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Todd Graham: Sun Devils’ leadership ‘pretty special’

It can often be easy for college athletes to get lost in the doldrums of a sometimes-monotonous season.

A draining schedule of school responsibilities combined with hours of practice, meetings and individual preparation can lead to a team that loses its edge as the season wears on — especially on the heels of a rigorous four-game stretch similar to the one Arizona State played before last week’s blowout against Colorado.

So when the Sun Devils entered halftime with a 29-7 lead over No. 20 Washington on Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium, it would have been easy for ASU to put the game in the win column mentally, drudge through the second half and escape with a solid win over a ranked conference foe.

But the Sun Devils — save for a 70-yard Washington touchdown to open the second half — kept the pressure on the Huskies and continued their all-around domination en route to a 53-24 win.

“I felt like the leadership on our team took charge [Saturday],” ASU coach Todd Graham said. “At halftime, I didn’t talk to the players. They took care of all that. I normally talk to them at halftime but for the first time some of the leaders kind of pushed me out of the way and took charge of their football team.

“We give up a cheap touchdown, and those guys are coaching each other up, inspiring each other. If these guys want to be, they’re pretty special.”

ASU’s defense used that inspired effort to hold Washington’s Bishop Sankey, who entered the game as the nation’s second-leading rusher, to just 22 yards on 13 carries. The Huskies were held to -5 total rushing yards and just 217 passing yards while completing less than 50 percent of their attempts.

Sun Devil defensive end Gannon Conway said Will Sutton and safety Chris Young were instrumental in keeping ASU’s energy up throughout the game – especially Young, a Seattle native who committed to Washington before joining the Sun Devils after a stint at Arizona Western College.

“When Will gets talking, he gets people pumped up,” Conway said. “Chris Young was on people all night … those are the kinds of things that pump up a defense so we can make plays and do what we’re supposed to do.”