Players to watch
PK Zane Gonzalez, KOS Alex Garoutte, P Matt Haack, KR Marion Grice, PR Robert Nelson
The Sun Devils employ a true freshman as their place kicker in Zane Gonzalez, who was an honorable mention All American as a high school player. His first year as a college kicker has been solid so far, having missed only three of his 14 field goal attempts. In the last three games, he's a perfect seven-for-seven, including two tries from beyond 40 yards, suggesting that he might be settling into a groove.
Alex Garoutte has handled all of ASU's 48 kickoffs this year, and has sent 24 of them for touchbacks versus just one kick that went out of bounds. He's got a big leg that has sent his attempts an average distance of 63.4 yards, and the coverage team has done a good job in limiting opponents to just 21.3 yards per return, including just two returns of 30 yards or longer.
The position of punter has been something of a revolving door for this year's Sun Devils squad, with three positional kickers having made at least three attempts on the season. True freshman Matt Haack seems to have settled into the role, having kicked six of the team's last seven attempts. Though he hasn't attempted enough punts to be counted in the league's official statistics, his average of 38.3 yards per kick would rank just ninth in the conference, and their opponents' average gain of 13.6 yards per return is second-worst in the conference, trailing only California. John Ross will likely get a chance to finally make his mark on the field in this phase of the game.
Though he leads the nation in scoring at 15 points per game, Marion Grice is much more pedestrian as a kick returner, ranking sixth in the conference at 22.7 yards per return. Considering his athleticism and Washintong's horrid performance on kickoff coverage, thoug, it's hardly safe to assume that UW will win this phase of the game.
In the punt return game, Robert Nelson ranks sixth in the conference in averaging 6.64 yards per return. He's not likely to earn a bunch of chances to improve those figures on Saturday, as UW has allowed just six punt returns that weren't fair catches or out-of-bounds kicks all season.
As always, thanks to College Football Statistics, ESPN and USA Today's College Football Injury Report for the relevant data that went into this article. You can follow me on Twitter by clicking below.
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