ASU finished the 2007 football season tied for first place in the Pac-12 and headed to its fourth-consecutive bowl game.
The Sun Devils began the 2008 season ranked No. 16 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and the program appeared poised to take the next step. However, things did not go as planned and ASU did not return to a bowl game until 2011.
A 32-point loss to Boise State was not what ASU had in mind for its return to bowl season, but simply reaching a bowl was progress that coach Todd Graham has built upon in just his first season.
“Our goal is always going to be winning a championship, and we were one play away,” Graham said. “We block a field goal and we would have been in the (Pac-12) Championship game. We were very, very close.”
Although Graham’s team did not achieve its lofty preseason expectations, the barometer of success in Tempe was raised.
ASU’s 7-5 regular season record capped the team’s first winning season since 2007. The Sun Devils finished tied for second place in the Pac-12 South and are headed to consecutive bowl games for the first time in five seasons.
Bowl games are considered a reward to a team after a good season, but redshirt senior linebacker Brandon Magee wants to make sure bowls are the norm at ASU.
“We should be in a bowl game every single year,” Magee said. “This is Arizona State University. We get great recruits, we have the stadium, (and) we have the bubble and great facilities. We need to be in a bowl game every year.”
The 2012 Sun Devils certainly made strides on the field, as they were one of just four Pac-12 teams (Oregon, Stanford and UCLA) to win three or more conference road games. ASU won at California, Colorado and at UA.
The strides Graham made on the field are impressive, but strong football programs are about the foundation. Graham is proud of the base he built in Tempe.
“The intangibles and the things off the field (are where) we made great progress,” Graham said. “The character building and the team building. I think we had an exception year in that aspect and I feel good about the foundation we’ve laid.”
Redshirt senior cornerback Deveron Carr, who has been with ASU since the disappointing 2008 season, has also seen progress and feels ASU’s football future is bright.
“The grounds that Graham is laying here with his coaching staff is holding up to a high value,” Carr said. “They are not slowing down for anybody, they will expect the best out of you and coach you hard.”
Discipline, character and accountability are all signs suggesting the ASU football program is headed in the right direction, and if Graham is able to lead his team to a bowl win and finish the season with eight wins — well, that wouldn’t be bad either.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com