It has been the buzz word from the moment head coach Todd Graham first arrived on the ASU campus: Rose Bowl.
“I hear Rose Bowl in my sleep,” said defensive lineman Jaxon Hood, who like Graham is entering his second year with the Sun Devils.
“Since I stepped foot on this campus, that’s probably the most common word,” Hood continued. “I haven’t heard ‘Fear the Fork’. I haven’t heard ‘Sparky’. I’ve heard Rose Bowls more than any other word on this campus. That’s the truth. So, I don’t remember when the first time we started talking about Rose Bowls because that’s all we talk about and that’s what we’re about to go get.”
ASU fell well short of the Rose Bowl a year ago.
The Sun Devils finished third in the Pac-12 South; and while, yes, that did earn them a trip to California, it was not Pasadena but rather San Francisco and the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
“It’s the 100th anniversary of the Rose Bowl. That’s where the national championship game is at,” Graham said. “(I) told (the players) I grew up watching the Rose Bowl on a 13-inch black and white TV in Dallas, Texas listening to Keith Jackson. The Granddaddy of them all. I said, ‘Every day, man, that’s how we’ve got to work.’ So, today, did we work harder than the other 11 teams in the league?”
The Sun Devils, practicing in pads for the first time Thursday, are working hard according to Hood.
“The main thing that’s different from last year is everyone has got their eye on the prize,” he said. “I think everyone in our program truly believes in winning every game. I think we still had some doubters last year on the team, ones that just didn’t believe. But I think everyone in the program believes that this is ours for the taking. The only people who can beat us are ourselves.”
Quarterback Taylor Kelly agreed. “I believe we can go to the Pac-12 Championship and win that and then see where that takes us.”
The goal is the Rose Bowl, something the players are reminded about every day.
“Ten times a day. All day long,” Kelly said. “We’re seeing it on boards, in the hallways. It’s always talked about. We break with it. It’s just a goal that we’re working towards. It’s always good to visualize that and just keep talking about that.”