ASU football focused on qualifying for a bowl game against Oregon State

The Sun Devils close out their road schedule against the Beavers

ASU football will enter Saturday afternoon's game against Oregon State in Corvallis one win shy of bowl eligibility.

After shocking the world with an upset of then-No. 5 Washington, the Sun Devils suddenly had two wins against ranked opponents and appeared ready to compete for a Pac-12 South division title. But losses to USC and UCLA changed the nature of the season. 

"The pressure would have been to beat USC, UCLA and win the conference championship," head coach Todd Graham said in a press conference on Monday. "It’s something that we don’t even talk about. We talk about winning championships, but we did talk about it after this game that we have to get things corrected, get better and have a good week of practice. For these seniors, we need to get bowl eligible." 

Graham arrived at ASU in December 2011 with a goal of having the program be among the top teams in the conference, if not the nation. But even with a spot in the Pac-12 title game out of reach, Graham and his players know they are still playing for something. 

"Our guys have put a lot into this and they’ve been a great group to coach and work with," Graham said.

Todd Graham discusses the upcoming ASU football game against the Oregon State Beavers on Nov. 18. Reach the reporter at or follow @coleconderman on Twitter. Like The State Press on Facebook and follow @statepress on Twitter.

With his career at ASU winding down, senior defensive lineman Tashon Smallwood said he would love to play in the third bowl game of his career.

But Smallwood, who recorded six tackles in the Sun Devils' Sun Bowl victory over Duke as a freshman in 2014 and played in ASU's Motel 6 Cactus Bowl loss to West Virginia as a sophomore in 2015, said it is good for the young guys to have that experience. 

"It's important for me but it's hard to know how to get somewhere if you haven't been there before," Smallwood said. "Then they have something to build on for next season. I think that is important for our program to go up in the right direction."

With two games left, linebacker and fellow senior DJ Calhoun has only missed one tackle this season – his 98.8 tackling efficiency percentage is not topped by any other inside linebacker in the country. 

Calhoun also played in ASU's 2014 and 2015 bowl games, and now he has the chance to end a memorable senior season on a high note. 

"That was a big goal for me," Calhoun said regarding his tackling. "I had other goals set trying to go to the Pac-12 Championship, but for me right now it is about finishing and that is what I want to do." 

In order to finish strong, ASU will have to do something it has not done since 2005 – win a game at Reser Stadium. The Sun Devils own a 27-13-1 all-time series record but are 7-9-1 in Corvallis compared to 20-4 at Sun Devil Stadium. 

"This is their senior day," Graham said. "Not a senior in the country won’t get up and play their best game on a senior day. It’s all about us playing disciplined football, getting after it and being hungry to get our next win."

Reach the reporter at or follow @joejacquezaz on Twitter.

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