Graham looks to cut down on miscues

Graham looks to cut down on miscues

A first half full of mistakes left a daunting hill to climb for the Arizona State football team in the second half against a top five program in Stanford. The Sun Devils efforts to scratch and claw their way back into the game were ultimately not enough as they dropped their first game of the season to the Cardinal, 42-28.

On Monday afternoon, Arizona State head coach Todd Graham gave his thoughts on the loss.

"We got beat by a really good football team," Graham said. "Obviously we weren't ready to play, I think we played very poorly in the first half, we made every mistake you could possibly make. We just didn't give ourselves a chance because of kicking game errors and things like that. Field position was critical from the opening kickoff when they run it to the 50.

"But really proud of how our guys battled, and how we came back this team has got character. To be down like that was obviously a shock to me that we would play that bad and made that many mistakes. We just weren't ready to play, we came out flat. The last two games we have been down in both of them and our guys have shown great character in those games. There's not much you can say, from what you can take out of the game is we played poorly. You can't make those kind of mistakes to give ourselves a chance.

"A lot of these things, you have to give credit to the other team that we were playing. They were a lot better prepared than we were and played a lot better than we did."

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A halftime deficit of 29-0 to the fifth ranked team in the nation would have a lot of teams throwing in the white towel for the second half, but the Devils came out and drove 75 yards in six plays for a score on their first possession of the second half.

"I think most teams would talk about finishing with pride and we didn't do that, we came in at halftime and said, look, ‘we are going to play to win,'" Graham said. "I think those guys came out and believed they could and we came roaring back. That's a game that I wanted very badly to win, not play well in, but to win."

Being a power-run team, Stanford came out in heavy sets quite often against the Devils and really man handled the line of scrimmage, opening up lanes for big gains in the rush and opportunities to throw the ball with play action. With all of that said, though, Graham said that he's been happy with the run defense and the defensive line as a unit.

"I'd say Chris Young, (Osahon) Irabor and the defensive line have been the bright spots so far," Graham said. "We haven't been in a game where anyone has attempted a lot of passes, and we knew that going in, that's why we spent so much time working on 22, 23 personnel power running game."

Graham mentioned that there would be situations where the Cardinal would have up to seven offensive linemen on the field at once, and that is just a tough matchup for Arizona State's defensive line.

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What didn't help the run defense was nose guard Jaxon Hood going down late in the first half with what appeared to be a leg injury.

"We had some mistakes and things like that but obviously Jaxon getting hurt really hurt us," Graham admitted. "Jake (Sheffield) did a good job filling in, Mo (Latu) did a good job of filling in but Jaxon has a lot of experience and they ran the ball right there and took advantage of that."

With the injury to Hood, Graham said that they will move Gannon Conway down to fill that spot and get both Davon Coleman and Marcus Hardison more work at the end opposite of Sutton. Mo Latu is a force to move around inside, but he's only able to play 10-15 snaps a game according to Graham.

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Looking back, Graham knows that the outcome might have been different without all of the mistakes made, but Arizona State needs to put it behind them and focus on taking down a Pac-12 South division foe in the Trojans, who are ranked nationally fourth in total defense.

"What was disappointing was I think we are a lot better than what Saturday indicated," Graham said. "That's kind of what I take out of the deal, you have got to go back to work and you got USC and it's a pretty tough go here. So you go win this one and everybody'll love you again.

"We are hard at work getting ready for USC, obviously they are a very talented football team," Graham said. "Very, very impressive defensively obviously the way they play a different scheme than last year, a 3-4-attack defense. Obviously been very dominating, I think they've given up only two touchdowns with the ones, so probably the strength of their team right now is that they play great defense. Special teams has a lot of speed and athleticism, and offensively they've got big time talent – big time playmakers. Their running backs and wide receivers are as good as you can play against, so a good team, got to get prepared and we are hard at work getting our guys ready.

Much like Stanford, the ASU defense will look first and foremost to contain a very potent rushing attack, led by Tre Madden who is averaging over 113 rushing yards a game. USC is extremely efficient in the red zone converting 83.3% of their opportunities there.

"They're averaging 176 yards a game rushing so that's got to be our number one focus," Graham stated. "(Lee) gets the ball quite a bit, about 20 percent of the time, and the other receivers around him are pretty special as well. So they've got big play ability, they've have to games where they have scored more than 30 points, then the other two games they struggled a bit to score points, but a lot of near misses in those games that could have been big plays.

"I think you have got to stop the run, make sure you contain the pass and not give up cheap ones."

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Quick notes:

- The running game has been far from what it was last season for the Sun Devils. Arizona State averaged 2.1 yards per carry on 24 attempts against Stanford.

"That's been our biggest concern," Graham said. "We've been fast in the tempo but we have not run the ball the way we need to run the football. We have got to be able to run the football, be able to come off the ball and move people we haven't done really well with that so far."

-Graham said that Will Sutton has been getting doubled teamed almost every snap. The stats may not show a whole lot of production for Sutton, but he's been very active along the defensive line according to Graham.

-SAM linebacker Salamo Fiso had a very impressive second half and Graham took notice. As a result, Graham said that Fiso would be a starter against USC.

- This week's game in Tempe is televised on ESPN2 and kicks off at 7:30 p.m.

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