After Arizona State was entirely outmatched for three quarters last Saturday against Stanford, head coach Todd Graham owned up and took the blame.
Now, Graham is ready to move on and get 2013's first conference victory of under his belt when the USC Trojans visit Tempe Saturday. Here are the highlights of Monday's press conference and their accompanying coach-talk translations:
- The biggest news from Monday came when Graham called defensive lineman Jaxon Hood "very doubtful" to take the field against USC. Hood left last week's game with a leg injury and never returned. Graham's verbiage suggests Hood is more week-to-week than day-to-day at this point. That's bad news for a Sun Devil defense that has had difficulties limiting big rushes off the edge so far. As for his replacements on the inside, Gannon Conway was the first name Graham suggested. Mo Latu should continue to see 10-15 snaps as he works back into shape and Davon Colemon and Marcus Hardison will be shuffled around as well. Graham was hyping up the depth along the defensive line this offseason and now it will be tested against USC ground attack averaging 176.5 yards per game.
- Speaking of that ground attack, Graham believes the secret to limiting All-World WR Marqise Lee starts with stopping the run first. So much of USC's big-play ability is set up by the run and Graham admits that's what burned them in 2012: "I think if I had last year to do over again, we had a good plan and got a lot of good takeaway from them, but late in they were able to run the ball and that was a difference in the game." Stopping the run will be no easy task though. Running backs Tre Madden and Justin Davis have each averaged over five yards a carry and 161 total rushing yards combined in 2013.
- USC football has quietly shifted from an offensive juggernaut to a defensive grinder this season. With Morgan Breslin leading the way, USC is averaging four sacks and 9.5 tackles per loss a game. The Trojans have also yet to allow an opponent to rack 300 yards of total offense. As "an attack person," Graham loves what new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast is doing with his 52 defense: "I think they've got the personnel to run what they're running...They blitz and attack an awful lot and try to create negative plays."
- Graham said Saturday against Stanford was the most frustrated he's been post-game since he took the Arizona State job: "That's a game I wanted really bad to win, and not play well in, but win. We didn't give ourselves a chance and that's frustrating because that's my job to prepare our team." The good news is the last time the Todd Graham's Sun Devils lost by at least two touchdowns on the road, ASU returned home and smoked Washington State, 46-7. The bad news is that the team that handed Arizona State that 14+ point road loss was the Trojans.