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Familiarity breeds contempt. ASU extended their home winning streak to three after demolishing the Utah Utes 37-7. Now the Sun Devils must go outside the box, attempting to beat California on the road for the first time since 1997. Coach Todd Graham knows about the history, but does not really care.
"You realize what you did last year doesn't have anything to with what your doing this year," Graham said. "I will probably focus more on correcting the mistakes we had from our first road game than more of what we did in 1999. We're not even the same guys."
Beyond the struggles at Cal, road woes in general have haunted Sun Devil players that currently suit up every Saturday. ASU is 2-8 over the last ten contests away from Sun Devil Stadium.
"We just got to do a better job of executing what we are trying to execute," Graham said, in reference to road play. "There were some things that we would definitely do differently, hopefully be in good shape."
Before jumping too far ahead into the exact personal of California, lets take a step back and appreciate the effort ASU showcased against Utah. After a tough nail biting loss to Missouri, questions were swirling about how the Sun Devils would respond. Any of those dilemmas were solved within eight minutes of kickoff, as ASU jumped out to an early 14-point lead.
Not only were the players forced to quickly regain focus, the coaches also needed to hit the drawing board. Ranging from the usage of Michael Eubank to routine calls, losses subsequently force evaluations. Rather than panicking, Coach Graham's staff kept right on course.
"We are not as emotional as everything's else around else, we don't react to that stuff," Graham said. "You don't get too high, you don't get too low, you just keep getting better. I'm proud of how our coaches responded."
Talking about improvement, the ASU wide receivers finally woke up from their three game naptime. Senior receiver Rashad Ross led the unit with 87 yards and a touchdown. ASU's coaching staff had expected those productive numbers sooner; Ross had been a major disappointment before the Utah game.
"I thought our receivers really stepped up...we attacked the ball," Graham said. "Just fundamentally I would tell you were we got to have the most improvement...they meet my challenge."
In order for the wide outs to get open, blocking up front is key. Utah owns arguably the best defensive line among ASU's first four opponents, yet the Sun Devil offensive lineman absolutely dominated.
"Our offensive line as a group did very solid, got real strong leaders and character up front," Graham said.
Moving on to this weeks preview, California is currently 1-3 but appear to be better than their record. The dynamic running back duo of Isi Sofele and Brandon Bigelow has produced 404 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Berkley quarterback Zach Maynard is another capable two dimensional player, and is the first starting signal caller ASU has matched up with since NAU's Carry Grossart.
"This by far I think in my opinion is the most talented offense that we've played," Graham said. "This is far and away the biggest challenge defensively this week."
- Graham believes Will Sutton is playing as good as any defensive line in the country. "The sky is the limit for him (Sutton)" Graham said, "I doubt there's a better defensive lineman in the country."
- Linebacker Brandon Magee been very consistent, provides great leadership and has a nose for the football. "He's very smart, very savvy and very experienced," said Graham. "Obviously, he has a knack for getting the football. He has gotten a couple interceptions. He's a very explosive blitzer."
- Safety Chris Young has been all over the gridiron. Graham is stunned by how quickly Young had adjusted. "It's amazing what he's been able to do in such a short period of time. The good Lord blessed him with some great skills and we're trying to take those skills and utilize them in our system," said Graham.
- Graham said that Cal QB Zach Maynard was eerily similar to Illinois Nathan Scheelhasse.
- On a lighter note, Graham probably used the word "proud" approximately 10-15 times.