ASU’s Todd Graham explains Sun Devils’ annual resilience

Oct 9, 2015, 9:18 AM
Arizona State linebacker Christian Sam, left, celebrates with head coach Todd Graham, center, and d...
Arizona State linebacker Christian Sam, left, celebrates with head coach Todd Graham, center, and defensive back Jordan Simone after they defeated UCLA in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, in Pasadena, Calif. Arizona State won 38-23. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
LISTEN: Todd Graham, ASU football head coach

Entering Saturday night’s game against Colorado at Sun Devil Stadium, the Arizona State Sun Devils find themselves in very familiar territory.

That territory is marked by renewed optimism after a season-salvaging win. It’s become a yearly occurrence.

In 2013, the Sun Devils were slammed by Stanford in their third game of the season but responded by winning eight of their next nine to claim the Pac-12 South title.

Last season, UCLA humbled Arizona State on a Thursday night game in Tempe, lighting up the scoreboard for 62 points. The Devils bounced back to win five in a row.

After getting pummeled by USC two weeks ago in Tempe, Arizona State entered last week’s contest against then 7th-ranked UCLA as prohibitive underdogs. Yet, they left the Rose Bowl with a decisive 38-23 win and a new lease on the season.

“I’m tired of doing it,” head coach Todd Graham told Doug and Wolf Friday morning on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, when asked about his team’s annual resilience.

“I think it’s because we built this program on a strong foundation,” the fourth-year head coach continued. “On values, on principles — character, integrity, worth ethic and toughness — and respect. I think the true character of our players gets exposed when we get backed against the wall.”

ASU enters Saturday’s contest not only with the momentum of an impressive road win over a ranked team, but a better standing in the Pac-12 South after USC’s ugly loss to Washington Thursday night.

Despite the ups and downs of the early part of this season, Graham is not changing the way he does business.

“Since I walked in the door here, I’ve said our program was going to be about winning championships,” Graham said. “And I know people say ‘why do you keep building all this stuff up?’ Well, I firmly believe in high expectations.

“‘Why don’t you keep it to yourself?’ Well, I’m trying to build a stadium. It’s hard to build a stadium if you don’t get people excited about what you’re doing. We had to raise $100 million to do that — and this stadium has needed to be redone for a long time. I don’t apologize for driving expectations up. Why they brought me here was to build young people for championship life and to compete for championships.”

Graham believes the relentless championship pursuit that is a hallmark of the program is the very reason why his team has been able to recover from early-season disappointments.

“Yes, it’s an evolution. Yes, we’re not there yet. Yes, we have a lot of work to do,” he said. “But I don’t back off that one bit. I think our players deserve that, I think our fans deserve those expectations. Nobody was more disappointed than our players and our coaches about where we were at that time.”

The Sun Devils have a chance to once again build off of a “bounce-back” win.

Kickoff for Saturday’s game is at 7:00 p.m. and the contest can be heard on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, beginning with pregame coverage at 5:00.

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