"Anybody that says they have a hangover because they got beat the last week that is just an excuse,” Graham stated. “You have to get your guys ready to play every week, You go out there and you play well, you can have a hangover or, have a letdown because you just won a big game, so it is about being mature. It is about being a competitor.
“You have to come back and compete every week. Coming off a game that we didn't play well, we go to the next game. This is a big important game. Our guys have a lot to play for and this is the time. This is the end of October and November and this is when you decide your fate.”
The Sun Devil skipper doesn’t feel as if his team is still down on themselves after the loss to the Ducks, which ultimately still counts as only one out of 12 regular season games.
"If you lose your confidence after one game, you didn't have any,” Graham remarked. “I think our guys are very confident. I read the things that they say. I think we have great leaders on this team. Guys have really emerged as great leaders. (Alden) Darby is one of them. The way they responded during the game told me a lot about their character. If one setback makes you play without confidence, then you didn't have any in the first place.
“I'm not worried about that. I think our guys will come out and play with confidence and get after it."
As ASU continues to prepare for their next opponent, UCLA, Graham anticipates a foe which boasts a very formidable ground attack, and a defense that resembles that of the Sun Devils.
"I believe (Jonathan) Franklin is still the leading rusher in the league,” Graham said. “Their offensive line does a good job blocking the zone and the things that they do are very simple in the run game, and most people that are good at it are. I think the number one thing offensively, is their ability to run the football. He is a very physical runner and a guy you have to tackle. The other thing is, they have very quality wide-outs and can hit you with good plays down the field and you have seen that very early on in the season. They can be explosive and the run game is our main concern. The third thing is their quarterback. He scrambles an awful lot, he is very good at it and he can run.
“I think from their defensive perspective they are obviously a 3-4, they bring edge pressure, they attack, they are very athletic., they have really good players and have a good system. They are like us and are early in their system, but that is probably the most improved thing about them, their defense. They are very impressive upfront, inside and on the edge. From a special teams perspective, their punter is 40 of 47 are touchbacks. They have a really good punter and a really good kick off guy, so we have to do a good job with our special teams in answering that."
One of the most intriguing storylines for this upcoming matchup is having Noel Mazzone, ASU’s offensive coordinator for the last couple of the season, roaming the opposing sideline serving in the same capacity as part of the Bruins’ staff. Graham feels that focusing on that aspect could serve as a distraction.
“At the end of the day, we tell our coaches to think player more than plays,” Graham stated. “I think there are pluses and minuses on both sides. Obviously we have some familiarity with what he does, he has a lot of familiarity with our personnel, and to me, I'd rather have more familiarity with personnel. So to me I do not put too much into that, we are focused on our players, our team, and focusing on how to beat a very good UCLA team."
Sun Devil fans naturally don’t have fond memories of the last meeting between both teams, a bitter 29-28 loss that featured three missed ASU field goals, including one at the waning seconds of the game. Unfortunately, ASU’s field goal kicking situation hasn’t improved all that much, much to the disappointment of their head coach.
"Obviously we are not doing very well,” Graham commented. “We missed four field goals on the season and we have to get better at that. That is something we have been very inconsistent with. On the other hand, we have done a great job kicking off and punting. I think you just have to go out there and attack it. It seems like we are going out there and trying not to miss it. So we have to do a better job at and something we have not done very well."
At his press conference Graham was non-committal on which kicker would start, Jon Mora or Alex Garoutte, and said that "Those are the two guys we have, so we have to have one of them step up and get better."
However, shortly after his weekly press conference and during his weekly Sun Devil Blitz show on KTAR 620 Graham noted that Mora is the probable starter for the UCLA contest.
Two defensive linemen that will undoubtedly be followed very closely in the days leading to Saturday, and for entirely different reasons, are Will Sutton and Mike Pennel.
Sutton, who injured his knee on the second play of the Oregon game hasn’t fully practiced yet since that game. Pennel joined ASU’s practices this week after a three-week suspension but hasn’t been fully reinstated as of Monday. Therefore, both of the players’ availability remains in question as of now
"He was out in practice suited up yesterday, working with the trainer,” Graham said of Sutton, “so we will see how that goes. Obviously it is very encouraging to see him out there in a uniform and all that and if he can go, he is a big help for us and if he can't go then we have to have some guys step up and play. I thought Jake Sheffield did a good job stepping in. As a defense, we can't replace the play making abilities that he has, because as a player he is pretty rare. He is probably one of the best in the country, if not the best in the country, so we just have to go with what you're dealt with but we are hopeful that we can have him back.
"He's been out for three weeks,” Graham said of Pennel. “Three weeks where he was separated from the team. It was basically just an attitude deal. He didn't really do anything other than have an attitude that we didn't like. I would say at most places he wouldn't have missed a day. Here he missed three weeks.
“(Defensive Coordinator) Coach Randolph came to me and felt like he was progressing. I thought it was beneficial to him to let him be around the team so he ran scout team yesterday. He's working his way back. Mike's a good young man and we want him to be successful so we'll progress from there. Yes, he's re-joined the team but obviously that's on a day-to-day basis."