In-Game Adjustments Crucial for ASU

While it may not have been the sleekest looking performance, Todd Graham stressed that a win is a win and the fact that the Sun Devils (7-2, 5-1) still control their own destiny in the Pac-12 South is the most important thing in the wake. Yet, once again his next opponent, Oregon State is a squad that is coming off a bye week and much like Utah is bound to throw some wrinkles at the Sun Devils.

The game started off completely in ASU's favor, with the offense going down and scoring on their first drive, and the defense forcing Utah to go three and out on three straight tackles for loss.

After that however, the momentum shifted in Utah's favor up until the fourth quarter. The Utes won the time of possession battle in every quarter besides the fourth.

Throughout the game, the ASU offense -- which came into the game as the one of the nation's most explosive -- was stifled by the front seven of Utah. The Utes sacked Taylor Kelly six times on the day, and really forced the ASU offense to play out of their element, without a fast tempo.

"Obviously our opening series was good, we took what they gave us and went down to score," Graham said. "You could tell on that first series that they were winded because we were going fast. And then we go out there and hold them on defense, back them up actually, and then they punt the ball, get it at midfield. Then we get a penalty for intentional grounding, then an incomplete pass.

"We had a lot of miscues in our vertical passing game and it didn't even look like the same team throwing the ball. That can't happen and that's us not having them prepared to play. I think we are so used to scoring points, then we start throwing incomplete passes and start to panic a bit and we wind up have a second and third quarter that were pretty dismal."


On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Sun Devil defense played lights out. Aside from one blown coverage, and Osahon Irabor tripping on a big play down the sideline, Arizona State played a flawless game, completely suffocating the Utes' offense, holding them to just 247 yards of total offense, and more importantly 17 yards in the final quarter of play.

In the waning moments of the game, both Robert Nelson and Will Sutton stepped up and made tremendous interceptions to seal the deal for the Devils.

On the plane after the game was over, Graham was sitting watching film and noticed one player in particular that he feels had one of his best games all season: Gannon Conway.

Conway finished with five tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack on the day, contributing to the dominant effort the Sun Devil defense displayed. Conway, along with the rest of the defense combined for nine TFLs and four sacks.

"He's coming off of the best game of his career, and no longer will he come off of the field on third downs," Graham said. "I'm watching the film and saying, ‘why are we taking him out on third down? That guy can rush the passer.' The first series he made back-to-back two phenomenal plays. And he's the most improved player in our program.

"He has really improved his athleticism and his explosiveness through our training program; he's gotten stronger and he's just a really smart guy too, just does a great job."


Looking ahead to Arizona State's next game, the Devils welcome Oregon State to Tempe in what's shaping to be a matchup of two high-powered offenses.

The Beavers (6-3, 4-2) have lost their two previous games against Stanford and USC, but still have the nation's top passing offense.

After splitting time with Cody Vaz last season at quarterback, senior Sean Mannion has taken full control of the Beavers' offense and is currently the top ranked passer in the Pac-12 as well as the nation so far in 2013 with 3540 yards. Mannion has one of the best touchdown-to-interception rates in the country as well, with 31 touchdowns to six picks.

Mannion has the top receiver in the country statistically to throw the ball to down the field in Brandin Cooks. Mannion and Cooks have connected 91 times for 1344 yards, 14 TDs and he's averaging 14.8 yards per catch.

Graham said that he thinks Cooks is the best receiver in the conference from what he's seen on film this season. He stressed that Cooks will be a big challenge to cover but he feels this Devils secondary is up for the challenge; and the defense as a whole will be ready for the highflying offense.

"They're a good football team," Graham said. "They've lost to Stanford and USC, two great defenses with great players. So a very well coached team and very different too; we are going to se schemes that are different than what we see week to week. It'll be a challenge for us but I think the key for us to win is going to be the turnover ratio; they've got 22 turnovers this year and we've got 20."


This weekend's game at Sun Devil Stadium is set to kick off at 7:30 p.m. and is televised on the Pac-12 Network.

"This team has been very, very special to watch at night and at home," Graham said referring to his team. "(Oregon State) is a very big game obviously; they are very well coached football team. This is going to be a challenge so we need everybody out so we have the advantage."

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