A new coach, a new philosophy, and a ton of awesome new trends helped make the 2012 season a memorable one for the Arizona State football program. Whether the Sun Devils were splitting time in the backfield to maximize their talent, racking up tackles for loss at an alarming rate, or winning their final three games of the season for the first time since 1978, plenty of positive changes took place in Tempe.
Though we had a number of different trends to choose from, our nomination as the "Best New Trend" is the disciplined style of play.
Anyone who watched the Arizona State football team under previous coaches knew that the maroon and gold had as big of a propensity for personal fouls as they did for game-breaking plays. Every time the Sun Devils had an opportunity to steal a win, their had their hopes constantly thrashed by an onslaught of mindless penalties.
When Coach Graham arrived in Tempe, he preached a "high-octane" offense, a hard-nosed brand of defense, and wholesale changes in the program's philosophy. What ensued was a remarkably exciting style of football that helped the Sun Devils to an eight-win season in their coach’s debut year.
The 2012 brand of Arizona State football finished the regular season tied for 14th in the nation in penalty yards and committed just 53 penalties over 12 games. Three of the 13 teams that finished ahead of the Sun Devils were service academies, programs founded in discipline.
When the Sun Devils met the Navy Midshipmen in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, Todd Graham’s boys gave the Middies a taste of their own medicine, committing just two penalties for 25 yards in a near-spotless effort. Graham wholeheartedly believed that capping the season off with a bout against the Naval Academy was the perfect ending to the Sun Devil season. The coaching staffs for both teams preach about honor, character, pride, and discipline and the bowl game showed that the Sun Devils have come full circle.
There once was a day when yellow handkerchiefs lined the field at Sun Devil Stadium, but those days seem far in the past now that the players have totally bought into Graham’s philosophy. Many of the new developments in Tempe will carry over to 2013, and here’s to hoping that the disciplined play will stick around for a whole lot longer.