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Todd Graham Press Conference Quotes - 9/16
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Release: 09/16/2013
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On the take away from Wisconsin…

“I was very confident going into last week’s game, but there are some intangibles that you deal with. That team had been to three straight Rose Bowls and they are defending Big Ten champions. This team that we are playing this weekend is the defending Pac-12 champion and we’re the contender and you can tell just the way that those guys fought, those guys are used to being in close games and used to winning them and that is the only way you get to be champions. That is what we are focusing with our guys especially in that we make sure we correct the mistakes we made. But, I am really proud of our guys and how they responded. Our guys were pretty sore, it was pretty physical battle. So to be 2-0 going into the defending Pac-12 champion, who is as well-coached football team as you’re going to play and a team that knows what it takes to win, so the key for us is to focus on us. They have very similar type styles, a lot of movement. Obviously, a very physical type team, wants to be physical, running the football, power, iso, downhill runs, play action pass, faster than all the film I watched last year. They have some speed at wide receiver and guys that have really improved. Their quarterback reminds me of Taylor Kelly. They are very, very similar in that they can really make things happen by extending plays so those are the things that we have talked to our guys about. This team here knows their identity and so did the team last week, they understood their identity and that is what championship teams have: an identity. I think our team is starting to get that and that is why I feel so good about this team and how they played, how they stuck together. The reality is, any championship you ever win, you are going to play in a lot of close football games and that is the reality not in just the next five weeks but hopefully in the next 12 games we have to play. You have to win the close ones and it takes that team that understands how to do that. A team that fights and scratches for every millimeter.”

On reading the Pac-12 statement of the weekend officiating…

“I didn’t [read it]. But it was one of those things that, like I told our coaching staff, I looked at it and I knew what happened. There is a human element to this game and you win or you lose. We won, we go to the next deal. Obviously that was a very unusual deal and what started that was I think he was going to take a knee and kind of slipped and in one copy his knee looked like it hit the ground. In another copy I couldn’t tell, but even I was hollering to jump on the ball because when he set the ball down is what really started that. Even their players kind of jumped to the ball. It was kind of one of those deals that was very unusual and that is the human element to the game. But, at the end of the day I am proud of our guys and they deserved to win. I really believe that and you check that when you go to the next game.”

On Jaelen Strong’s impact…

“I thought he was special. I told you watching his film that he was as good as I have seen on film at what he does. He still is still working on understanding how to do some things. He is only going to get better every week.  That has really helped us to give us an element outside that is really physical and I don’t know if you know this - obviously the 100 yards receiving ,everyone knows that - but his blocking and how physical he is. He is pinning people to the ground and being physical in that regard and another guy that I think is stepping forward out there with Kevin Ozier, who I think is one of our best leaders and Jaelen is following suite. Jaelen is a guy that, obviously everybody needs to get better every week, but he is a guy that has a chance to be a big time player for us.”

On Deantre Lewis…

“I was very, very impressed going back and evaluating the film and how hard he ran with the ball, yards after contact, yards after catch and that is exciting to see. He has tremendous potential and I think him showing that toughness and competing, he wants to play, he wants to be a contributor, and he wants to help our team win so I think he will be more of a factor. But we have a lot of guys that are athletic and that can help us. I think that his role is key because I thought Marion at times, I mean four touchdowns, the guy just scores points, was gassed and I do think that Deantre as he matures and continues to improve and becomes more dependable on his blocking as well, I think he can be a big factor for us.”

On the linebackers…

“ I thought Salamo Fiso was outstanding. His deal is just getting the experience. He is going to get better every rep he has. He is really instinctive, he plays down hill and I thought played really, really well so he will get more and more reps at linebacker and I consider him a starter. Steffon Martin played his best game; that is what is great about competition. I thought those two guys played well. This freshman class I can’t tell you how excited I am about these guys. I went to them and told them that we needed them to help us play special teams and obviously as they progress they will be able to help us more at linebacker but obviously, it is going to be more in the depth right now. So probably what was best for them [the Latu brother’s] was to redshirt but what is best for our team is for them to play and they didn’t even hesitate saying ‘Coach, we want to help the team in whatever way we can,’ and they did a great job and obviously ,we are working to get them starting on all our of our special teams and guys that can factor for us. They broke the kickoff, they broke the line, made a great tackle that would have been a big, big play, so both those guys are going to be a big time help for us in special teams and great depth for us on defense.”

On the team’s health post game…

“I think everyone will be ready to go this week. I am hoping to have everyone practicing because that is really important. I look for everyone to be set and ready to go and there is not anything significant that is going to cause us to be out with.”

On Damarious Randall…

“He is fully healthy. He was fully healthy last week and ready to go. He just has to learn what he is doing. He missed a lot of reps back in camp and Laiu Moeakiola has been very consistent for us so I think both of those guys are learning but Damarious Randall has a lot of ability; he just has to learn what he is doing. We are working really hard to try and catch him up. He didn’t go through any scrimmages, basically hasn’t tackled anybody full speed until the other night so we are hoping to bring him along as well as get Marcus Ball back.”

On the Wisconsin win and facing Stanford…

“We just beat the defending Big Ten champion, so I would say that is a pretty good win. As a team, we talk about our goal that we are trying to accomplish and that is trying to win every single game so we can check off that list. We do point towards conference, if you asked our players if this game’s more important than any other game no question. If you would have asked me four weeks ago what I thought about the first five games, do I think the Notre Dame game is more important than the Stanford game of visa versa?  Hands down, in the first few games it is Stanford and USC. These games are the conference games and are the most important games and at the end of the season we are going to evaluate how many wins and how many losses you had and whether you won a championship. So signature wins and things like that I can tell you that our program is in a position to compete for a championship. I believe in these players. I think they fought unbelievably the other night and I think it was a big, big win for us and at the end of the day that is what matters, is winning and losing. I have been on the other side of that saying well we played great but we lost, and I am not interested in doing that. I think it was a big win for us, but like I said last week I was very confident and I think after watching that game at times we attempted to beat ourselves but we did preserve and win and I do firmly believe the best team won that game.”

On the defense regarding penalties…

“They have not had one penalty so I think they are very disciplined. Last year, I think they had a general understanding of the rules and this year they have an advanced understanding now so we are not going to commit stupid penalties because they understand that. We spent a lot of time on that. I cannot tell you how much time we have spent watching video and talking about targeting, about the situations. I don’t think people realize how hard that is, things don’t happen slowly they happen very, very fast. Around the sideline we speak and talk about those things. There was a personal foul in the game regarding a hit on the quarterback and that is hard. The guys are right there on the boundary and things are so quick. I think our guys are very disciplined, but I worry when we start getting our second guys in there because we almost jumped off sides. In camp, I am very strict at how we officiate and watch those things, but we are going to play disciplined football. Our guys have been very disciplined and I think we have been very disciplined on special teams and I am pleased where we are at there and need to continue to get better.”

On Marion Grice…

“I think that is 99.9% instinct. He has a great gift running the football and he has an interesting style. I mean sometimes I look at him and wondering if he’s going full speed because he is going so smooth on his runs. But he is very tough and very physical and finds that end zone and I think he is very instinctive. He has a very unique kind of style and you really couldn’t have two backs that compliment each other more than what D.J and he does, how versatile they are. Marion is a great guy to throw a screen to. He is outstanding out of the back and outstanding over the middle. The things D.J. does with the routes and he can play just about every skill position we have except tight end probably and as Deantre Lewis comes along and De’Marieya Nelson there is a lot of productivity there and we have potential for a lot of balance. But Marion is special and I think he will continue to have a great year.”

On the Duckworth catch…

“It was very close. We thought it would be reversed on game-day but at the end of the day it really didn’t matter. We are sitting in two-man coverage and they throw smash and the strength of two-man coverage is the corner route and we had it completed on us for a 51- yard play on an outside release when we are supposed to be taking away the outside, so two critical errors on that play so in reality you deserve to give up a 51-yard play when we don’t execute. We got in that situation there and it’s another learning experience but those are things that can’t happen. In every situation the plays that they did, especially a dominate running team like that they are very primitive as far as passing game, so we knew exactly what they were going to do so it shouldn’t have even gotten to that.”

On your opinion on what happen those last few seconds of the game…

“It is scary when you get down to the end. How these things work, is you go through these circumstances and everybody thinks there is this certain way you should do it and when that doesn’t hold true then everybody says what an idiot you are and why didn’t you do it this way, but at the end of the day there was 18 seconds left and they didn’t have any timeouts left and the common thinking there is to spot the ball and kill the clock cause you have time to do that, but that didn’t happen. What happened, and what is the human element there, is that when he went to set the ball he kind of slipped and if you watch the film their guys kind of flinched and everybody jumped on the ball and I knew right then they were going to have a hard time getting that play off. It was just one of those things that happened and it is the human element of the game. It was one of those circumstances that happens in a game and you look at and try to evaluate and when those things happen it is just managing the clock and we have gone back over a lot of things and we can’t be conservative. If I was going back I would have kicked a field goal in that first drive and we thought we would have had a walk-in touchdown and we are going to be aggressive. You know if you kick a field goal they boo you, you can’t make everybody happy but you have to go into the game and do what you believe in. Here is my process in that, a lot of times when that ball is down there, if you are going to be a championship team, all I do is evaluate Stanford and evaluate Oregon because those are the last four conference champions, and when I watch their games when it is fourth down and a foot and they go and get it. If you can’t get a foot then you’re probably not going to win a championship and you have to have that kind of belief in your guys. Those offensive linemen have to believe and we talked about that. If it works great, if it doesn’t it doesn’t. We won a football game against Marshall in 2008 that put us in the conference championship game and it was the same situation, it was a second and six, we ran a read zone and the quarterback pulled it and threw a first down and won the game. So you have to decide what your identity is going to be. I have my own way of doing things. I am very candid about what I am trying to do here. We are going to be a program that is going to be about defense so the first half if you don’t like defensive timeouts you’re probably not going to like it. We are going to use those timeouts if we need them and I am going to be evaluated on wins and loses so I am going to do how I think each team’s identity should be. We’re trying to establish that. You look at Oregon’s team when Chip was there and now, they are pretty good, and they don’t ever punt the ball, that is who they are, and we have to make sure that is how we are. We just have to be consistent with those things. In some games you feel better about than others. If I had to go back we might kick those extra points and you might second guess yourself all you want but the thing you have to do is go back and learn from each circumstance and the most critical thing you can do is that you are playing a team that has unbelievable success so they have an identity and that is what we are trying to do. We are going to be physical. We play offense with a defensive mentality and we aren’t there yet, but that is what we are going to be. We are not going to be a team playing not to lose. In those situations you make the best decisions and go with it.”

On the season schedule setup..

“If I could do the schedule without T.V. and all that I would have done it probably Sacramento State, Wisconsin and Notre Dame, and then the conference. I think the order that it is in I would rather play the non-conference teams first. Wisconsin is very similar to Stanford, similar philosophies and styles, I think Stanford is a better football team.”

On stopping the run this week…

“One of the things that has happened to is that we have spent so much time focusing on stopping the run, stopping the power run is we have to make sure we don’t underestimate the fact that Stanford can throw the football. This team’s identity is different than last year’s team and it has to do with personnel. I have a lot of respect for Coach Shaw and what they do because they are extremely adaptive to their players and I am very impressed with their wide receivers and their quarterback. Their quarterback is a very good player and, like I said reminds me, of Taylor Kelly, very accurate with the football so we have to do a great job with stopping the run. They are a run-play action pass football team and I like what they do but the difference is that Stanford is much more advanced in their passing game and they are going to take what you give them. I think Wisconsin did a great job of this, we gave up a 112 yards on the speed sweep, that is a perimeter run, unbalanced very unusual formation that they ran and they blocked it. So downhill runs and stuff like that, that is kind of what they do and they are going to run it no matter what, where Stanford if you are going to load up they are going to take what you give them. They do a lot of checks and audibles at the line. I am very impressed with the quarterback and they have a system that is very modern. I watch their offense and it is very modern. It is a pro-style offense that is very efficient in making you defend sideline-to-sideline and goal line to goal line, but their identity is physical first. It is very different, similar to Wisconsin but I think the difference is the complexity in the passing game.

On the student section and atmosphere…

“It was awesome. Like I said after the game I am really proud. I think the first week we had the most students that had ever been to a game at ASU and then it was an unbelievable atmosphere. During pregame it was all I was looking at was the student section up there, very interesting group and they have a lot of fun. Even the south end zone was rocking and I love going through the tunnel and all the kids wrapped around there. It was a great atmosphere and I am really very grateful and, like I said, we need as many people to load up and go to Stanford as we can. All summer long, people keep saying they are going to Notre Dame, but that is not near as important as Stanford. We need people to load up and be there. We are going to keep working hard and put a product on the field and the students do their part and there is no doubt about that. Our defense for the first time had communication problems because we communicate a lot on defense so they were doing a heck of a job being loud whenever we were on defense. It was a great atmosphere and I know our staff and the people we had in, the recruits, enjoyed the incredible atmosphere and we have something special out here.”

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