Heading into its first road game of the season, ASU has had to prepare for something it doesn’t have a lot of experience with defending: the triple option offense.
Head coach Todd Graham was not particularly thrilled with the level of his team’s play following practice on Wednesday.
“We’re practicing good but not great,” Graham said. “That’s not going to get it done. We had some errors; we don’t cover a guy here or there; we make a mental error. What it is is just being young and not knowing how to practice at a high level.”
Even with just one game under his belt this season, Graham has made his expectations for this year’s team clear.
“Every day that we prepare, it’s about winning a championship,” Graham said. “You could practice good and be good enough for a while, but it’s not going to be good enough to win the Pac-12.”
Graham has been especially hard on his defense for committing errors that could be lethal against New Mexico’s potent offense, capable of capitalizing on just a single mistake.
“I’ve been going berserk over any error at all because it just takes one,” Graham said. “The triple option is the great equalizer of athletic ability, and it can really, really make you look bad.”
The triple option offense is difficult to defend because it allows for three players to be able to run with the ball as opposed to just two in a standard option.
However, the Lobos took a huge hit as head coach Bob Davie ruled out starting quarterback Cole Gautsche for Saturday’s game. Gautsche rushed for 184 yards and two touchdowns last week against UTEP.
ASU’s coaches will still game plan for the triple option, and according to senior defensive lineman Marcus Hardison, they have planned for it nonstop.
“Every day. In meetings they talk to us about that 24/7,” Hardison said. “It’s what they do best. We just have to play disciplined ball.”
Hardison’s position coach, Paul Randolph, has been happy with the defense’s effort this week but also echoed Graham’s desire for better practices.
“We want a perfect practice just like we want a perfect game,” Randolph said. “The guys have to come and bring the enthusiasm, bring the purpose, bring the focus to every single practice. It was a good one, but we’re working toward a championship and so every practice has to be in that manner.”
The Lobos went just 3-9 last season, but their offense averaged over 32 points per game, which will certainly be a test for the Sun Devil defense.
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