Football set to open 2009 season against Idaho State
Arizona State opens its 97th season of football when it hosts the Idaho State Bengals at Frank Kush Field/Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday night. For the first time since August 24, 2002 at Nebraska, the Sun Devils will start a season with a quarterback making his first collegiate start. Chad Christensen was the starter against the Cornhuskers. The last Sun Devil football game that did not feature Rudy Carpenter as the starting quarterback was October 22, 2005 at Stanford. Sam Keller started the game, but Carpenter came in during the third quarter. ASU features 46 returners from last season's team, including seven starters on offense and six on defense.
SEASON OPENERS: Arizona State is 67-27-2 (.708) all-time in season openers, including victories in the last six. The Sun Devils have won nine of their last 10 season openers.
HOME OPENERS: ASU holds an all-time record of 47-15-1 (.754) when opening the season at home. Including last season's 30-13 win over NAU, ASU has won 12 of its past 13 home openers and 10 straight.
COACH ERICKSON IN OPENERS: Head coach Dennis Erickson holds a career record of 14-6 in season openers, including a 2-0 mark at Arizona State.
ON THE AIR: The Sun Devil Sports Network will carry all 12 of ASU's football games live on their 10-station radio network, including flagship station Sports 620 KTAR AM. Tim Healey (play-by-play) and former Sun Devil quarterback Jeff Van Raaphorst (color analyst) will call the action. The game can also be heard nationally on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio.
LIGHTS, CAMERAS, ACTION: FSN Arizona will televise the Sun Devils match-up with the Bengals. Tom Leander and former ASU All-American Juan Roque will call the action from the booth while Jody Jackson handles the sideline duties.
SUN DEVILS VS. BENGALS: This will be the first ever meeting between Arizona State and Idaho State. Dennis Erickson is 3-2 all-time in his career against Idaho State. He last faced the Bengals while with Idaho in 2006, beating them 27-24.
PAC-10 PREDICTIONS: Arizona State has been picked to finish fifth in the Pac-10 in the annual Media Poll. The teams picked to finish first (USC), second (Cal) and fourth (Oregon State) will all visit Sun Devil Stadium this season. The Sun Devils were picked to finish fourth in 1986, second in 1996 and fourth in 2007, all seasons they won a Pac-10 title.
NEXT UP: The Sun Devils will enjoy a bye week before continuing their homestand when they host the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks on Sept. 19 at Frank Kush Field/Sun Devil Stadium.
Who's Back: 46 letterwinners return from the last season's squad, including seven starters on offense and six on defense. Leading the offense will be senior WR Chris McGaha, who has started 30 consecutive games. McGaha will be joined by senior Kyle Williams and junior Kerry Taylor to form a formidable wide receiving corps. The three combined for 81 receptions, 1,270 yards and eight touchdowns in 2008. Dimitri Nance and Shaun DeWitty return to lead the Sun Devil backfield. The two started 10 of the 12 games last season. Senior Shawn Lauvao anchors the ASU offensive line, where he has started the past 21 games at both guard and tackle. Lauvao is one of three returners who started every game on the offensive line in 2008. Dexter Davis will lead a stout defense that will be the strength of the 2009 Devils. Davis has totaled 27.5 sacks in his three seasons in maroon and gold, where he has started all 38 games. Wreaking havoc with Davis on the defensive line will be sophomore Lawrence Guy, who was a Freshman All-American last year. Guy recorded 44 tackles and two sacks with a fumble recovery for a touchdown in his debut season in Tempe. Mike Nixon will anchor the group of linebackers, after he led ASU with 90 tackles and five interceptions a year ago. He will be joined by fellow linebacker Travis Goethel, who has started every game the last two seasons. Gerald Munns, Shelly Lyons and Brandon Magee will also see time at linebacker. The Sun Devils boast two returning corners in junior Omar Bolden and senior Terell Carr. Bolden and Carr combined for 95 tackles and 10 pass break ups during the 2008 campaign. 2007 Lou Groza Award Winner Thomas Weber returns on special teams, looking to remain one of the top kickers in the nation.
Who's Gone: Arizona State will have several key positions that will see new starters. Gone is Rudy Carpenter, who started 43 straight games at quarterback. Also gone is Mike Jones, who was the leading receiver for each of the past two seasons. Keegan Herring, who finished his ASU career in the top 10 in total rushing yards, also must be replaced. On the defensive side, team leader Troy Nolan, who had 10 interceptions in two seasons, leaves a spot at safety. Luis Vasquez, who totaled 8.5 sacks in his two seasons on the defensive line, also must be replaced.
Under Center: For the first time since August 24, 2002, Arizona State will open a season with a QB under center who has never previously started an NCAA football game. Chad Christensen was the starter for that game at Nebraska and the next three before Andrew Walter (who made two starts in 2001) started the next 33 games. Sam Keller took over for the injured Walter in the 2004 Sun Bowl, the first of eight straight starts before Rudy Carpenter replaced him and started the past 43 games. Senior Danny Sullivan, sophomore Samson Szakacsy and true freshman Brock Osweiler battled for the starting job during training camp. Of those three, only Sullivan has taken a snap in college.
Disruptive Dexter: Entering his senior season, defensive end Dexter Davis will be putting the finishing touches on an outstanding career in maroon and gold. The Phoenix native put up great numbers for the third consecutive year in 2008, recording a team-high 11.0 sacks, third most in the Pac-10. Davis has 27.5 sacks in his Sun Devil career, fourth most in school history. The 11 sacks established a new career high for Davis, who has eight career multi-sack games. He is a half sack shy of Vernon Maxwell (1979-82) for third place on the school's all-time list. Terrell SuggsThe Sporting News in 2006. (2000-02) is the leader with 44. Davis earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 last season and was a Second Team All-Pac-10 choice in 2007. He earned Pac-10 All-Freshman honors and honorable mention freshman All-American status from
Sack-Tacular: With his 11.0 sacks last season, Dexter Davis found himself tied for the sixth highest single-season total in school history. Davis also owns the eighth highest total, 10.5 in 2007.
Mr. Dependable: Dexter Davis is the only returning player in the nation who has recorded double-digit sacks in each of the past two seasons (10.5 in 2007 and 11 in 2008). He also has started 38 of a possible 38 games in his Sun Devil career, one of only three returning seniors in the Pac-10 who can boast that stat. The others are Washington's Daniel Te'o-Nesheim (37 games) and Cal's Syd'Quan Thompson (39 games).
Tom The Toe: After the graduation of Jesse Ainsworth, ASU's kicker during the 2003-06 seasons and second-leading scorer in Sun Devil history, Coach Erickson looked to former walk-on Thomas Weber to carry the torch at kicker as a redshirt freshman, and Erickson's faith was greatly rewarded as Weber turned in one of the greatest seasons by a kicker in Sun Devil history. The winner of the 2007 Lou Groza Award, presented annually to the nation's top placekicker, a First-Team All-American by the Associated Press and a First-Team All-Pac-10 honoree, Weber was sensationally consistent during his freshman season, connecting on 24-of-25 field goals (96.0 pct.), with a long of 53 yards. A three-time Pac-10 Conference Special Teams Player of the Week in 2007, Weber set numerous Sun Devil records in only his first college season, including a record streak of 17 made field goal attempts to begin the year (also a nation-leading streak for the season) and a nation-high accuracy rating. The Downey, Calif., product ranked first in the Pac-10, fifth in the nation and tied the Sun Devil single-season record for points by kicking (118) set by Mike Barth as a senior in 2002, while also placing sixth in the country with 1.85 made field goals per game. A sharpshooter off the kicking tee and in the classroom, Weber added First-Team Pac-10 All-Academic honors to his list of accomplishments as a rookie in 2007. In 2008, Weber was once again a valuable weapon for Coach Erickson and the Sun Devil offense. Weber finished the season 19-25 on field goal attempts, scoring a team high 86 points. Weber returns in 2009 for his thrid season leading the kicking unit.
Kicking His Way To The Top: In his first two seasons with Arizona State, Thomas Weber is 43-50 (86%) on field goal attempts and has scored 204 points. The 43 made field goals is the most ever by a Sun Devil kicker in his first two years with the program, surpassing Luis Zendejas' previous record of 40. The 43 field goals also puts Weber in fourth place on ASU's all-time made field goal list. The record is 81, held by Zendejas. Weber's 204 points is the sixth highest total in school history in points by a kicker. He also has kicked the third longest field goal in school history, a 53-yarder at the Rose Bowl against UCLA in 2007. His 24 made field goals in 2007 was the second most in a single season in school history, and his 19 last season was the fifth most. Weber scored 118 points in his debut season in 2007, tied with Mike Barth (2002) for the most points by a kicker in a single season.
Double-Duty: In addition to his place-kicking reputation, Weber also acted as ASU's full-time punter last season, a job he took over midway through the 2007 campaign. Completing the kicking "hat trick", Weber also competed as ASU's kickoff specialist for the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
Playboy Twice: Kicker Thomas Weber has been named a Preseason First Team All-American by Playboy Magazine, the second straight year he has made the Playboy team. Weber becomes only the second Sun Devil to be named to the Playboy All-America team twice. Cornerback Mike Richardson made the team in 1981 and 1982. Weber becomes the 14th Sun Devil to be named to the Playboy All-America team. It is the 16th time an ASU player has been named to the squad (Weber and Richardson twice). Former Sun Devil head coach Bruce Snyder was named to the team in 1997 as the National Coach-of-the-Year.
Big Guy: Perhaps no true freshman made a bigger impact during the 2008 season than defensive tackle Lawrence Guy. The Las Vegas, Nevada product finished seventh on the team with 44 tackles, including 10 tackles for loss and two quarterback sacks. He also scored a touchdown after recovering a fumble during his rookie season. He was a consensus Freshman All-American and also earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors. The sophomore will be expected to play a major role for the Sun Devil defense in 2009, teaming up with fellow d-lineman Dexter Davis to form a devastating pass rush duo.
Hail To The Chief: Sophomore corner Josh Jordan had an interesting offseason at Arizona State. The Las Vegas product ran for and was elected as a Student Senator for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Jordan will serve in that capacity for the 2009-10 school year.
Gaining Experience: 10 true freshmen and nine redshirt freshmen saw action during the 2008 season, including six who started at least one game. 21 different players made their first career start last season, including six on the offensive line. The 10 true freshmen was the highest total to ever play in school history, eclipsing the nine that played in 1994.
Breaking In A New Signal Caller: Arizona State is one of only three Pac-10 schools without a QB on their roster who owns a career start in the Pac-10. USC's Mitch Mustain started at Arkansas but has never started under center for the Trojans. Both Arizona and Arizona State will be breaking in a QB who has never started a game at the FBS level.
Winning Tradition: Since 1950, Arizona State football has the 10th highest winning percentage in the national among all FBS Schools. Since 1950, ASU is 433-215-8 in their 656 games, a winning percentage of .667. Oklahoma leads the nation with a .758 winning percentage (511-159-12). Dennis Erickson is sixth among active coaches winning percentage among coaches with at least 10 years as a FBS coach.