Todd Graham “in awe” of defensive effort by Sun Devils against Stanford
TEMPE, Ariz. – Arizona State head coach Todd Graham was extremely pleased with how his defense played on Saturday night against the two-time defending Pac-12 champion Stanford Cardinal at Sun Devil Stadium.
“I think this is the best game we’ve played this year,” Graham said.
The Sun Devil defense was completely dialed in against Stanford. They out hustled the Cardinal, they were more physical than the Cardinal and just plain wanted it more than the Cardinal did.
The defense is the primary reason why Arizona State came away with the 26-10 victory – snapping their four-game losing streak to Stanford.
Stanford came into the game averaging nearly 400 yards of total offense a game. After one quarter, the Cardinal had just 25 yards of offense to their credit. At the half, they were up to 69 yards total. Stanford was able to move the ball more efficiently in the second half, but the Sun Devil defense didn’t flinch.
Yes, the Cardinal were able to put up 10 points in the second half, but that’s as far as it went and as far as Arizona State’s defense would allow them to go.
The Cardinal could only muster 288 total yards of offense on the night.
For the most part, the tackling – which was a big concern after the UCLA debacle a few weeks back – was crisp and everyone accounted for someone on Stanford’s offense. Arizona State’s defense had five tackles for loss and two sacks on quarterback Kevin Hogan.
Graham credits the defense’s resurgence on the team having more preparation time because of the extra bye week.
“I was pretty confident, we had a little bit of time to work on it,” Graham said. “Really I started questioning a little bit, ‘Maybe I’m doing too much,’ [but cornerback] Lloyd [Carrington] and some of the other guys said, ‘Coach, let’s just do what we do.’”
“I think, sometimes, we have so much schematics that we forget that it’s about whipping the guy in front of you,” Graham said. “We really got back to destroy[ing] the line of scrimmage, destroy the guy in front of you, get off on the football [and] attack.”
Graham says he went back to the spring ball type of practices in preparation for the Cardinal. That seemed to light a fire under the defense, which had lots of question marks coming into this game.
“We got after it, and really, really spend a lot of time on individual time and fundamentals and I think that helped,” Graham said.
“I think that’s maybe 10-percent of it, I think a team just comes together [and] you reap what you sow,” Graham said.
The defense definitely destroyed the line, holding Stanford to 76 yards rushing on 22 carries.
Safety Demarious Randall says the reason why the defense was so effective against the run is because of their mental focus.
“The only way people can score on us is if we make mental errors,” Randall said. “Coach Graham and the coaching staff put us in great position to make a lot of great, great plays.”
Carrington believes the game plan, and the defense sticking to that, goes hand in hand with their focus.
“We’re an attacking style [of] defense,” Carrington said. “We try and make different adjustments for certain teams, but Coach Graham put [his] foot forward and said, ‘Be us, we’re going to play our style of defense and attack Stanford, no matter what they’re running regardless.’”
What the defense was able to accomplish against the Pac-12 champions even had Graham – a noted talker – speechless.
“I was in a little bit of awe of them tonight,” Graham said. “They really are taking charge of their team, these kids have great character and they’re a smart group of guys.”
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