ASU football coach Todd Graham knows the Sun Devils could’ve beaten No. 5 Stanford last Saturday. His biggest coaching pet peeve has always been when his teams defeat themselves, and that’s exactly what ASU did in its 42-28 loss to the reigning Pac-12 champion.
Graham was calm in his weekly press conference Monday following the Sun Devils’ tough loss, though he was earnest in his answers.
He said he knows what ASU needs to fix before it faces Pac-12 South foe USC on Saturday.
“(Special teams) will be the focus this week, but on the same hand, it’s things we got to get corrected, and we got to be better prepared and have people better perform than what they did on Saturday,” Graham said.
Graham wasn’t afraid to revisit the mistakes ASU made in the loss to Stanford.
He was particularly displeased with special teams. Along with the two blocked punts and freshman kicker Zane Gonzalez’s missed field goal, Graham pointed out that the Sun Devils gave up two kick returns that made it past the 50-yard line.
Graham also pointed out there were several holes in the secondary that ASU didn’t have before, which gave the Cardinal a lot of big plays throughout the game.
“We didn’t give ourselves a chance because of kicking game errors,” Graham said. “We had a lot of mistakes in the kicking games that put us behind in field position, which was critical.”
Besides the self-inflicting mistakes, Graham said ASU must work on its run game before going up against USC, another team known for its physical defense.
Against Stanford, the Sun Devils only had 50 rushing yards on 24 carries, averaged 2.1 yards per carry and lost 30 yards on negative rushing plays. Against Wisconsin, ASU had 116 rushing yards on 42 carries, averaged 2.8 yards per carry and lost 37 yards on negative rushing plays.
The Sun Devils finished third in rushing offense in 2013 with 205.4 rushing yards per game, and this year’s run game isn’t as close as where Graham wants it to be.
“We have not run the ball the way we need to run the football,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest concern there.”
- Graham said sophomore nose tackle Jaxon Hood, who hurt his leg in the Stanford game and didn’t return, is doubtful for the USC game. With Hood’s injury, Graham said he wants to see redshirt senior Gannon Conway, junior Marcus Hardison and redshirt senior Davon Coleman step up in Hood’s place. Redshirt sophomore Mo Latu, who recorded one tackle in the game, will be limited to 10-15 snaps per game as he is trying to improve his conditioning.
“Our defensive line is the last thing I’m worry about right now,” Graham said.
- Graham noted while redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jaelen Strong has been having a spectacular performance, he said Strong is nowhere in shape. Graham said Strong could barely walk at times in the fourth quarter.
- Graham cited redshirt freshman linebacker Salamo Fiso as the player who stood out the most in ASU’s second-half rally and said Fiso will be a starter for the USC game, most likely at SAM linebacker over senior Steffon Martin.
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