Even after two losses, ASU football coach Todd Graham is confident the Sun Devils can still win the Pac-12 championship.
When Graham reflected on the two losses after Thursday’s practice, he said there were two issues that prevented the team from beating No. 5 Stanford and Notre Dame: missed tackles and bad blocking.
“The games that we haven’t won, we haven’t blocked very well,” Graham said. “In the games that we haven’t won, we haven’t tackled very well. You got to get better fundamentally for sure.”
ASU’s blocking woes are obvious on the stat sheet as the Sun Devils are averaging 130 yards per game, which ranks 96th in the nation. Their 3.8 yards per carry average is 90th in the country and against Notre Dame, the offensive line allowed the Fighting Irish to sack redshirt junior quarterback Taylor Kelly six times.
As for tackling, Graham estimated the defense missed close to 10 tackles against Notre Dame. He said he thought the tackling was even worse against USC, when the defense struggled to take down the Trojans’ tailback duo of redshirt sophomore Tre Madden and freshman Justin Davis.
Graham doesn’t think the Sun Devils have a problem with fundamental tackling, but he said the defense’s main issue is its pursuit on ball carriers, which takes attitude and effort. He said one of his goals for the defense is to not have any missed tackles in a game.
“We have to get better at running to the football and playing until the end of the whistle,” he said.
Graham called the offense “the strength of the team,” but he still believes it’s imperative for the team to perform well on defense. He said the team must also focus on performing better on special teams toward the latter half of the season if the Sun Devils are going to compete for the conference title.
He speaks from past experience.
“In 2008, (Tulsa) had the No. 1 (total) offense in America,” Graham said of his former team. “Well that’s great, huh? We lost the conference championship. We couldn’t play special teams. We couldn’t play defense and play it to a championship level. People said, ‘Oh, we had the No. 1 offense in the country.’ Well, who cares?”
- Graham confirmed sophomore nose tackle Jaxon Hood will play against Colorado on Saturday. However, Graham said redshirt senior defensive end Davon Coleman will start in Hood’s place and implied there could be a position battle for the starting spot.
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