“The bottom line tonight was that we were overmatched and had some things happen that can’t happen. But you have to give credit to Coach Kelly and that team. There’s no doubt that they’re one of the best two teams in the country and they showed that tonight. You have to congratulate them and move on.”
Coach Graham knew that the Sun Devils had to play an almost perfect game on both sides of the ball tonight to have an opportunity at the upset.
“You have to give Oregon a lot of credit. The margin of error was very small. They had big three plays on us and all of them were alignment errors. Making no excuses, we got beat by a team tonight that’s a lot better than us, but we made them look a lot better by making a lot of mistakes.”
With over 15,000 students attending tonight’s game and 71,004 fans overall, Graham feels like the team let all the fans down with the game plan the coaches developed to face Oregon.
“I want to apologize to our fans. We worked hard to put ourselves in this position and I appreciate them filing the stadium with the blackout. To our students, lettermen and former players, obviously we let our players down as coaches. We had a poor plan and had some things happen that we didn’t react very well to, so I want people to understand that. We have a good team and we’re headed in the right direction. It was just one game.”
After creating a turnover on Oregon’s first possession, all of ASU’s momentum on defense was quickly lost when Will Sutton left the game with an apparent knee injury.
“Losing Will was very disruptive and we did a poor job being prepared for that as a staff. So much of what we had planned was around him and you have to have a plan B and it took us well into the game to figure out what to do there. Will is such a dynamic player and a game changer on the field”
Coach Graham holds himself responsible for some of the touchdowns Oregon scored early in the game, and is motivated to work for the opportunity to potentially play them again this year in the PAC 12 Championship.
“I did a poor job in having a plan when we faced a bit of adversity, and we made some bad calls that resulted in some big plays that I apologize to our kids about. I had guys come up to me on the sideline patting me on the back and saying 'Coach, we’ll see these guys again.' And I hope we do. That’s our mindset. I told these kids they’re the best team I’ve ever coached and I said it before the game and again after the game."
Graham feels like he was trying to do too much on defense once the defense lost Will Sutton and Junior Onyeali to injury early in the game.
“I was trying to over compensate for the loss of Will and Junior, and I trying to make changes to our defense during the game. They sped up their offense and caught us in the process of making changes on the field. I feel like I gave up 14 to 21 points trying to make major changes to our defense during the game.”
One of the positives that Coach Graham will take out of the loss tonight, was the fight and determination his players showed even with the game already decided in the second half.
“I’m proud of our guys and how they responded. They came in at halftime and we had no bad body language and went to work. We never gave up. We never quit. We came back and shut them out in the second half defensively. I was proud of how our guys played scored-on defense. Their defense is a really good defense. We had some good things on special teams. With the onside kick at the end, we were trying to win the game. That’s our mentality and what we’re trying to teach kids.”
He was especially proud of the effort given by his upperclassmen on defense.
“I was really proud of Alden Darby, Keelan Johnson and Brandon Magee. They played their hearts out their tonight. Another player I was especially proud of was Davon Coleman. He’s probably been in my doghouse more than any other player. He was out there encouraging people and supporting the team.”
Even after the tough loss, Coach Graham believes that the team can learn from this game and make improvements as they now turn their focus to UCLA.
“We have a good football team and it’s just one game, so we go to next week. This next week is a big, big game in the south and even with a poor showing tonight, we’re still in first place. We have to go to work and UCLA is the next one up and we have to figure out how to win that one. I know our fans are disappointed, but we can’t do anything but move forward and we’re going to work hard to make sure we don’t let them down again.”