ASU football looks past loss, shifts focus to UCLA

Junior tight end Chris Coyle catches a pass during the Sun Devils’ 63-6 win over NAU on Aug. 30. (Photo by Kyle Newman)

The college football season does not provide much time for distractions. With a game nearly every week, teams need to be focused on the current week’s game rather than the previous week’s outcome.

Although the Sun Devils are coming off a disappointing loss, the team is focused on its upcoming game against UCLA.

“You’re competing every week,” coach Todd Graham said. “We have 15 practices and five games left to reach our goals. Anyone that says they have a hangover because they got beat last week, that’s an excuse. … If you want to win a championship, you have to bring it every week.”

In addition to not suffering any “hangover” effects from the loss against No. 4 Oregon, the Sun Devils have not lost any confidence either.

“If you lose your confidence on one game, you didn’t have any,” Graham said. “I think our guys are very confident in their abilities. I think we have great leaders on this team.”

To keep the Sun Devils focused on the task at hand, the coaching staff has been reminding them of last year’s tilt at UCLA.

Just as they did a year ago, the Sun Devils control their own destiny in the Pac-12 South but know the rest of the schedule is not a cakewalk.

“We really, really have to focus in on the last few games of the season because we were in this same position last year,” junior tight end Chris Coyle said. “We started strong and we need to finish stronger.”

Familiar Faces

When UCLA faces the Sun Devils on Saturday, offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone will be returning to Tempe for the first time since his departure following last season. Mazzone served as ASU’s offensive coordinator for the past two seasons and knows many of the current Sun Devils.

ASU’s defense used to practice against Mazzone’s offense every day in practice and is familiar with his schemes, but Graham does not think this is as big of an advantage as people may think.

“I think the more you focus on that stuff, the more you get distracted from what you’re doing in the game,” Graham said. “I always tell our coaches to think more (about the) players and not the plays.”

If the players are the point of emphasis this week, then Mazzone may have a slight advantage.

“I think there are plusses and minuses on both sides,” Graham said. “We have some familiarity with what he does, he has familiarity with our personnel. Me, I’d rather have experience with personnel.”

 

Injury Update

Junior defensive end Junior Onyeali, who left Thursday’s game against Oregon, was in a green “no contact” jersey during Sunday’s practice, but defensive coordinator Paul Randolph does not expect him to miss any time.

 

Reach the reporter at william.boor@asu.edu