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Graham: Winning a bowl game just the ‘next step’ for ASU program

Under first-year head coach Todd Graham, ASU gained bowl eligibility for the third consecutive season and defeated in-state rival UA.

But with just weeks left in his first season with the Sun Devils, Graham wants more from his team when they take on Navy on December 29 in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

“You’re going to a bowl game first to win it and for the experience second,” Graham said Sunday after practice. “The bowl experience is a great experience, but it’s not any good if you don’t win.

“Our goal is to win our eighth game and to win a bowl championship. Winning a bowl championship would be the next step for our program.”

The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl will be Graham’s fifth appearance (3-1) as a coach in a bowl game. He previously took Rice to the New Orleans Bowl and Tulsa to the GMAC and Hawaii Bowls.

While the extra game allows the Sun Devils to practice 15 more times in 2012, similar to a spring camp, Graham was also very pleased to have the chance to play in a California-based bowl game for recruiting purposes.

“It’s a great location for us and for our recruiting base,” said Graham. “To go to the Bay Area is nice, because obviously California is such an important place for us. It’s where a lot of our players’ families are, and we have almost 20,000 alumni in that area. It’s a perfect situation for us.”

Graham and Co. will go up against a good 7-4 Midshipmen team led by the running duo of Gee Gee Greene and Noah Copeland. Before they play ASU, however, Navy still has its annual rivalry game on December 8 against Army.

“I’ve gone up against them quite a number of times,” said Graham. “They are fierce, they are disciplined and very tough. They do a great job executing their system and scheme.”

The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl will mark the first time the two programs have met in football.