ASU’s Todd Graham confident but wary of Sacramento State

Sep 3, 2013, 1:36 AM | Updated: 1:37 am
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As is the case in the first week of any college football season, Week 1 of the 2013 campaign was littered with matchups between FBS (Division I-A) schools and FCS (Division I-AA) institutions.

However, this year things were a little different on the scoreboards of these games. FCS schools, otherwise known as the little guys, won eight of the 31 contests against the big boys in Week 1.

And it wasn’t solely lower-tier FBS teams that tasted bitter defeat. Kansas State, who played in the Fiesta Bowl just a year ago and spent five weeks in the top five of the AP Poll, was upset by North Dakota State. San Diego State, who won nine games in 2012, was pounded by Eastern Illinois at Qualcomm Stadium. Oregon State, who began this season as the 25th-ranked team in the nation, was shocked by Eastern Washington 49-46 to start their season with a crippling loss.

So why does this concern head coach Todd Graham and his Arizona State Sun Devils?

ASU got a chance to soak in the Davids slinging rocks at the Goliaths during their rare Week 1 bye, and they’ll open their season Thursday against an FCS opponent, the Sacramento State Hornets, at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.

“I’ve been on that side a lot in my career, coming from mid-major programs and I know how we prepared and how we went about doing things — it was our entire season,” Graham said at his weekly press conference Monday. “That could make their entire season.

“But I don’t really approach from that standpoint. I don’t sit there and tell our players ‘you better get prepared or you going to get beat.’ We will make no excuses. This is a game we should win and we better go out and get better.”

Sacramento State lost their season opener at San Jose State 24-0 last Saturday, but the Hornets are no stranger to going into Pac-12 stadiums and leaving with victories. In 2012, Sac State beat Colorado 30-28 in Boulder and shocked Oregon State in Corvallis, 29-28 in 2011.

“I have confidence in our guys. I think they’re mature enough to understand that any team can beat you,” Graham said. “You see all over the country that kind of stuff happening, and not just anybody. There are ranked opponents getting beat by I-AA teams.

“There are lessons learned in that. The key is just getting better every day and that’s preparing and not beating ourselves. Because in those games, that’s what happens. People turn the football over, have breakdowns in the kicking game and they beat themselves.”

Despite their loss to San Jose State, Graham is wary of Sacramento State’s talent.

“Their quarterback (Garrett Safron) is very, very efficient. In the first game, I don’t think their offense was indicative of how good they are,” Graham said. “They put up over 400 yards a game last year and they had the ball inside the five-yard line last week and got no points on two of those, and then they missed two field goals. So they had four scoring opportunities.

“They’ve got good skill players and I think they do a heck of a job coaching on offense — I’ve watched more of that. They’re very well-coached in the kicking game.”

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