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ASU Football: Graham reflects on defensive dominance, looks ahead to Utah during Monday press conference

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The Sun Devils managed a huge win this weekend, but still have it all to do with a tough matchup in Salt Lake City looming

Washington v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Arizona State head football coach Todd Graham addressed the media at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe Monday afternoon, highlighting multiple individual performances against Washington and acknowledging the strength of his next opponent.

The Sun Devils (3-3, 2-1 Pac-12) are coming off of a historic victory over then No. 5 Washington, largely due to a tremendous performance by ASU’s defensive unit. Graham didn’t shy away from noting who played well Saturday night.

“(Renell Wren) really did some things in the game,” Graham said of his redshirt junior defensive tackle that managed 1.5 tackles-for-loss and 0.5 sacks against the Huskies. “He really stepped up to a different level.”

Graham also mentioned that the defense’s seven-point performance had much to do with a newfound belief in its capabilities.

“I think it was a mindset,” Graham said. “It was just a mindset that our kids took in how they practiced and how they prepared. I told them we were going to defer and play defense first... it gave us a lot of confidence and showed what we’re capable of.”

As for the words the sixth-year head coach had for defensive coordinator Phil Bennett after the game?

“Good job, that’s about it,” Graham said. “On to Utah.”

Arizona State’s victory surely served as a huge confidence boost for everyone involved in the program, but yet another tall task lays ahead of the Sun Devils this Saturday. ASU heads to Salt Lake City to take on a Utah program that has won 14 of its last 18 at home and has managed at least nine wins overall in each of the past three seasons.

Graham had plenty of praise for his next opponent and noted the Utes’ stability under coach Kyle Whittingham Monday.

“They play great defense, they’re very physical and their offensive line is very well coached,” Graham said. “Since I’ve been in the league (they are) probably the most consistent team in the South.”

After starting the season undefeated through its first four contests, Utah is now on a two game losing streak heading into its matchup against the Sun Devils in week seven.

The Utes’ recent form bodes well for an ASU program looking to take another step on the path to six wins and becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2015. Graham, though, recognized that Utah has had a difficult early schedule to open conference play.

“They’ve played two really good teams in Stanford and USC,” Graham said. “They’re really good and really really good at home. Just a physical, tough, hard-nose football team.”

Kickoff between the Utes and the Sun Devils is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon, with both teams looking for a crucial Pac-12 victory to put pressure on division-leading Southern California.