Graham content with team's performance

Arizona State Head Coach Todd Graham's tenure at ASU could not have gotten off to a better start. The Sun Devils' convincing 63-6 win over Northern Arizona, an opponent ASU has had their share of difficulties with in the past, was pleasing both the coaches and the fans. As the Sun Devils pitched a 42-0 shutout by halftime, it quickly became clear that ASU was superior on all facets of the game.

"I was extremely proud of our players," Graham said. "I was very anxious to see where were as a team and how we would respond."

The aspect that made Coach Graham most proud was a compliment that he received from an official.

"With three minutes left in the game," Graham recalled, "the official came over and told me that my team was absolutely incredible. That they were the most disciplined team that he has seen, to me that mattered as much as the win."

The Sun Devil skipper also displayed sportsmanship himself late in the game by paying respect to NAU and their coaching staff.

"We tried to do everything not to score late in the game," Graham noted. "We aren't trying to see how many points we could score; NAU and their coaches are first class."

ASU's offense was extremely explosive tonight amassing 554 yards, 305 of them on the ground and scoring nine touchdowns.

"I have a lot of confidence in (Offensive Coordinator) Coach Norvell and what he is doing," Graham said. "We have a very experienced staff that is running our system; we have the potential to be great."

Yet, Graham sees a lot of room for improvement on the offensive side of the ball.

"Believe it or not the pace tonight was excruciatingly slow," Graham claimed. "We have to get faster with our tempo. We had too many penalties though. We had four penalties, which were four too many, and all of them were on offense, so that's something we have to work hard on. The only other thing we were disappointed in offensively was putting the ball back on the ground, and obviously a few penalties that we have to clean up."

On defense, ASU's speed and multiple formations overwhelmed the NAU's offense.

"(Defensive Coordinator) Coach Randolph and his staff did a tremendous job with our defense dominating tonight," Graham stated. "Our guys tackled better. One of our goals was we wanted to tackle better. They really listened and they were really disciplined. I liked how they were engaged."

Even though as late as last night, Coach Graham had his doubts about the defense and if they could completely grasp Coach Randolph's complicated defense.

"I thought that we might be trying to do too much," Graham admitted. "These kids are very smart, but they are handling a lot. We're doing something I didn't know that we could do, from a schematic standpoint and a calling standpoint, things I thought we wouldn't be able to do until next year defensively, but they're playing smart and with discipline. Regardless I thought they played very well as a unit."

The one key to the defense's performance tonight was that they didn't commit one penalty the entire contest.

"That is something that I have challenged them with," Graham said. "On this defense, which was plagued by penalties last year, to go a game with zero penalties, I was very proud of how disciplined they played."

Taylor Kelly's debut as starting quarterback, completing 15-19 passes for 247 yards and one touchdown, was extremely pleasing to Graham.

"I was very proud of Taylor [Kelly]," Graham said. "He did exactly what I thought he would do. I thought he did a great job managing the game. He did a great job of running when he had to, and distributing the ball."

Instead of awarding game balls to players, Graham decided to reward the band and the faithful student section.

"Our student section was awesome," Graham noted. "I gave a game ball to the student section and a game ball to the band. We had a great time. The band was awesome. It was great coming in there, and all of our guys getting to interact with our fans were pretty cool. It's something I hope we'll do for a long time."

Even though there are a lot of positives that can be taken away from tonight's win, Graham knows that they will need to continue to improve to beat a tough Illinois team next week.

"They're a very good football team," Graham said of Illinois. "We've already looked at them, and they have four as good of defensive players as we're going to play all year. The quarterback is a very athletic guy and very dangerous, and obviously it's going to get a lot tougher next week.

"If our guys will continue to get better every week, work hard, and execute the plan, I'm excited about them. This is step one; now we go to the next one."


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