In November of 1997, the number one song in the music world was Candle in the Wind by Elton John. While that hit was on the top of the charts for weeks, ASU celebrated what would end up being their last win in Berkley in 15 years.
The Golden Bears have owned the matchup with the Sun Devils in recent years winning eight of the last nine, and have dominated them at California Memorial Stadium. But that isn’t even a notion for Todd Graham and his new squad as they hit the road to face Cal this weekend.
“I guess when you’re involved in coaching a football team you realize that what you did last year doesn’t have anything to do with what you’re doing this year,” explained Graham on Monday. “I’ll probably focus more on correcting the mistakes we had from our first road game then what we did in 1999.”
Cal’s 1-3 record could be considered an unfair representation of how they have played so far this season. They lost a close one to Ohio State in Columbus and played well last week against USC before making mistakes late.
It’s their offense in particular that has Graham’s attention.
“This is by far, I think in my opinion, the most talented offense we’ve played,” said Graham. “Very well coached up front on the offensive line. This is the best offensive line that we’ve played against and I think the best running attack we’ve played against all year long so this is going to be a big challenge for us.
Based on the numbers, the running game of Cal might be ASU’s biggest challenge. The Bears have a three-headed monster in Isi Sofele, C.J. Anderson and the big play abilities of Brendan Bigelow who combined, rush for 175.8 yards per game. Good for fourth in the conference. The Sun Devils on the other hand haven’t struggled in many area’s but defending the run hasn’t been ideal as they are giving up an average of 134.2 yards per game.
“I think by far and away this is the biggest challenge for us defensively this week,” Graham added.
While Cal has but up big numbers offensively and will present that challenge defensively that Graham alluded too, Cal’s defense is in for a challenge as well.
The Sun Devils are averaging 41.2 point per game which is good for second in the conference while the Bears defense has had their struggles this season giving up 31 points per game.
Different players have stepped up for the Sun Devils offensively this season but the one constant has been the play of quarterback Taylor Kelly. After four games he has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the country.
“He’s a good decision maker, he’s very calm and poised,” Graham stated. “His strength is that he is a very good manager of our offense and what we are doing.”
Sun Devils continue practice all week without any thoughts on the past as they prepare for Cal on the road this Saturday.