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Herm Edwards likes ASU’s toughness, not thinking about ranking

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Arizona State just might be buying in, even though Sun Devils head coach Herm Edwards knew that building it would take time after taking over the football program in December.

Two wins into the year, he hopes that trust will help the team avoid a setback after a 16-13 upset over then-No. 15 Michigan State. Not helping the cause is the attention on ASU that comes in the form of an appearance in the national polls after knocking off the Spartans on Saturday.

ASU cracked the top-25 for the first time since 2015 as it readies for their first road game of the year Saturday at San Diego State. The Associated Press ranked the Sun Devils 23rd, while the Amway Coaches Poll dubbed them the No. 25 team in the nation.

“I’m happy for the kids, obviously. Big win for us and our coaching staff,” Edwards told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “I don’t get into all the rankings stuff. I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to that. I heard that today, I guess — somebody told me. I said, ‘OK, well, let’s get ready for San Diego State. That’s more important than anything else.'”

That Edwards avoided the news of the rankings for nearly 24 hours — the polls came out Sunday morning — might prove just how little he cares about the exercise.

He can prop up his team in other ways.

The first-year coach is pleased about the toughness Arizona State showed in a physical, defensive battle against Michigan State.

“After the first quarter … you’re scratching your head and I kind of start smiling and I said, ‘Oh, this is an old defensive game,'” Edwards said Monday. “The fourth quarter was the quarter. We talked about it all week. We said, ‘In the fourth quarter, guys, it’s going to be close and we can’t blink.'”

ASU didn’t.

It fell behind 13-3 at the end of the third quarter before mounting three scoring drives in the final four possessions, all while standing up to the Spartans defensively.

“They had five fouls. They were 0-for-3 on third down,” Edwards said of MSU’s three possessions in the fourth quarter.

Back to that trust: Edwards believes that winning makes player buy-in easy. And he said the Sun Devils are taking the identity he hoped to build around when he took over the program 10 months ago.

Practicing in the desert heat instead of the air-conditioned practice bubble was the most material proof of that attempt to toughen up his players.

“They want consistency, they want someone who cares about them,” Edwards said. “I think more than anything else, I think they know I want a tough football team. There’s something about being tough. I just think that wins in the long run, it becomes a part of your DNA.

“When I took the job here, I said, ‘Look, it’s going to be real important that you guys understand that we’re going to practice outside. We play outside,'” he added. “We’re not going to practice long — I don’t believe in that. I believe in efficiency and going fast. We went in (the bubble) one time because they had that dirty storm, whatever they call it. That’s the only time we’ve been in the bubble.”

Doug & Wolf

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