ASU Football: Todd Graham eyes Oregon State

Gene Sweeney Jr.

Todd Graham discussed the importance of the ASU win over Utah, the Oregon State offense and more.

Athletes and coaches are widely recognizable. Some fans consider even consider them heroes.

But the true heroes are the men and women who fight for our freedom. Before Todd Graham talked football on Veteran's Day, he took some time to express his gratitude for the military, including one of his current players.

"I just want start off and wish our military, Jake Sheffield in particular, and our military people happy Veterans day," Graham said. "One of the things when I came here and started researching the history, I thought it was very important for me to know the history of our program...I think 76 former coaches and players served. You see it displayed on the wall. Something that's very important to me personally and to this Sun Devil family. Veterans day is about being grateful to the people that sacrifice and give their lives, so we can do what we do and be apart of this game and have the freedoms."

The homage to the military went beyond coach Graham. If you donate a ticket to the military for the upcoming game, Arizona State will match it free of charge.

And that game will be played against Sean Mannion and an Oregon State offense that is averaging 404.8 passing yards per game. Graham knows game-planning for Mannion and the country's leading receiver, Brandin Cooks, won't be easy.

"No. 1 passer in the conference. No. 1 receiver in the conference," Graham said. "Obviously big play capabilities. Cooks, man he is really special...in my opinion, he's the best receiver that I've seen on film. And that's saying a lot when you got guys like Marqise Lee and Jaelen Strong."

Against the Beavers last season, Graham believes OSU head coach Mike Riley out-coached him. And for the third straight week, ASU's opponent is coming off a bye. That's a scary proposition, especially after seeing how Utah used its extra time to create a clever approach that flustered Taylor Kelly and company.

"I'd be a liar if I told you [teams coming off byes] didn't bother me," Graham said. "You start over thinking a little bit...I wish that [teams coming off byes} wasn't like that, it should be equal. Obviously you can't do anything about scheduling.You can't worry about things you can't control."

The problems offensively against the Utah were also among the main topics covered, and Graham praised the Kyle Whittingham's staff more than anything. But on the game winning drive, the offensive play calls weren't different. Graham attributed the success in crunch time to improved execution.

"We had a lot of miscues in our vertical passing game. It didn't even look like the same team throwing the ball," Graham said. "That can't happen."

At 7-2 overall atop the Pac-12 South, Sun Devil nation feels very happy about their current position. Still, Graham knows there's plenty more to go.

"I think we are hitting our stride," Graham said. "We have not done anything."

Other Notes

  • Gannon Conway stole the show again, which means he will now remain on the field in third down situations. Therefore, the nickel calls are going to cut down. Graham thinks he's the most improved player on defense, with fellow defensive lineman Davon Coleman on his heels. Conway told Graham in their offseason meeting that he thought he should be on the field more. Conway made the message clear and is backing it up nicely.
  • Richard Smith's early season fumble and drop problems were mostly due to a lack of experience, according to Graham: "The thing that really molds you as a player and even as a coach is the tough times. Rick is extremely talented. In the last few weeks, [he has] gotten his confidence. Big time catch, that was the game winner. He is a guy that I think that's going to continue to grow as he gets more and more experience. [Smith] big time essential part of what we are doing offensively."
  • Funny CTG quote alert: "Paul [Randolph] would be like my second wife," on his relationship with his defensive coordinator.
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