One of the most striking aspects of Arizona State's reaction to its 38-23 win over UCLA Saturday at the Rose Bowl was how its team captains verbally characterized it in its immediate aftermath.
To be perfectly blunt, we laid a trap for ASU senior safety Jordan Simone and not only did he not fall into it, he didn't even walk anywhere near it.
When asked about the significance of the win in light of the fact that a loss would have put ASU in a seemingly insurmountable 0-2 hole to start Pac-12 play, Simone said all its players concern itself with is the immediate task at hand.
"1-0," Simone said. "We’re 1-0, we’re going to move on to the next one and go 1-0 next week.”
Most players in such a situation would have provided some big picture perspective, but not these Sun Devils, at least not their senior leadership.
In all of their outward actions and words, they embrace a truth that many -- including a lot of people who are much older and more experienced in life -- struggle with: you only control what you control and to waste time thinking about the rest is to induce ineffeciency into the process.
It may not make for good fodder for sportswriters, but there's something to be said about players who express a desire to maintain the same disciplined approach following a great win as they do following a bad loss.
After losses to Texas A&M and USC, Simone and ASU senior quarterback Mike Bercovici were unshakably positive and purposeful. To the frustration of some fans and even those who cover the program and were looking for more red meat to parse through, these Sun Devils offered no handwringing.
Based on the historical success that comes with back-to-back 10-win seasons as well as the disciplined manner in which those results were accomplished, Simone and Bercovici believed in themselves and their process and were not going to deviate whatsoever.
Someone asked Bercovici if this is the turning point of their season.
"You can call it a turning point,'' Bercovici said. "We'll just call it another game."
That's easy to say when you lose and hard to say when you win, especially when it's so unexpected. But that's the thing, it wasn't unexpected to them.
All offseason, ASU coach Todd Graham insisted that the culture of the program is now where he wants it to be and that it would make winning easier. Perhaps it also made overcoming adversity easier as well.
A lot of teams probably would be unbalanced by such a 2-2 start after its coach set such lofty expectations for months on end. But Simone said the Sun Devils practiced last week better than they have all year.
It's really the only way they know how to operate at this point of their career under the leadership of their coaching staff.
“What you see, when we face great adversity, you see their character exposed," Graham said. "That’s what you saw tonight — a team with great character.”