BERKELEY, Calif. – ASU coach Todd Graham believes handling adversity is one of the hardest things for a college football team to do.
In ASU’s (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12) 27-17 victory over Cal, the Sun Devils gave the response Graham had been hoping for.
Our guys didn’t pain,” Graham said. “I liked that.”
With 6:33 left in the game, redshirt junior wide receiver Kevin Ozier hauled in his second touchdown pass of the game, a strike from redshirt sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly, to put the game away.
“I read the backside safety, he stayed and I came up and stepped up into the pocket and drew the mike (linebacker),” Kelly said. “I saw Kevin running wide open, and I just dumped it on him and he took it in.”
Although Cal (1-4, 0-2 Pac-12) had been dominated for the majority of the game, the Golden Bears cut ASU’s deficit to three when senior quarterback Zach Maynard connected with junior wide receiver Keenan Allen in the corner of the end zone with just over nine and a half minutes left in the game.
Longtime fans of ASU likely had an uneasy feeling given the team’s recent history on the road, but the 2012 Sun Devils never had any doubts.
“I was very confident,” redshirt senior linebacker Brandon Magee said. “In close games, we always encourage the offense, they encourage us … We always feel that we’re going to win no matter what happens.”
Kelly’s third touchdown pass of the night was certainly the highlight of the final ASU scoring drive, but his poise was just as impressive. When the Sun Devils needed a score to put the game away, the first year starting quarterback led a nine-play, 74-yard drive.
The drive ran three minutes off the clock and gave ASU its first win in Berkeley since 1997.
“On that last scoring drive we just had to finish,” Ozier said. “We needed to score so that the defense could make a stop and we could win the game.”
When offensive coordinator Mike Norvell looked Kelly in the eye, he knew his signal caller would get the job done.
“He’s always had that winner in him,” Norvell said. “You go watch him practice, you watch him play, you watch him in the film room (and you see) there’s never a time he’s not all in.”
ASU’s offense compiled 409 yards of total offense and did not turn the ball over for the second straight week, but there are still some things the Sun Devils need to improve on.
While one failure to score in the red zone can be excused due to the team kneeling the ball to end the game, ASU was only four of seven in the red zone. Redshirt sophomore kicker Alex Garoutte missed three field goals, one of which was blocked.
Having things to improve upon is nothing new for a football team. Even in midseason, teams always have things to tweak, but it is always easier to work when the team is coming off a win.
“To come in here and dominate them like we did is a great feeling and it’s going to carry over to our bye week,” redshirt senior safety Keelan Johnson said. “I think a lot of guys are going to build their confidence from there.”
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