By the numbers: Arizona State’s defense stands out through 5-1 start

Oct 11, 2021, 7:45 PM
Arizona State coach Antonio Pierce talks with players during the team’s first preseason practice ...
Arizona State coach Antonio Pierce talks with players during the team’s first preseason practice Wednesday, July 31, 2019, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)
(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

Defeating the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday made for the third time in five games that the Arizona State Sun Devils held an opponent below 20 points.

Doing that at better-than-.500 frequency stands out these days.

So far, a 27-17 loss to BYU stands as the Sun Devils’ most points allowed.

It’s not surprising for a team that returned nearly all of its starters from a year ago. But ASU has met expectations despite its defensive backs coach, Chris Hawkins, being put on leave amid an NCAA investigation. And it’s met them after losing arguably it’s most highly touted pro prospect, defensive tackle Jermayne Lole to a season-ending injury.

While defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce is on the job for the first time solo — he held a co-defensive coordinator title prior — he’s getting a passing grade through six games.

“Outstanding job (by Pierce). When you’re only allowing (16.2 point per game), you have a chance in college football to win a lot of games, there’s no doubt about that,” ASU head coach Herm Edwards told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Monday.

“I just think his experience as a former player has helped him. But also being here: I mean, he knows a lot of these players, helped build what we had. He got here when I arrived. He’s done a magnificent job putting his blueprint on it.”

Here’s a quick glance at the Sun Devils defense thus far, by the numbers.


Arizona State is tied for 12th in college football by allowing 16.2 points per game. That has helped their points differential average at 13.2 points per game, which is 17th-best in the country.


Edwards’ crew has created 10 turnovers — eight interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Cornerback Jack Jones and linebacker Darien Butler have the co-lead with two picks apiece.

Jones is coming off a one-pick, two passes defensed game against Stanford.

“I think you’re watching a guy who has bought into the system and really knows he has opportunity to play at the next level,” Edwards said of Jones on Monday. “Him and Chase (Lucas) as well. Chase got a little nicked up, didn’t finish the game, but we have two corners who we feel we can play a lot of man-to-man defense with — just put them out there and let them cover guys.”


Through five games, linebackers Kyle Soelle and Butler lead the team with 39 total tackles.


Averaging 3.5 sacks per game (21 total this year), the Sun Devils are in the top-11 in terms of sack production. Interestingly, they’ve gotten the most sack production from two local products: Anthonie Cooper (3.5 sacks) out of Millennium High School in Goodyear and Tyler Johnson (3.0) from Highland High School in Gilbert.


Football Outsiders’ defensive points per drive (DPD) statistic, the total net points scored per opponent offensive drive, is 1.68, good for 34th-best in the country.


Arizona State ranks 16th in ESPN’s SP+ rating through six weeks.

Arizona State Football

(Photo by Karrissa D. Herrera/Cronkite News)...
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By the numbers: Arizona State’s defense stands out through 5-1 start