Graham on ASU-Wisconsin: ‘The best team won that game’

Two days following the ASU-Wisconsin game, the topic of the last play of the game inevitably had to be addressed in coach Todd Graham’s weekly press conference on Monday.

Graham insisted after the game that Badgers sophomore quarterback Joel Stave had fumbled on the play. Graham has since watched the game film with his assistants, and while he withdrew his claims that there was a fumble, little has changed about his theory regarding the rest of the play.

“What happened — it was the human element there — was when (Stave) set the ball, he kind of slipped, and then the really big thing was he set the ball on the ground,” he said. “When you watch the film, No. 78 (Badgers redshirt junior Rob Havenstein) went, ‘Whoa,’ so everybody kind of flinched. Our guys jumped on the ball, and then I knew they were going to have a hard time getting that play off.”

The final play sparked controversy nationwide. Rather than the entire game, analysts have taken to social media saying the officials robbed Wisconsin of winning the game. The Pac-12 released a statement Monday reprimanding the officials who worked Saturday’s game and said they made a mistake and should have given Wisconsin another play.

“This was an unusual situation to end the game,” said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott in the statement. “After a thorough review, we have determined that the officials fell short of the high standard in which Pac-12 games should be managed. We will continue to work with all our officials to ensure this type of situation never occurs again.”

Still, Graham doesn’t want the final play to eclipse his team’s effort throughout the rest of the game.

“That’s the human element to the game,” Graham said. “At the end of the day, I’m proud of my guys and how hard they played. They deserved to win. … We at times were tempted to beat ourselves, but we did persevere and win. I firmly believe the best team won that game.”

Also addressed in the press conference was the play five snaps before the infamous moment when Stave hit redshirt senior wide receiver Jeff Duckworth for a 51-yard gain.

Duckworth appeared to have stepped out-of-bounds in the middle of his run after the catch. The referees challenged the play but upheld it, causing outrage from many spectators who thought Duckworth stepped out after the catch.

Even if that play ended up costing ASU, Graham said he wouldn’t have been upset about the call at all.

“At the end of the day, that play didn’t really matter,” Graham said. “We were sitting in two-man coverage. They threw (a) smash (route), and the strength of two-man is stopping the corner route. We gave up an outside release when we were supposed to be taking away the outside. You deserve to give up a 51-yard play when we don’t execute like that.”

Other notes:

- ASU media relations announced the players will not comment on the last play of the Wisconsin game when they are available to the media starting Tuesday.

- Graham said redshirt junior defensive back Damarious Randall, who made his debut on Saturday, has been healthy for over a week. Randall struggled against Wisconsin, but Graham said it’s a matter of him learning the system after Randall missed a lot of reps over fall camp.

- Graham praised linebackers Viliami and Alani Latu, who were the only two freshmen to play other than kicker Zane Gonzalez. Graham thought the best option for them was to redshirt, but the two made an admirable contribution on special teams against Wisconsin.

 

Reach the reporter at jnacion@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @Josh_Nacion