As Veteran's Day rolled by, everyone should extend immense gratitude for those people who fight or have fought to protect our freedom. Without them, I would not be here writing this article today.
Soldiers represent toughness, bravery while never quitting. ASU football coach Todd Graham has to hope his players can embody similar characteristics. After losing four straight games, the Sun Devils are out of Pac-12 title contention yet they could become bowl eligible this weekend.
"We don't have the opportunity to compete for a championship and that's disappointing," Graham said. "But we got to go and get bowl eligible."
Saturday versus Washington State marks the last home contest for numerous staples of the ASU program. Seniors Brandon Magee, Andrew Sampson, Keelan Johnson and more will all suit up one final time at Sun Devil Stadium. The significance of "Senior Day" cannot be understated.
"They (the seniors) are a very special group to me, they have bought in and done everything that I've asked them to do," Graham said. "I think they have represented our fans with great character and class, we want them to finish up one way, and that's with a win."
Since Graham arrived, players and media members have noticed significant changes and progress. The transition has had ups and downs, but overall was successful and has placed ASU football on the map for upcoming seasons.
"I've found these guys have a great love for this university and program," Graham said. "I've given them everything I got and these guys have laid a great foundation for our future."
Result wise, ASU's 5-5 record seems eerily similar to last season yet is completely different. The new blue collar mantra ASU football continues to adopt is showcased via strong discipline and improved pass defense. USC Heisman hopeful Matt Barkley only posted 222 yards, displaying omens of optimism.
Improvement takes time, but Graham believes Deveron Carr's progressions are widely noticeable. Carr's learning curve has evidently been expedited.
"I think Carr is probably the most improved player in the program," Graham said. "I want this program to be a place where people want to come play defensive football."
Going forward personnel wise, Graham knows he needs better wide receiver production. Jamal Miles' 25 receptions leads the unit, which is completely unacceptable.
Although, recruiting can solve the issues previously mentioned. Graham has already landed some big time recruits and even receiving commitments from Texas.
"We always want to get better and that's the key to succeeding in college football, we are trying to build positive relationships," Graham said.
Heading into ASU's sole remaining home contest, senior offensive guard Andrew Sampson is expected to return. Sampson has been battling an ankle injury but will likely receive the green light.
"It's one of those ankle sprain type deals that have just taken longer than we thought it would," Graham. "I look forward for him (Sampson) to play and play extremely well."
Specifically regarding Washington State, Graham sees the progressions their program has made under the mentoring of Mike Leach.
"It's a very difficult offense to defend, throwing for over 400 yards against Stanford and UCLA," Graham said. "They play hard and extremely physical."
Win or lose, coach Graham feels the pressure on his shoulders. Graham takes full accountability for ASU's actions on the gridiron.
"When you face adversity in life, your family needs you, that's when you man up," Graham said. "We have come up short 4 games in a row and have to get a win."