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25 ARIZONA STATE
Gene Menez
August 16, 1999
The Sun Devils hope their offense can cover up sins committed by their defense
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August 16, 1999

25 Arizona State

The Sun Devils hope their offense can cover up sins committed by their defense

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Fast Facts

1998 record: 5-6 (4-4, tied for 5th in Pac-10)

Final ranking: unranked

1998 Averages

Scoring

Rushing Yards

Passing Yards

Total Yards

OFFENSE

30.3

152.8

259.0

411.8

DEFENSE

30.7

148.7

257.8

406.5

A year ago, Arizona State fans looked at the Sun Devils' No. 8 preseason ranking, saw that the Fiesta Bowl was the site for the national title game and experienced one of those desert-induced illusions: Arizona State playing for the national title at home. Reality came in the form of a 5-6 record, a slew of injuries and even a team-bus driver who got lost going to Salt Lake City from Provo, Utah. "There's only one road," coach Bruce Snyder says. "How does that happen?"

The Sun Devils had few answers last season, and in their quest to return to national prominence they are relying on senior running back J.R. Redmond and junior quarterback Ryan Kealy. Redmond, who averaged 155.8 all-purpose yards last season as a runner and kick returner, needs to stay away from the toe and ankle injuries that slowed him the last five games of the season and ended his Heisman Trophy campaign. Kealy overcame right knee surgery and a midseason benching to finish with 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns in his last four games and has made himself a leader, something last year's team sorely lacked. His take-charge attitude has been noted even by new Arizona State basketball coach Rob Evans, who, while walking by the weight room one day, saw Kealy singling out a teammate for not running hard. "His river is flowing full," Snyder says. "I look in his eyes, and he is totally committed. It's his team. His personality is all over it."

The major problem for the defense last year was injuries—too many inexperienced players saw action. "We played guys last year who we thought would never play at Arizona State," says senior cornerback Courtney Jackson. "And they played a lot." The team has replenished its secondary with four junior college transfers, who should allow the Sun Devils to play more five- and six-defensive-back coverages against pass-happy Pac-10 foes. Then there are the intangibles. "We need to play with all those things you want to have in a relationship with a woman," Jackson says, "intensity, passion, emotion and love."

Add fearlessness. The Sun Devils play seven bowl teams, including their regular season finale, Arizona, which was 12-1 in '98 and is entertaining thoughts of being No. 1 this year.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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