montesanto and Shane Jones will definitely have their hands full. Then again, facing a "run-happy" Iowa offense last week should serve as good preparation. Junior defensive end Jimmy Verdon has emerged as the team's leader in sacks, notching three quarterback drops in 2003.

ASU features only two linebackers in its 4-2-5 defensive alignment. What the duo of sophomore Jamar Williams and JC transfer Justin Burks lack in experience, they make up with sideline-to-sideline quickness. Redshirt freshman Jordan Hill may the most adept out of this unit in stopping the run, and he should see considerable playing time. The Sun Devil safeties are considered the best in the conference. However, injuries at this position have also held them back. Riccardo Stewart is the leading tackler with 27, and fellow junior Jason Shivers isn't too far behind with 21. Brett Hudson is the third safety in the lineup, and can also slide to cornerback if needed. Often played reserve Matt Fawley is second only to Stewart in tackles (25) and has already four tackles for a loss this year.

Junior cornerback R.J. Oliver is questionable for Saturday's game.

Junior R.J. Oliver is a true lockdown corner, which has also been severely banged up thus far. His status for Saturday is still questionable, and his absence from the lineup is usually very noticeable. Sophomore Josh Golden is the second starting corner, who is battling junior Emmanuel Franklin for a starter position and playing time in general. One player in this group to keep an eye on is JC transfer Chris McKenzie who is the fastest Sun Devil (runs a 4.1 in the 40-yard dash).

Punter Tim Parker is off to a great start and ranks second in the conference with a 45.5-yard average. The senior was pulling double duty as the field goal and extra point kicker, but as of last week he did relinquish those duties to true freshman Jesse Ainsworth. Ainsworth is also the kickoff guy. Josh Golden leads the Pac-10 in punt returns with a 14.9 average. Golden also handles the kickoff duties, along with Jason Shivers, and both have done well in that area. ASU's coverage teams have been the weak link of the special teams, and are an area that needs to be shored up in a hurry.

The resiliency of ASU was tested many times last season. Some point to team's ability to bounce back from adversity, as the main reason for the squad's success in 2002. The 2003 campaign may be just three games old, but Coach Dirk Koetter and his team are already coming under heavy criticism, while expectations continue to sink. If Arizona State will turn its fortunes around, it will draw on its experiences from last year, and begin their resurrection of sorts on Saturday night in Corvallis.


Last week.
The Arizona State Sun Devils (2-1) came into the game looking to start the season at 3-0 for the first time since the 2000 campaign. But, the Iowa Hawkeyes (4-0) had other plans for the afternoon. The Hawkeye defense shut out the ASU offense--a feat that had not been accomplished since USC defeated the Sun Devils 31-0 in 1995--and Iowa went on to prevail 21-2...Iowa Defense Too Strong For Sun Devils


The series.
Arizona State holds a 21-7-1 all-time advantage in the series with Oregon State and has
won the last seven meetings between the two teams. ASU also holds a 5-4-1 edge in
games played in Corvallis, winning the last meeting there with a 13-10 victory in 1997.
Last year, Arizona State came out on top in a defensive struggle, downing the Beavers
13-9 on Oct. 12, 2002 at Sun Devil Stadium. ASU held the Beavers to just three field
goals in that win and turned in two sacks in a fourth-quarter stand to earn the victory.

The Sun Devils have gotten a win or tie in 22 of the last 23 meetings with the Beavers. ASU’s only loss in that streak, which dates back to 1972, was a 30-14 defeat in Corvallis in 1993, while the only tie came in 1989 (17-17). During their current seven-game winning streak in the series, the Sun Devils have held the Beavers to 12.4 points per game, including last year’s 13-9 win which was the fewest points allowed by ASU in a Pac-10 game since a 28-7 victory over Washington in 1999.

2003 media/coaches outlook.
Arizona State is #24 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll and is receiving votes for the Associated Press poll, currently #28. ASU was picked to finished second in the Pac-10 by the media.


2002 Recap.
Arizona State went 8-6 last year, 5-3 in Pac-10 play. They were defeated 34-27 in the Holiday bowl by #6 Kansas State.

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