In a short 12-game college football season, every week is important, but some always tend to have more meaning and significance than others. When ASU storms out of Tillman Tunnel to face Washington State on Saturday, it will be the last time the seniors play in Sun Devil Stadium.
Coach Todd Graham is in his first season at ASU and although he did not recruit any of the seniors, he still has a soft spot in his heart for them and wants to send them off on a positive note.
“They bought in and did everything that I have asked them to do,” Graham said. “I think they have represented our fans with great character and class. We want to finish up only one way, and that is with a win. We have to go get bowl eligible, and we have to go get a win for these seniors. It’s going to be a special Saturday for us.”
When Graham accepted the job at ASU back in December, he knew establishing a relationship with the team’s leaders would be crucial. However, the seniors had spent their entire college football careers playing for Dennis Erickson, and Graham did not know how they would adjust to the new regime.
Graham admitted he was nervous about the reaction he would get, but was pleasantly surprised by the group’s willingness to accept change and adapt to the new coaching staff.
“Guys like (senior running back) Cameron Marshall, (redshirt senior linebacker) Brandon Magee and (redshirt senior offensive lineman) Andrew Sampson were incredible,” Graham said. “I was very concerned because it could not have been as positive of a deal. I think we did a good job of conforming and transforming this team.”
Graham praises defense
USC scored 38 points against ASU on Saturday, but that number is not indicative of the way the Sun Devils’ defense played. ASU forced five USC turnovers and had several strong individual performances.
“(Junior safety) Chris Young’s interception is probably about as impressive as I have seen,” Graham said. “(Redshirt sophomore linebacker) Carl Bradford’s performance was unbelievable. I thought Brandon Magee played his best football game.”
Bradford finished the game with 10 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, an interception and two tackles for loss.
Meanwhile, Magee had 13 tackles of his own.
ASU’s defense has certainly had some lapses this season, but overall it has been a bright spot with noticeable improvements from just a season ago, which is exactly what Graham expects.
“I want this program to be a place where people want to come play defensive football,” Graham said. “I think that’s the key to us being a program that wins (a) championship each and every year. I want to be known for defense. I think these guys have taken a giant step this year in establishing that.”
Currently, the Sun Devils are No. 2 in the nation in average tackles for loss and quarterback sacks per game. ASU is also No. 4 in pass defense, only allowing 167.6 yards per game.
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