The Sun Devils allowed 55 points against the Red Raiders and needed a 16-point second half comeback to upend the Roadrunners, but ASU head coach Todd Graham said the results of those games is what everyone will remember.
"It's all that matters, all that matters is that you figure out a way to win the right way," Graham said. "You look at all the great teams, teams that have gone to the Rose Bowl and won Rose Bowls, and you're going to find one or two of those games have been close games, but there's definitely going to be games that they pulled out."
Heading into ASU's first conference matchup with Cal, Graham said he hopes the Sun Devils will be as close to 100 percent as they've been all season. ASU has had a variety of key players including Fiso, Sam, senior Laiu Moeakiola and senior defensive tackle Viliami Latu miss time this season, but aside from Sam whose status is still up in the air for Saturday, Graham believes ASU will have every key piece available.
"I hope we do, we're hoping to have everybody be 100 percent," Graham said. "We've got Salamo back for sure, and then George (Lea) practiced today, he'd (Sam) be the only one that's questionable, so need to get him back. Practice was a lot better today, when you've got your veterans out there communicating, it helps. We've got Salamo, Armand (Perry), Laiu (Moeakiola), and obviously Christian's a veteran and D.J. (Calhoun), it really helps and it has been tough, communicating without those guys, so we hope to have him back, we'll see."
The Sun Devils escaped San Antonio with a 32-28 win on Friday, and ASU finished week three as one of 37 unbeaten FBS teams in the country. Traditional powers like USC, Oklahoma and Notre Dame already have two losses on their ledgers, and even though ASU hasn't faced the heart of its schedule just yet, Graham reemphasized the importance of going 1-0 each week.
"You look all over the country, man, and it's every week," Graham said. "You can't take a week off and that's the challenge in college football. There's a lot of parity and you've got to go out there every week because any team can beat you. The biggest thing that we have to do is when I started the very first press conference with, we talked about turnover ratio and that is the number one thing that we have to do moving forward. We've been able to be minus-four in turnover ratio and be 3-0 and that means we've had to overcome a lot of obstacles."
On Saturday, the Sun Devils open conference play against Cal, which represents the second Air Raid opponent ASU will play this season as Kliff Kingsbury's Texas Tech squad gave Graham's defense all it could handle in week two.
The Sun Devils have become accustomed to facing the Air Raid of late, as ASU faced Cal and Washington State in the latter half of the 2015 season and closed out the year with a bowl game loss against Dana Holgorsen's West Virginia squad, which operates its own model of the Air Raid offense.
Even though ASU's secondary has struggled against these offenses, Graham said playing these teams within weeks of each other helps the Sun Devils' preparation process.
"I think it helps, we'll wind up playing Cal and then we've got Washington State and we've got them all in close proximity," Graham said. "It's just a really, really different deal and each one of them are different based on their personnel, who their quarterback is and it's the most difficult passing scheme you can play against. Obviously because they pass so much and how they adjust their routes."
Another contributing factor to ASU's preparation process has largely flown under the radar this season, and that's the work of the Sun Devils' scout team unit. With transfer wide receivers Ryan Newsome and John Humphrey Jr. required to sit out this season, Graham said ASU has a pair of talented options to test its defensive backs on the perimeter in practice.
"Ryan Newsome, boy that guy is a handful," Graham said. "Ryan and John Humphrey have done a great job, as well as (Frank) Darby, we've probably got the best group of scout team wide receivers in the country. Those guys have had a great spirit, I love their spirit, even in practice on the sideline, they've been a part of it and helping our guys get better and prepare."
News and Notes
- Junior linebacker D.J. Calhoun had his left ankle taped and did not participate in warmups or individual drills Tuesday. Calhoun went inside the practice bubble presumably for tests while the rest of the team stayed outside during the media viewing portion.
- Senior wide receiver Tim White participated in warmups and individual drills normally Tuesday. Because of an ankle injury, White only played during the second half of Friday's contest as a punt returner after two different players muffed punts for ASU.
- Sam was in the injury line during warmups and did not participate in individual drills. Graham did not say at his Monday press conference whether Sam would be available Saturday.
- Freshman defensive back Kyle Williams aligned with the first team defense as the bandit safety after practicing at field safety since the start of the regular season.
- Moeakiola took first team defensive reps as the Spur linebacker, and Graham indicated Monday that Moeakiola would play that position moving forward.
- Lea warmed up in the injury line Tuesday, but then participated in individual drills. Graham said he hoped to have Lea back for Saturday's contest.
- Junior linebacker Marcus Ball participated during warmups, but then worked with a trainer during individual drills as it appeared as though Ball was doing some running tests.
- Junior long snapper Mitchell Fraboni took practice snaps for the first time this season in a period open to the media. Fraboni has been sidelined with an injury and has yet to play, but snapped the ball with excellent velocity on Tuesday.