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ASU Football: Todd Graham remains unfazed amid Sun Devils' early struggles

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Even while his team is getting criticized, Todd Graham explained why he hasn't been worried about his team's disappointing start.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Todd Graham knows his team has underwhelmed in the first two weeks of the season. However, he seems far from worried at the moment.

After the Arizona State Sun Devils held their final practice Wednesday morning before Friday's home game against the New Mexico Lobos, the ASU head coach remained unswayed by the team's disappointing performance following the season-opening loss to Texas A&M and a surprisingly close win over Cal Poly of the FCS.

In Monday's press conference, he joked the Cal Poly game could have been much worse. On Wednesday, his attitude didn't change at all.

"All that matters to me is the win and loss," Graham said. "That's all that matters. Going through the season is always like that."

By following this theme this week, Graham has barely addressed his team's concerns. He has been offering more praise than criticism following last week's win over Cal Poly, particularly to Matt Haack's punting and the special teams' overall play.

Graham offered an explanation why.

"Here's how it works, when you're mentally concerned you understand: If you win, they love you, and if you don't, then they don't and shouldn't," Graham said. "We have no problem with that. We don't react as much as what everybody thinks you [should] react. If you do, you're not a very good football team."

Even quarterback Mike Bercovici hasn't seemed too concerned this week. In Monday's press conference, he declared the team had shaken off all of its rust and should be ready to go against New Mexico. Like his head coach, Bercovici remained confident following Wednesday's practice.

"We know the type of playmaking we have on both sides of the ball and on the kicking game, so it's just going to be exciting to finally see it click," Bercovici said. "Week by week, we're getting better, stronger and faster, and our mentality has been the best up to this point in a team perspective."

Still, Graham was asked about other concerns like the team's lack of explosive plays in the first two weeks despite having its most dynmaic personnel under Graham. He couldn't offer a specific reason why the team hasn't produced there, but it's a matter of "ironing things out."

"We obviously have not played to our potential, and so we have to get back to that," Graham said. "That's everybody doing their job and playing to the best of their abilities."

This is a situation which ASU fans hope the Sun Devils find a solution to these problems by the end of the week. New Mexico is Arizona State's last non-conference opponent before beginning a treacherous conference stretch against USC next Saturday and UCLA on Oct. 3.

"It's just putting it together and I feel good where we're at," Graham said.

Bercovici to continue pooch-punting

During the Cal Poly game Saturday, Mike Bercovici had a 38-yard pooch-punt that landed within Cal Poly's own 20.

It's a continuation of the scheme ASU was working with previous starting quarterback Taylor Kelly, who took 23 career pooch-punts in the last three years with several of them backing teams against their own endzones.

Bercovici teased the media Wednesday by revealing there is a pooch-punt competition between him, offensive coordinator Mike Norvell and quarterbacks Manny Wilkins, Brady White and Bryce Perkins during closed sessions on Thursdays. He bragged he usually wins them.

"It's an important asset to our kicking game, so I do take pride in that," Bercovici said. "We do practice them."

Other notes

- With Armand Perry still in crutches and ruled out for Friday's game, Graham said the team is looking to using either Chad Adams or true freshman Kareem Orr to to start at field safety, and will evaluate using practice and game film. Graham also said James Johnson may play a few snaps there as well.

- Running back De'Chavon Hayes was in a green no-contact jersey Wednesday. Although Graham didn't watch Hayes on the field at all during practice Wednesday, he labeled Hayes' status as "questionable" for Friday's game.

- Graham said he's been impressed with Bryce Perkins' performance in practice. Perkins has been the main scout-team quarterback for the first three weeks of the seasons, as his athleticism matches Texas A&M, Cal Poly and New Mexico's schemes at that position. Graham added that the team will still use Brady White in the scout team later in the season that matches his pro style.