Winds upwards of 50-60 MPH are rarely a friend to any team in the game of football, these less than optimal conditions were on full display Saturday night in Seattle, but Arizona State head coach Todd Graham and offensive coordinator Mike Norvell praised the way the team powered through the blustery conditions and took the blame for Taylor Kelly's slow start.
"Obviously that was pretty extreme conditions for the game last Saturday. We did well, but there are some things we got to clean up," Norvell said. "I thought Taylor (Kelly) came out and performed and put us in position to win the game there late and making the plays we needed to make. Obviously there was a little rust there the first game back not playing in six weeks. Some things we're going to get cleaned up getting back and adjusted to the speed of the game, but he responded like the champion I know he is."
The Sun Devils were up against a lot in Washington. Not only a strong defensive line, but a loud crowd as well on top of the poor weather. Graham was most pleased with the way the team further developed its character in the victory.
"With those weather conditions, everything that happened in that game, everything was perfect because when you prevail and face that kind of adversity, it does something," Graham said. "It just helps you mature when you go through that kind of adversity so I'm really proud of our guys."
Norvell, as most coaches would do, took the fall for Kelly's slow start. He also echoed Graham's sentiment of pride about the team overcoming the tough weather obstacle.
"I've got to do a better job, looking back at the game I've got to do a better job in that environment, in those conditions, putting him in a position to be successful," Norvell said. " I look at every game, we evaluate our players performances, I evaluate my performance after every game and I've got to do a better job. It was extreme conditions but our guys went out and battled. There was a lot of adversity but like I tell this football team and I tell this offense, I know how this team is going to respond when adversity strikes and that's why I'm most proud of them. They did what it took to win the game."
Offensive line shifts
The left side of the offensive line got a little weaker Saturday night when redshirt junior guard Christian Westerman went down with a leg injury. Redshirt sophomore Stephon McCray took his place for the rest of the game. Westerman is doubtful for this week, but Graham expects him back for Notre Dame. Tuesday at practice, Westerman was in a green no contact jersey and working with the strength training staff.
"I actually challenged him before the game, I told him ‘I hope you're ready and I don't know if you are' and he came in and answered the call," Graham said of McCray. "I'm really really proud of him and he did a tremendous job."
Graham said that challenge happened in front of the entire team too. True freshman Sam Jones and redshirt junior Devin Goodman both got reps with the first team on Tuesday along with McCray. Another option would be to move redshirt senior left tackle Jamil Douglas inside to Westerman's guard spot and let redshirt sophomore Evan Goodman take over at left tackle.
It seems like McCray's job for the time being, but this is the first offensive line injury for Graham and his staff since the 2012 season so it will be interesting to see how they handle it going forward. Graham added that McCray is smart and he has a lot of confidence in him.
"Stephon is a guy who is very intelligent and hard worker," Norvell said. "He knows probably every position on the offensive line. He's been our backup center and obviously our back up guard. He was ready for his opportunity."
"You never know when that one snap, that one opportunity is when you're going to have to jump in to help impact the team to win and he made some big plays. He had some big blocks there in that fourth quarter so that was fun to see."
Will Sutton visits
Former Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton visited practice Tuesday, helping out associate head coach Paul Randolph with the defensive line and giving pointers to current players about how they can improve their own game.
"It was great to see Will," Graham said. ""We're really really proud of him. He's a great Sun Devil."
Graham mentioned that Sutton walked up beside him and he wasn't even sure who it was at first before he recognized the two-time Pac-12 defensive player of the year. Sutton was drafted 82nd overall in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. In his time in Tempe, Sutton had 161 total tackles and 20.5 sacks.
One of his most memorable games came against this week's opponent in Utah last season when Sutton had an interception to seal the victory for the Sun Devils. Sutton is in town because the Bears have a bye week.
"I love that he came out here today you know just talking to the players, sharing with them, telling them ‘hey man, you listen to coach because what he's telling you is the right things.' I just really appreciate him," Graham said.
- Christian Westerman and Ezekiel Bishop were in green jerseys and didn't participate in practice. Laiu Moeakiola was in a gold, limited participant jersey
- Cameron Smith was back and running at what looked like full speed with the first team offense after missing the Washington game with an unknown injury. Taylor Kelly looked fine taking the first team reps with the offense.
- First team defense-- Linemen: Marcus Hardison-Jaxon Hood-Mo Latu-Demetrius Cherry Linebackers: Antonio Longino (WILL), Salamo Fiso (SAM), Laiu Moeakiola (SPUR). Corners: Kweishi Brown, Lloyd Carrington Safeties: Damarious Randall, Jordan Simone
- Graham on the fact that the Sun Devils are still in the hunt for a spot in the new College Football Playoff: "Our focus is going and winning the next five conference games and that way you don't have to worry about it. We should be in good shape."