ASU coach Todd Graham said the Sun Devils’ (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) history with California is nothing more than something to talk about. Graham points to the fact that new players and coaches are involved, but it is hard to ignore the facts.
ASU has lost eight of its last nine meetings against Cal (1-3, 0-1 Pac-12), including a 50-17 thumping the last time it visited Berkeley.
“I don’t think about that,” Graham said. “When you’re involved in coaching a football team, what you did last year has nothing to do with what you’re going to do this year … The reason why you have something like that (losing streak) is because it’s hard to win on the road.”
Even if the Sun Devils elect to ignore their past with the Bears, they will need to fix the problems that plagued them in their only other road game of the season, a 24-20 loss at Missouri.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly, along with freshman running back D.J. Foster and redshirt senior linebacker Brandon Magee said the team learned a lot in its loss and is ready to travel to California.
“When we go up to Cal, guys are going to be a lot more focused because it is their second road game,” Kelly said.
Foster reiterated Kelly’s thoughts and said the team simply needs to focus on playing football, regardless of where the game is being played.
“I think we need to play like we play at home,” Foster said. “I know it’s hard, but the way we play at home (is what) we should take on the road … We just need to calm down and have everybody do their part.”
The Golden Bears limp into Saturday’s matchup in the midst of a two game losing streak including a 27-9 loss to USC a week ago.
However, the Bears are not as bad as their record would seem to indicate. Junior wide receiver Keenan Allen and senior running backs Isi Sofele and quarterback Zach Maynard all have the ability to produce big plays.
“They’re 1-3, but they’re still good,” Foster said. “We know it’s going to be a good game, but we need to play our game.”
Maynard, who rushed five times for 40 yards and a touchdown the last time ASU and Cal met, will be the most mobile quarterback the Sun Devils have faced thus far.
ASU’s defense has the speed to contain and pressure Maynard, but a special attention to detail is required when facing a quarterback who can escape the pocket at any time.
“We just have to stay gap sound,” Magee said. “We’ve been pretty disciplined throughout the games and practice. We just have to maintain where we’re at.”
Offensively, ASU will be facing a Cal defense that ranks No. 93 in the country, allowing 31 points per game. The Sun Devils know they are still in for a fight and will have to earn every point.
“They’re fast, their defensive line is quick and they’re very physical,” Foster said.
Kelly also acknowledged Cal’s athleticism and physicality, but added Cal’s coverage variation means the team needs to focus intently on pre-snap reads at the line of scrimmage.
“We just have to be aware of where guys are at and what they’re doing,” Kelly said.
Ultimately Graham believes if the Sun Devils want to win their first road game since October 8, 2011, they will need to match the Golden Bears’ intensity from the very beginning of the game.
“We have to come out fast,” Magee said. “We can’t sit on our heels and let them score before we do.”
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