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September 13, 2013

Punt game worth watching in Wisconsin contest

According to Arizona State media relations, when the Sun Devils win under second-year coach Todd Graham, their average field position to start a drive is the 37.5-yard line and their opponent averages a starting position on the 23.7-yard line.

In contrast, when ASU loses, its average starting position is on the 30.3-yard line, while its opponent averages a starting position on the 33-yard line.

Punters play a major role in the field position battle, as good punts can pin opponents deep in their own territory, while poorly executed punts can give the opponent a short pathway to points.

It's the kind of thing that may not get a lot of attention but could play a pivotal role in Saturday's game against No. 20 Wisconsin at Sun Devil Stadium, which will be televised by ESPN.

Last year's ASU punter, Josh Hubner, had a big leg and was capable of flipping the field with booming drives. It's one area the Sun Devils figured to be less capable this season.

Junior walk-on Dom Vizzare earned the starting nod over freshman punter Matt Haack for the opener, and punted twice with an average of 43 yards and a long of 45, respectable numbers.

"I think the first game was obviously a big step up for me from Scottsdale (Community College) so I had some first game jitters, that was definitely visible," Vizzare said. "Though, I definitely think I made some positive steps forward this week. Definitely consistency is the most important thing for me and I think I'm getting there."

With the pressure on playing a foe like Wisconsin in a high profile nationally televised game, a main key for Vizzare is to stay mentally focused.

"I think the biggest thing for me is just telling myself...confidence, just telling myself," Vizzare said. "I trust everyone, the snappers are great, the blocks, everything like that is good so I think it's just going to come down to telling myself 'Hey, you just got to go out there and kick the ball.'"

Originally, Vizzare went to Scottsdale Community College as a tight end, but ended up doing kickoffs until he then took the starting job away from the preexisting punter.

Despite last year being Vizzare's first as a true punter, he said that once the first series is out of the way, his job becomes a lot easier.

"I'm just going to step up and do my thing this weekend," Vizzare said.

Game nears sellout status

According to ASU's ticket office, as of late Thursday fewer than 2000 seats remained for Saturday's game, which is the fourth ever so-called "blackout" game, in which the Sun Devils will wear their all-black jerseys and fans are asked to dress in black.

In previous blackout games ASU is 1-2 but it is looking for an edge that could be provided from a rare 70-thousand plus attendance number, which figures to included a record student turnover for the second straight game. In its opener last Thursday, 13,472 student tickets were sold, more than any game in school history.

"It's going to be crazy," senior tackle Evan Finkenberg said. "It's going to be really fun out here when we walk out and see the blackout. I know the fans will be going crazy and be super loud. I'm excited about that. The louder they can be out there for us the more it will make us keep pushing and pushing hard. It's going to be a really hostile environment for the other team so I'm really looking forward to that."

The Sun Devils will be looking to maintain their perfect record against Big Ten teams in Tempe. All-time, ASU is 8-0 against current Big Ten foes in home games, including a 44-7 blowout of No. 16 Iowa in 2004, perhaps its most impressive non-league win in the last decade.

"I feel good about our guys," ASU coach Todd Graham said. I think we're well prepared. The key is maintaining a great focus and this is a huge game for us. It's a very, very important game. This group of seniors is pretty special. It's a pretty special group of guys. They're been able to adapt and change more that any group of time I've had in the short amount of time they've done it. We're doing better than we've ever done but we're still not where we need to be to win a championship. But we're getting there I've got confidence in our guys."

ASU partners with Riddell in study

Arizona State will become the first college program to team with leading helmet manufacturer Riddell and Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) to test Riddell's new Sideline Response System (SRS) during games this season, it was announced Thursday.

The helmets, worn by players who volunteer to participate in the study, measure real-time head impact data that will be reviewed by ASU doctors and trainers following the season.

"Our goal is to be leaders in the community, on and off the field, and partnering with industry pioneers like Riddell and TGen enables us to be proactive in helping to advance the game and enrich the lives of our student‐athletes," said Steve Patterson, Vice President for Sun Devil Athletics. "Involvement in this study is consistent with our long‐term goals, and also increases awareness and understanding of this important topic, as well as furthers the Pac‐12's Student‐Athlete Health and Well‐Being Initiative."

Riddell, which partnered with Simbex, LLC, on the design and production of the helmet, is embarking on the study to help physicians better diagnose concussions and identify recovery time, it said in the release.

"Together with Arizona State University, TGen and our other important research partners, we at Riddell hope to answer a number of key questions that will lead to improved player protection, inform our continued development of new helmet innovations and further refine player monitoring technology," said Dan Arment, President of Riddell.

New face in the Tillman jersey

Not only was senior cornerback Alden Darby back in the Tillman jersey at Thursday's practice after a two-week absence, but senior linebacker Chris Young wore the Tillman jersey for the first time.

Senior cornerback Osahon Irabor also continued to wear the Tillman jersey.


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