The pass-happy Sun Devils are licking their chops for Temple

Aug. 29, 2005

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - The 20th-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils have gone through some sluggish practices in extreme heat since they came down from their training in the high country at Camp Tontozona.

"I don't like to make excuses," coach Dirk Koetter said Monday. "It has been abnormally hot, with school starting and the change of schedule. But I think our guys are a little bit bored right now. I think we need to just get out there and play."

The Sun Devils open their season Thursday night at home against Temple. Expect Koetter's pass-happy offense to be in full flight against the Owls, who have left the Big East for the more suitable Mid-American Conference.

Temple's defense is designed to stop the run first, and that brings a twinkle to Koetter's eyes.

"They are very, very inexperienced in the back seven," he said. "Only one guy in the back seven has starting experience."

That adds up to a potential big day for quarterback Sam Keller, who replaces record-breaking passer Andrew Walter.

"If they're playing a run defense and they're not very experienced in the secondary," Koetter said, "it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out we might throw the football a little bit - which we'd probably try to do anyway."

Derek Hagan, on course to break most of Arizona State's career receiving records, said he and his teammates have watched tape of Temple.

"Every receiver in there is talking that we're going to make big plays this week," Hagan said. "We know that they've only got one guy back deep. We love to throw the ball deep and we know we're going to put the ball in the air. Hopefully, we could have a big day throwing the ball."

Koetter praised Keller, who replaced the injured Walter and started against Purdue in the Sun Bowl last season. He completed 25 of 45 passes for 370 yards and three touchdowns. He capped his MVP performance by going 4-for-4 on the winning, 80-yard touchdown drive.

"I think Sam is right where he needs to be," Koetter said. "I would probably say that Sam has practiced the most consistent and probably the best of any player on offense. His timing has been impeccable. His checks have been right on."

Koetter's biggest concerns are depth on defense and, most of all, punt coverage, which ranked near the bottom of NCAA Division I a year ago.

"We can't finish 114th out of 117 teams and go where we want to go," Koetter said. "We've worked hard on it. We've made a couple of changes in how we're doing it."

Temple's uphill climb to respectability took a blow on Monday when seven players were declared academically ineligible. The Owls will be big underdogs when they come to Arizona, where the temperature could be in triple digits at kickoff.

Next week, though, is another story. Arizona State is scheduled to play at LSU on Sept. 10. The Sun Devils were awaiting word on whether the game would still be played after Hurricane Katrina stormed through the region Monday.