Graham expects ASU football to respond to adversity

Football head coach Todd Graham observes the action on the field during the Sun Devils’ 45-43 loss to UCLA on Saturday. (Photo by Aaron Lavinsky)

ASU’s roller coaster of a football season hit its lowest point Saturday as the Sun Devils lost consecutive games for the first time this year.

ASU coach Todd Graham knows the team has little time to reflect, but he is expecting a strong response from his team as they travel to No. 11 Oregon State this weekend.

“We’re coming off way too many mental mistakes,” Graham said. “We have to get those things corrected. We have a chance to redeem ourselves this week.”

It is easy to say a football team will continue to fight, but it is another thing for the team to come through and actually respond when adversity strikes.

The Sun Devils have been placed in difficult situations several times this season, and Graham has liked the responses.

“I’m proud of how these guys respond,” Graham said. “Looking and evaluating where we’re at, I’m disappointed in a couple of the losses. … We were down 17 at Missouri, and we came back. We were down nine at UCLA and came back.”

Just as ASU has battled back while trailing in games, the Sun Devils hope to have a similar response in the midst of their only losing streak this season.

 

Foster emerging as a leader

When four-star athlete D.J. Foster committed to ASU, Graham and the coaching staff knew they were receiving a special player. Foster’s talents with a football in his hand were no secret, but his values were also appealing to the coach.

“I did my first meeting with him at Saguaro High School, and I was very impressed,” Graham said. “He lives his life like the values of our program. He’s a guy that’s all in and is buying in.”

Foster has 13 plays of 20 or more yards, which is second most in the country among freshmen. The running back’s on-field performance has certainly had an impact with his team this season, but his leadership abilities have made just as big of an impact, which is rare considering he is a true freshman.

“I watch how things respond to things that he’s doing,” Graham said. “I watch how his teammates respond to him. … He has that (quality) about him and people follow him. He doesn’t say a lot. He’s a man of few words, but he’s a guy that’s developing into being a leader. You can see his teammates gravitate to him.”

 

Injury Update:

- Junior linebacker Steffon Martin left Saturday’s game early because of an injury, but Graham did not have any update Monday.

“We’re hoping he is going to be OK,” Graham said. “He had an MRI (Monday) morning, so we’re waiting to hear back on that.”

- Redshirt junior defensive tackle Will Sutton did not play against UCLA because of a bone bruise in his right knee that was suffered in the loss to No. 4 Oregon. Without Sutton, ASU’s defensive line depth took a big hit. When junior defensive end Junior Onyeali left the UCLA game with a shoulder injury, the line got a lot thinner.

“Our depth is not very good, but we’re hoping that we’re going to have those guys back,” Graham said. “We’ll know more as we progress into practice on Tuesday and Wednesday.”

- Redshirt senior offensive lineman Andrew Sampson did not play against UCLA, but Graham does expect him back. The Sun Devils will not have a definitive answer until they see Sampson at practice. However, if Sampson is unable to play against Oregon State, redshirt freshman Vi Teofilo will fill in once again. Teofilo made a few mistakes against UCLA, but Graham was pleased with his performance overall.

“I think he did a good job filling in and he played aggressive,” Graham said. “He made some mistakes and had a couple of break downs in protection last week, but he has done a good job.”

 

Reach the reporter at william.boor@asu.edu