D.J. Foster and Arizona State have put up some tremendous offensive numbers, but that doesn’t mean coach Todd Graham is satisfied with his team heading into Pac-12 competition.
Just think what the 16th-ranked Sun Devils might do if they finally play up to their potential.
As Foster looks to have another big game on the ground, Arizona State tries to sharpen things up on both sides of the ball at Colorado on Saturday night as it seeks its first 3-0 start since 2007.
The Sun Devils have totaled 1,191 total yards – 690 on the ground – and 57 first downs in beating Weber State 45-14 to open the season and New Mexico 58-23 last Saturday.
Despite his club’s prodigious numbers, Graham believes there’s still plenty of room for improvement as it begins to defend its 2013 Pac-12 South title.
”Do I think we were sharp and hitting all cylinders, no,” said Graham, last year’s conference coach of the year. ”Were we better than last week? Markedly better than last week.”
Foster, who replaced Marion Grice as Arizona State’s top back, has developed into one of the nation’s top runners with 10.7 yards per carry and four touchdowns.
The junior ranks third in the nation with 363 yards after rushing for a career-high 216 against the Lobos. He became the first Sun Devil to top 200 in a game since 2001.
Quarterback Taylor Kelly added 84 of Arizona State’s 423 rushing yards – its most since 1996. He also completed 11 of 20 passes for 192 yards with two touchdowns to help the Sun Devils pull away in the second half.
The senior was 9 of 19 for 233 yards with two scores in a 54-13 home win over the Buffaloes on Oct. 12 and threw for 308 yards and a career high-tying five TDs in Boulder two years ago.
“They’re good at what they do,” Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said. “Their quarterback doesn’t get all the accolades, everybody else does. He might not look pretty at times, but he just gets the job done.”
The Sun Devils aren’t likely to have a difficult time scoring in Colorado’s home opener as they face a young defense that has allowed 69 points in its first two contests.
After giving up 266 rushing yards in a 31-17 loss to Colorado State in the opener, the Buffaloes showed some improvement against the run by surrendering 105 in Saturday’s 41-38 win at Massachusetts.
“The last two games, on defense, we had one senior, one junior, and nine freshmen and sophomores,” MacIntyre said. “You see them keep growing up as you watch the games and yeah, they’re going to make mistakes, but they’ll keep growing up and keep getting better.”
Sefo Liufau seemed to make strides under center against the Minutemen, completing 26 of 42 attempts for 318 yards with three touchdowns and one interception to lead Colorado back from an 11-point third-quarter deficit.
The sophomore was 18 of 26 for 169 yards with one score and two interceptions versus Arizona State last year in his first collegiate game. But he has 12 TDs and four picks in his last five games after throwing for five touchdowns with five INTs in his first five contests.
Following the departure of Paul Richardson to the NFL, Nelson Spruce has emerged as Liufau’s favorite target in the passing game with 17 catches for 249 yards and four scores.
The Sun Devils are hoping to tighten up defensively after a rocky stretch against the Lobos. After racing out to a 22-0 lead, Arizona State gave up three New Mexico touchdowns in a 10-minute span before running away in the second half.
”I thought our guys just thought we were just going to blow them out,” said Graham, whose club limited the Buffaloes to a season-low 268 total yards last season.
The Sun Devils have taken all five meetings with the Buffaloes by an average of 29.2 points. Colorado has dropped 14 straight against ranked opponents since October 2009.