There has been a ton of change around the Arizona State football program, and now the Sun Devils and their fans are just days away from seeing the revamped product on the field.
ASU will host Northern Arizona in Tempe Thursday night in the debut of new head coach Todd Graham, and the man who replaced Dennis Erickson is raring to go.
“I’m the most anxious about getting them out there on game day, and I think they’re really going to play like I’ve coached them, and that’s hard,” Graham said Monday during his first of at least twelve weekly press conferences.
“We only have two simple goals on offense for this game,” Graham said. “Don’t turn the ball over — 100 percent ball security — and no penalties.”
That may be easier said than done for the Sun Devils, who have been at or near the bottom of the national rankings in drawing yellow flags in each of the last four seasons.
Thursday’s game will mark the 39th time ASU and NAU meet on the gridiron, and although the Lumberjacks are looking for their first win in the rivalry since 1938, Graham and his team aren’t taking them lightly.
“I can tell you, we’re not looking past NAU,” he said. “I’ve been on the other side of the fence and won games like this. You’re talking about how much this means to their program — that’s something that makes an entire season.”
The two teams have met four times since 2003, and NAU has hung tough. In fact, in the 2006 season opener, the teams went into the fourth quarter tied at 14-14 before the Sun Devils scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns in a 21-point win.
“I just want to win,” Graham said. “And I want these guys to represent our fans the way they deserve to be represented, and I think they’ll do that.”