Graham: “We control our own destiny”, starting with Coloradoby Fabian Ardaya on Oct. 10, 2013, under Arizona State Sun Devils
Ever since Todd Graham became the head coach at Arizona State, he has had two main mantras: winning the turnover battles and controlling the tempo. Starting with this Saturday’s game against Colorado, expect the Sun Devils to ratchet it up an extra gear and make those mantras even more visible.
Facing off against a Colorado team that struggled against a fast-paced attack (57-16 loss to No. 2 Oregon) last week, the Sun Devils should have plenty of opportunities to put up points, especially with running back Marion Grice (averaging 15.6 points per game – No. 1 in the nation).
Despite the fact that Arizona St. ranks No. 22 in total offense in the nation and is 16th in scoring offense with 42. 2 points per game, head coach Todd Graham had issues with the team’s offensive tempo in their 37-34 loss to Notre Dame.
“The fact that our defense stayed on the field for 12 minutes (in the first quarter), that was a big, big factor in the game,” Graham said. “So what happens in that type of game is you slop around, and you aren’t playing at a high level.”
The Sun Devils did still feature several offensive weapons, as quarterback Taylor Kelly has thrown for over 300 yards in every game this season (eight times in his career). Along with Grice, the backfield includes D.J. Foster, who had nine catches out of the backfield for 71 yards against Notre Dame and is always a threat to score (as he showed in his 74-yard touchdown reception vs. USC. Wide receiver Jaelen Strong had his fourth straight game with over 100 receiving yards against Notre Dame, catching eight passes for 136 yards and a touchdown.
The offense may have started out slow against Notre Dame, but came alive late with 21 points in the fourth quarter to get as close as tying the Fighting Irish. Arizona State leads the nation with 17.2 points per game in the fourth quarter this season.
Defensively, Graham expects his team’s production to increase as Pac-12 play progresses and as the defensive line sees the return of sophomore Jaxon Hood. Graham said that Hood could have played against Notre Dame, but he elected to not risk further injury. With the expected return of Hood alongside senior Will Sutton, Graham expects more production.
“We’ve got to get to (the quarterback) more,” he said. “We better see our production go up as we get into conference play.”
They should get an easy start against a Colorado offense that is averaging just 3.11 yards per carry (110.3 rushing yards/game) and has yet to score on a rushing touchdown this season. However, even though the Buffaloes are 73rd in total offense and score just 28 points per game, Graham isn’t taking anybody lightly.
“I think that’s one of the great things about (the Pac-12 conference) is that there’s great parity. Any Pac-12 team can beat another on any given night,” Graham said. “The danger is not taking a team seriously.”
Arizona State is 4-0 all-time against Colorado (2-0 at home), and put up more points in their matchup last year (51) than Colorado has for the entire series (48). A win would push them to 4-2 (2-1 Pac-12), and were just a few plays away from being 5-1.
“We were really, really close on a lot of things (against Notre Dame),” Graham said. “We were very, very, close to being 4-1 (going into this game).”
Graham is still very optimistic about his team chances in not only the Pac-12 South but to win the Pac-12 altogether. ASU is currently behind No. 12 UCLA (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) in the Pac-12 South standings, and play the Bruins at the Rose Bowl on November 23rd. Despite it being essentially a two-horse race for the Pac-12 South, Graham is putting the focus on what his team can do.
“It’s about our team. It’s single-game elimination,” he said. “We control our own destiny.”
Until that point, Graham is emphasizing his team’s focus and drive every week.
“They want to win, and they believe that they can win. They understand what it takes,” Graham said.
The Arizona State Sun Devils (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12) host the Colorado Buffaloes (2-2, 0-2 Pac-12) on Saturday, October 12th at Sun Devil Stadium (Pac-12 Network).