Sept 16, 2003
By JUSTIN EINHORN
AP MegaSports Writer
Arizona State’s Andrew Walter, one of the nation’s most highly touted quarterbacks, finally faces a decent pass defense Saturday against Iowa in a non-conference matchup pitting ranked teams.
“There’s not a lot of teams out there in college football right now that can get pressure with a four-man rush,” Sun Devils coach Kirk Koetter said. “Iowa is a team that can.”
Opening the season with two inferior opponents – Northern Arizona and Utah State – Walter has been solid but unspectacular. He’s completed 35 of 61 passes for 501 yards with six touchdowns and one interception, helping the 16th-ranked Sun Devils (2-0) get off to their best start since going 3-0 in 2000.
Having a big day against No. 18 Iowa (3-0) should be a tougher task. The Hawkeyes have allowed more than 200 yards passing per game, only because the opposition has needed to play catch-up in the second half. Iowa, allowing just six yards per pass attempt, has outscored its opponents 117-31.
“Their front four are one of the best in the nation and they fly around, although they are missing one of their safeties for our game,” Walter said.
>”I couldn’t be more pleased with our defense. We’re counting on those guys to be pretty solid and pretty veteran and to me, they’re playing the way they’re meant to be playing.”
Head Coach Kirk Ferentz
He was referring to Bob Sanders, a two-time all-Big Ten first teamer who has yet to play this season due to a foot injury.
Even without Sanders, the Hawkeyes still present plenty of talent on defense. Abdul Hodge highlights a solid linebacking corps with 27 tackles, including five for a loss, and two sacks. Defensive end Matt Roth already has three sacks and six tackles for a loss.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with our defense,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We’re counting on those guys to be pretty solid and pretty veteran and to me, they’re playing the way they’re meant to be playing.”
That unit will be challenged by a player who has received plenty of Heisman hype in Walter, who shattered school records last season with 3,877 passing yards, 274 completions and 484 attempts.
“Everybody is a Heisman candidate, just like the gubernatorial race in California,” Walter said. “I think of it this way, and it’s nothing too big to me. It’s hype, and you have to back it up, but you have to take it with a grain of salt.”
Another intriguing matchup Saturday involves Hawkeyes tailback Fred Russell, ranked 10th nationally with 113.3 yards per game, going against a Sun Devils rush defense which is 11th in the country, allowing 61.0 yards per contest.
While Iowa rolled through its first three opponents, Arizona State has not looked nearly as good despite opening the season as heavy favorites in two home games.
The Sun Devils started slowly against Northern Arizona before scoring 27 unanswered points in a 34-14 victory. Last week, they had a hard-fought 26-16 win over Utah State.
“Maybe we just need to go on the road and have everyone against us and rally up,” Koetter said.
Arizona State won the only previous meeting with Iowa, 17-7 in the 1997 Sun Bowl.