Though it wasn’t their first loss of the season, the Sun Devils received their first punch to the gut in their loss to Oregon at home on Thursday night. But Todd Graham remains confident in his team as they take on UCLA Saturday in a big Pac-12 South matchup.
“Anybody that says they got a hangover because they got beat last week is an excuse,” said Graham at his weekly press conference on Monday. “If one set back makes you not have any confidence then you didn’t have any in the first place. I’m not worried about that. I think our guys will come out and play with a lot of confidence and get after it.”
With that mentality, it sounds like the Oregon loss is behind the team and onward to the Bruins. Like ASU, UCLA is in the first year of a head coach. Jim Mora Jr. is the lead man now in Pasadena and like Graham, is off to a good start.
“They are like us, they are early in their system,” explained Graham. “They are very athletic, they have really good players. They have a good system.”
For ASU, stopping the UCLA running attack will be imminent. Senior Johnathan Franklin is the class of the Pac-12 at the running back position, leading the conference in rushing yards and is 13th in the nation. The Bruin total rushing attack is 2nd in the conference.
ASU has struggled against the run, especially last week against Oregon in which they surrendered 406 yards on the ground. Not to mention, defensive tackle Will Sutton, who has been a load to handle for the offensive lines of every team ASU has faced, remains day-to-day despite suiting up for ASU’s practice on Sunday.
“Franklin’s still the leading rusher in the league,” mentioned Graham. “He is a really really good running back. Runs the ball very well. I think the offensive line does a good job blocking the zone. They are very simple in the run game and most people who are good at it are.”
ASU will also have to keep a close eye on UCLA quarterback and former Chandler Wolves standout, Brett Hundley who is having a fantastic first season under center in Pasadena. He is second in the conference in total yards per game at 308. Will be the second time the Sun Devils will face a duel-threat quarterback in as many weeks.
The biggest thing ASU has changed from a year ago and will look to take advantage of this Saturday is their discipline in avoiding penalties. The Sun Devils have led the conference in that category since the start of the season and that remains the case. UCLA on the other hand has struggled with penalties as they currently sit 11th in the conference giving up an average of 80.3 penalty yards per game.
ASU will look to bounce back with a win on Saturday against the UCLA Bruins at noon on Saturday from Sun Devil Stadium.