TEMPE – Arizona State’s football team hit a pothole Saturday and returned home with a 1-2 record on the road. Head coach Todd Graham blamed the lack of tackling for the 40-16 loss against the Colorado Buffaloes. But the good news, according to Graham: “We are 5-2.”
The better news: The Sun Devils play Washington State at home Saturday, where they are 4-0.
Washington State is 1-1 on the road and has recently beaten Oregon State, Stanford and UCLA.
“You can tell their kids play hard,” Graham said of the Cougars. “But mostly, they’re an attacking group that try to force you into quite a few errors. They’ve done well. I think that the big difference in their team has been how they have played defense. Obviously they’re going to put up the numbers and the yards on offense. But they’ve got them attacking and playing solid defense.”
The Sun Devils could have moved into a tie for first in the Pac-12’s South Division with a win but are ready to move forward.
“We have a big challenge ahead of us and we gotta figure out a way to get this one and then go to the next one,” Graham said. “There is just five left. This thing can go a lot of different directions, but all we can control is the one in front of us.”
Graham said the team has to work on winning on the road.
“Obviously, there is challenges but you have to be twice as focused,” Graham said. “We talked about all those things, we’ve tried different things practice-wise. I just think that you have to be mentally mature, mentally tough to play well on the road.”
ASU has road games left against Oregon, Washington and Arizona.
“Each week we have to bring it, period,” Graham said. “It doesn’t matter whether you are at home or away. Bottom line is, the key is every single week improving and getting better, being consistent. So we have to get back on track this week.”
Running the ball has been one of the Sun Devils’ weaknesses. Both loses on the road have been by at least 20 points.
“Obviously, we haven’t blocked very well,” Graham said. “I think other teams have played very well and have been controlling the line of scrimmage. We have to get better in what we are doing. They key is to win football games and winning football games is being able to run the football and stop the run on defense. That was something we did not do good on either side of the ball.”
ASU had one of its best performances two weeks ago in a 23-20 win against UCLA. Graham said the Sun Devils did their best tackling in the win. This win was followed by what he called, “probably our worst performance as far as tackling. The number one thing was communication. Communication, pursuit and tackling. We spend almost half of our individual time every day on tackling.”