Last week, Arizona State Sun Devils coach Todd Graham said it would be the team who makes the least mistakes that would win week one's contest. Graham was right in that prediction as the Arizona State Sun Devils fell to Texas A&M mainly due to five fumbles and six penalties for a loss of 45 total yards.
"There were lots of good lessons to be learned after that game," Graham said. "They responded well. Your character gets exposed when you face some adversity and we did a lot of things to beat ourselves. That was a very, very good team and they had some really good players in certain places and we fumble the ball five times, lose it twice, two roughing, record setting penalties because one of the roughing the punters returned after.
"But the one thing that I liked is what our team showed was character and they showed a lot of character. We just got to get back to making sure we're playing disciplined Sun Devil football the way we always do it."
De'Chavon "Gump" Hayes' Unexpected Role
In light of the last-minute changes Saturday due to Kalen Ballage's mono-inducing absence, De'Chavon Hayes was quickly called upon to play a much larger role than was previously slated out for him.
Graham said in his Monday press conference that Hayes originally was not supposed to play as much as he did, but with Ballage's absense, he was needed to play on special teams returning kicks and punts, as well as on offense as both running back and slot receiver.
While the redshirt junior led the team with 113 all-purpose yards in his Sun Devil debut, he struggled to find his footing on the return attempts with 21 yards on three punt return attempts and only 14 rushing yards on seven carries.
"I definitely knew I was going to do punt and kick return all through fall camp, that's what I've been practicing for, but coming into that game I was second string punt returner, but they told me the day before you will be starting when my name was called I just stepped up and played for the team," Hayes said.
Hayes said he and the offense have some details to iron out because of some key mistakes that were made in the contest but one thing that Hayes did not lack was confidence in his first game as a Sun Devil.
"They just said when your number's called be ready to make the plays so when I stepped out there and the first pass came to me I wasn't anxious wasn't nervous I was just ready because the game is always going to be the game so it didn't matter to me what I was doing," Hayes said. "I felt like I was very prepared, I felt like I knew everything, I felt like my performance was pretty solid. There were some details I could have adjusted to, but I already know for a fact I'm going to do that and take a couple to the house. Definitely looking forward to that in upcoming games."
Increased Reps for Hayes?
While Graham said he is still focused on getting Ballage back, Hayes will likely be seeing more touches in order to pick up the slack with Ballage out.
"(Reps) definitely been going up for the fact that me and Demario (Richard) are still rotating in the backfield," Hayes said. "But at the same time I'm still in the slot as well so when we rotate I've been doing more at receiver, so we just try to stay in shape just to balance that out."
What Happens Now?
One thing Sun Devil fans can keep an eye on is the possibility of receiver D.J. Foster shifting back into a running back role for a couple of games to help fill the void left by Ballage.
"Kalen is definitely another body back there giving a great rotation and definitely a great compliment to Demario and a terrific player on special teams as well," Foster said. "He does a lot for us on special teams so just his presence out there we definitely missed."
Graham mentioned how, if given more time, he might have utilized Foster in the running back position against the Aggies. However, some argue that Foster wasn't targeted enough as a receiver against A&M so it will be interesting to see how Graham proceeds without Ballage until his expected return in a few weeks.
"The coaches may have me just give Demario and Gump a little rotation in the backfield and trying to give them a little breather as well as continue to move me around everywhere because wherever I can help I'm always for it," Foster said.
Re-focus and Re-center
Foster said the biggest downfall at NGR Stadium Saturday was the offense. Graham had a game plan set and as players lost the ball and the line moved backwards with penalties, the team let the plan, Foster said, ultimately get away from them.
"I just think we kind of got away from our game plan," Foster said. "I thought we played hard, I thought our team played as hard as they could, very physical. I thought Demario ran really hard and Gump did what he could do but at the end of the day we definitely could do more as an offense. Like our game plan we kind of need to stick to what we do best: running inside, running outside, and spreading the ball around a little bit more."
However Graham said this team is showing the mental maturity that indicates a quick turnaround as the team prepares for its home opener against Cal Poly Saturday.
Foster said now is the time to respond with passion.
"I think that's been the biggest thing the past couple of days for our offense is just to re-focus and re-center and to get ourselves to focus on Cal Poly," Foster said. "The hard work that we put in, we don't want to let ourselves down as well as the coaches and the community so for how hard we work, win or lose, we just have to keep moving forward."
- Offensive linemen Nick Kelly and Evan Goodman were in green non-contact jerseys Tuesday.
- Demario Richard continued to see first team reps at running back and caught some passes out of the backfield on the first team's opening drive.
- Ellis Jefferson, Tim White and Fred Gammage all got first team reps at receiver, despite White still donning his green non-contact jersey.