Fans of the No. 7 Arizona State football team will notice something different about this squad. No, it is not new uniforms or new personnel. It is a change of philosophy that has turned Arizona State into a legitimate title contender. The Sun Devils have become a more attacking defense.
Coming into their contest with Notre Dame, the Sun Devils brought five or more rushes on 55 percent of plays. The average for a power five conference team is just 27 percent. Against Notre Dame, the Sun Devils brought more than five rushers a staggering 73 percent of the time.
Despite the recent scheme change, attacking is something that Todd Graham started preaching at a young age.
"I was a defensive coordinator at a really young age. I was 25 or 26 and it is just what I have always done. I have always attacked," said Graham at his weekly press conference.
"It is not just want I want to do, how much we do depends on the talent and the players and how it fits them," said Graham. "We are doing a lot more (blitzing) this year than we did last year."
Last year, the Sun Devils were able to send Carl Bradford and Will Sutton after the opposing quarterback. This year, Graham and his staff have had to be more creative in ways to pressure the quarterback. One such pressure, has been the cornerback blitz, specifically with Lloyd Carrington and Armand Perry. Carrington is third on the team with three sacks.
"I spend a lot of time with Gus Malzahn (Auburn), Chad Morris (Clemson), Mike Norvell, Major Applewhite (Texas) and a lot of sharp offensive guys," said Graham. "The offensive advantage over the last about 12 years as been substantial.
"With all the analysis and research that I have done it is just too hard to defend all the things you are going to see and all diversity of schemes from week-to-week. It is much more efficient to attack. The key is to attack with minimal risk."
A special victory
Saturday's victory over Notre Dame was not the first victory over the Fighting Irish for Todd Graham. In 2010, his last season at Tulsa, Graham led the Golden Hurricanes to a 28-27 road victory over the Fighting Irish. Graham remembers the victory fondly.
"Personally, beating Notre Dame at Notre Dame when I was at Tulsa is pretty special," said Graham. "Beating them here with this group of kids is just as special"
While most Sun Devil fans (and critics) will point to the disastrous start to the second half that saw Notre Dame go on a 28-0 run to pull within three, Graham would like to focus out the first half of the game.
"That first half was the best first half of football that I have ever been associated with," said Graham. "With how we played and how we functioned and we responded in the second half was pretty special too."
The head coach also pointed out one more victory that he considers special.
"Winning at the last second in the coliseum is pretty cool too," Graham said with a smile. "I'm very blessed to be able to do what I am doing."
- Graham did not know if the Sun Devils would have Jaxon Hood this week against Oregon State. Hood missed the Notre Dame game because of a personal reason.
- The kickoff time for Arizona State's Nov. 22 contest against Washington State was announced Monday morning by the conference. The game will begin at 11 a.m. MT and be televised on Pac-12 Networks.