Colorado Daily – Arizona State

October 11th

ASU head coach: “If it’s fourth down and a foot, we need to go for it”

From  …. Expect Arizona State to be aggressive Saturday against Colorado, more so than usual.

Coach Todd Graham said Thursday the Sun Devils might have gotten away from who they are in last week’s loss to Notre Dame.

An example: On their opening drive, the Sun Devils faced a fourth down on the ASU 30-yard line, needing less than a yard to keep the drive alive. They punted, which probably was the smart move.

But Graham called it a mistake.

“I told (offensive coordinator Mike) Norvell: We’re going to be aggressive. If it’s fourth down and less than a foot, we need to go for it,” Graham said. “We need to play to win. Play with some confidence.”

ASU might have gotten caught up in “playing the percentages” against strong competition, Graham said. But he added the Sun Devils must do what they do best. Not just on offense, but in all phases.

“I feel like our team has to have one personality, and it needs to be aggressive,” Graham said. “We need to be aggressive in punt return instead of just trying to survive it. Instead of just being glad we have 11 guys on the field and fair-catching.

“We need to get after it. We need to go attack. That’s our style. That’s who we are.”

Tackling issues

A defensive problem the past two weeks: missed tackles. Graham said the Sun Devils missed close to 10 against Notre Dame, an issue he attributed to pursuit more than technique.

“We did not run to the ball,” he said. “Our tackling ability is fine. I think fundamentally, our guys are pretty good tacklers. Good people will make you miss. But when you’re running to the football with a passion, you don’t notice those missed tackles.”

Graham also said ASU’s linebackers — with the exception of senior Chris Young — have had trouble getting off blocks.

“That’s hurt us quite a bit,” he said. “We’ve struggled with that, and a lot of it is just playing cautious.”

Strong impressive

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Jaelen Strong’s early production: It has come in his first season. Most junior-college transfers need time to adjust, but Strong, a sophomore, has needed just a month to turn into one of the Pac-12’s top receivers.

Strong — averaging 113.8 receiving yards — is on pace to challenge ASU’s season receiving record of 1,405 yards.

“One of the things (Norvell) and I have worked on is making sure we have a plan for him to handle success,” Graham said. “We don’t want him to have a great third of the season and then be distracted and slip backward.”

ESPN predictions for Colorado at Arizona State

ESPN bloggers Ted Miller and Kevin Gemmell are not predicting a Colorado upset over Arizona State, but then, who is?

Considering that the first two games between the teams as Pac-12 foes resulted in 48-14 and 51-17 Sun Devil victories, the closeness of the predictions is a step forward.

All of the ESPN predictions for the Pac-12 can be found here.


Gemmell: The Sun Devils better not take the foot off the gas now that their tough four-game stretch is through. The Buffs have talent and they haven’t lost confidence. I’m excited to see Paul Richardson and Jaelen Strong square off in a battle of elite receivers. ASU ultimately has more consistent firepower and should win easily. But Colorado isn’t going to roll over. Arizona State 42, Colorado 27.

Miller: Arizona State should be mad about its lackluster performance against Notre Dame. It also plays much better at home. Richardson will be a good test for the Sun Devils secondary, which made Tommy Rees look like Tom Brady. Arizona State 38, Colorado 24.

October 10th

Addison Gillam – “He’s almost too good to be true”

From … The biggest talk around Colorado football in recent weeks has centered on the play of freshman linebacker Addison Gillam and post-practice Wednesday proved to be no different.

After four games, Addison’s 12.2 tackles per game lead the Pac-12 Conference. As he continues to mature in the middle of the CU defense, the young linebacker may well be on his way to becoming a team cornerstone on which the Buffs can build for years to come.

“He’s a really good young man,” said Coach Mike MacIntyre. “He’s almost too good to be true. He does everything right. He works hard and is very humble. He has great, great parents and great family up in the hills of California and he’s always been really well-grounded and I think that helps him.”

Despite all the accolades and praise Addison has received since bursting onto the college scene, he has never allowed himself to become overwhelmed by feelings of content or self-satisfaction.

“Personally, I can always work on trying to get more disciplined,” said Gillam. “I watch film every day and I just try to learn my role better because I think you should never stop trying to improve as a player no matter who you are.”

Gillam and his fellow freshmen on defense have impressed CU’s upperclassmen. In addition to Gillam, defensive backs Tedric Thompson and Chidobe Awuzie and linebacker Kenneth Olugbode have seen duty either on the defensive unit or on special teams.

Senior defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe said the first-year players “have shown that they can physically handle playing Pac-12 football. Mentally, they know what to do, their assignments, and their checks and reads. The freshmen have been doing a really good job.

“If you are expected to play as a freshman, then it’s for a reason. You’ve shown that you can handle the mental load and the physical load. You expect them to play well.”

But Uzo-Diribe admits Gillam might have exceeded most expectations. “He is probably one of the best players I have seen coming out of high school,” Uzo-Diribe said. “To come out here, fly around the field and to make the plays that he does – he is a really good player. He knows what he is doing out there. He doesn’t play like a freshman or think like one.”

October 9th

Mike MacIntyre Press Conference quotes


General / Opening Statement “Arizona State is a very good football team.  Todd Graham does a great job with them and the quarterback Taylor Kelly is really making a lot of plays.  He has a lot of weapons and they utilize them well.  Defensively, They’re an attacking style defense and I would call them a team that tries to cause turnovers, pretty opportunistic and very aggressive.  They’re a good football team.  It’ll be a fun place to go play in Tempe there.  I think they’re doing some remodeling in their stadium but their stadium is a great place to play.  I’ve been there before and we’re looking forward to the game.”

On Thoughts on Oregon Game “Well, one thing is the speed of the game.  They play fast and they also have some fast players.  We did some good things and of course some bad things in the game but I feel like our kids learned from a lot of those things.   They really did.  A lot of the high-tempo type offenses have some similarities.  They’re not all the same but there are some similarities and a lot of those things can carry over and so we know some of things we messed up on we can do better and we’ve corrected. I felt like we had some great meetings today and had an excellent practice.  We were a little bit more on our Ps and Qs so to speak on a Tuesday than we usually are because usually you’re having to put stuff in.  The offenses are a little bit similar because they play at a fast pace too, so we’ve gotten used to that so hopefully it’ll help us play better.”

On Mistakes against Oregon “Well we were just off a little bit on a few coverages where it happened fast and quick …. The quickness and the speed where the quarterback was accurate.  There were three that I can remember where if we had just a little bit more leverage all three of them would have not been plays but all three were touchdowns.  Those are big plays and it really is that small of a difference.  It’s that big of a difference when it happens and that small of a difference if you make the play because they ran the exact same plays later on and we covered them like a blanket.  So I think that helped us understand that.”

On Arizona State’s Speed Compared to Oregon’s “Well they can (be as fast as Oregon).  Not all of the time but they can sometimes.  They have some plays where they’re on the line just as quick or quicker.  Every team kind of has little phases that they do a little different and so I think that Oregon’s offensive line was excellent at also moving fast.  Sometimes that’s what everything orchestrates really well. Some teams that go fast, their offensive line doesn’t move as fast as the receivers and the running backs so to speak, so the holes aren’t really there.  Whereas Oregon has it synchronized pretty good and I think Arizona State does that too. Seems like they put 60 something on USC when I was watching it the other night and USC’s got some players and so that was pretty impressive.  (Marion) Grice is extremely fast out of the backfield. ( D.J.) Foster is extremely fast out of the backfield and they move those guys all over the place.  Jaelen (Strong) , number 21, the new receiver, a junior college kid that’s in …… He ‘s a big huge target and it seems like everything that is thrown it to him …..  He’s like flypaper. It just sticks to him. He’s really good.”

On Thoughts after Taking an Early Lead vs. Oregon “I wasn’t surprised. I was surprised when we got behind as quick as we did though.  I really was.  Very, very disappointed in that so we need to keep playing and keep going.  We kind of gave them a few gifts.  We can’t do that.  We should have gotten a couple but they just went right through our hands.  We had a pick that hit us right in the hands that we should have taken and we would have gone up 17-8.   We had a kickoff that they misplayed that we were all over and it just bounced right back in their hands like the play at Oregon State that happened to us and they just misplayed it wrong. Great job by our kicking game and great job by our coverage guys ….. Great job by our coach for seeing that and figuring out how we could do that to them.  Those are two plays we should have had and to me that’s 14 points.  It should’ve been 24-8 but it wasn’t so we’ve got to make those plays and we will in the future.  Sometime we’re going to start making them I promise you.”

On Connor Wood’s Play “He made some good plays early and then missed a couple throws and had four drops on him.  He shouldn’t have had four drops.  Two of them were big plays, one was a big third down and the other was a long ball so it wasn’t all Connor’s fault.  I thought he did some good things and I thought he stayed alive in the pocket and made some good plays there. But, overall just like our offense and our defense we need to play consistently for four quarters and when you play a really, really good football team that understands what they’re doing and has a lot of experience and speed, they’ll exploit you quickly and that’s what happened to us a couple times Saturday.”

On the Improving Running Game “Well we’re working at it number one.  The running backs are understanding and we’re getting them in the right situations for different types of running backs.  And I also think they’re starting to completely understand their roles and I think that’s good.  They’re running harder and the line is getting to the second level better and they’re blocking better.  I just think that we got it going.  We started running a little bit better in the Central Arkansas game and then we had three weeks off.  Then we didn’t run as well and then Michael Adkins ran pretty good in the Oregon State game.  Now I think the combination of the two and being able to throw Tony (Jones) in there too …….. I think that hopefully we’ll keep running the ball consistently.”

On Christian Powell “I think that Christian ran well and did some good things.”

On Michael Adkins “I saw his grade reports yesterday.  He’s in five classes and he’s got all As right now and one of them he doesn’t have a grade in yet.  He’s doing well in football.  He’s a sharp kid.  He’s doing everything we ask and he’s playing hard.  We’ll just keep him going in the right direction.”

On The Possibility of Increasing Adkins’ Role in the Offense “It depends on how the game is going but what he played Saturday is quite a bit and he had to play on a couple special teams too so that’s pretty taxing.  He’s young.  I don’t want to get him hit too much but I do want to use him a lot so I kind of get caught in between there.”

 On Comparing Linebacker Addison Gillam to San Jose State Linebacker Keith Smith “As far as the instincts he reminds me tremendously of Keith Smith.  Keith Smith had phenomenal instincts in getting around the ball then all of sudden he would show up somewhere. Addison is bigger, and faster than Keith Smith.  He ran down (Marcus Mariota) and that surprised me.  He ran him down and I haven’t seen very many people run him down. That’s pretty impressive for a linebacker.”

On Gillam Potentially Hitting the Proverbial ‘Freshman Wall’ “I don’t think so.  He’s enjoying playing.  I got his grade reports and he got three A’s and a B. he’s doing good.  He’s a sharp young man and I think he’ll keep playing.  Of course we have a grind here going and I try to change up practice to help with that as we get going but I think he’ll do fine.”

On How to Fix Second Half Problems Where the Team Has Been Outscored Significantly So Far This Season “We need to score more points and keep the other team from scoring.  You know we need to just keep working on it.  It’s funny because last year at San Jose State it was exactly the reverse of that.  So, I think it’s just a process and we need to keep working at it and I think we’ll be in good shape eventually.  One of those (problems) were the special teams blunders that gave the other team 21 points in one game.”

On Goals for the Program “Our goal is to win the next game and I’m not trying to be funny about it but we don’t set a goal for each game saying ‘Well we should beat them, we should lose to them.’  We think everybody you play can beat you and we think we can beat everybody we play.  But, of course we have to win games and I think as you win games you kind of move up and that’s what we’d like to do.”

On Pulling off Upsets at San Jose State “The game that got us going was, we beat New Mexico State and we beat Hawai’i, who was ranked, on national television and that gave us a lot of momentum but then we lost it the next two games on the last play of the game and then we beat Navy who was ranked and then we beat Fresno (State) and we didn’t really lose again.  I think we won 15 out of 17 and I think we won one out of 15 before that ….. Something crazy like that.”

On Connor Wood’s Performance in the Last Two Games Compared to the First Two “Well, one (difference is) the opponent.  I think they kind of had some film on us and were able to key in on some things. Number two, we didn’t execute as well as we’d like. I thought we had some good things going and I thought he played better this game and I thought we played better offensively which all goes hand in hand I think in a way at times than we did against Oregon State.  I was excited about that.  We just had some blunders and we didn’t stop them on defense so it kind of got you in a mode where you had to try to make plays instead of maybe grinding the offense so to speak, if that makes sense.  So, I think it’s a combination. It’s not all Connor’s fault by any stretch of the imagination.  I think it’s a little bit of everything but it’s all a process and that’s not coach speak.  It’s all about the process.  I saw us practice well Sunday night and I saw us practice really well today.  I thought we had our best meetings, you might say ‘What do you mean about meetings?’  Well I think our kids were focused.  We turned on the film and called out things that we wanted to call out and they were answering them, which they haven’t done before.  They’ve played.  They’ve seen it.  They know what’s happening to them so I expect us to make another jump.  I expect us to be better this Saturday than we were last Saturday.”

On Offensive Struggles on Third Down “Well on a couple of them they made some good plays.  A couple of times we misaligned and they were able to do some things there. It was a little bit of a combination of a few things.  Offensively, we dropped a few, misread a few, that type of thing.  I think it’s just, again, the whole process of it.”

On Trick Plays “Trick plays, you use them at different times and if you use them too much then they’re not a trick play.  We have a trick play period in practice where we practice quite a few trick plays and if we see something in a game where we feel like we can set up a trick play according to how they’re going to align then we’re going to use it and we felt like that was going to work at that time. (The trick play that resulted in a touchdown on Saturday) was a great call by Brian (Lindgren). Paul (Richardson) had a great job of running and selling it. D.D. (Goodson) did a great job of blocking and waiting till the last second and then he took off.  Nelson Spruce’s block was phenomenal. I don’t know if you saw it but he blocked the guy for 20 something yards.  That’s a heck of a play.  And D.D.’s little legs were just running so that was fun to watch ….. His hair was bobbing in the air.”

On Arizona State Defensive End Will Sutton’s Struggles This Season “Well I think some of the teams that they’ve played have run away from him some.  Then some of the teams, it’s been such a scoring fest that it’s just been basically a passing game and when you pass rush it’s kind of like a wrestler, you get worn out so he has to get substituted in for.  So, I think he’s been substituted for a little bit more and maybe he hasn’t  had as many opportunities to make big plays but you still know where he is and he still appears a lot.  He’s got his dreads on with the tie-die at the bottom of them and you can see him coming from miles away.  He’s an intimidating force I will say that.  He’s a good player.”

On Arizona State Getting Healthier Along the Defensive Line This Week “They’re powerful and you can’t just turn to one guy so I think that does help them for sure.”

On Chidera Uzo-Diribe’s Comment That the Coaches Want the Defense to Play Angrier “That’s just between me and the team.” 

On Whether Coaching Mindset after a Win is Any Different than After a Loss “No. I’m a firm believer that, especially when you’re dealing with young people, if you’re always a rollercoaster then your team’s always going to be a rollercoaster. You need to be as consistent as you can. Now, I’m not perfect at all times. I do get upset sometimes. I do get mad there’s no doubt about that but I think you’re never going to achieve any goal if you just choose negativity, mood swings and that type of thing. You need to be positive and firm and be who you are.

Bill Parcells told me a long time ago ‘Mike, if you get the opportunity to be a head coach, be your own personality. Don’t try to be someone else and if you are that then everybody believes you’re real and that’s a calming steadiness.’ And that’s what I hope ….. Now I’m a fiery guy at times. I’m intense. I’m passionate. Sometimes that’s to my negative and sometimes I’m too passionate but I do believe in these young men and I do believe it’s a process and I do believe we’re gaining ground in our process. It doesn’t always show but I think it has showed some. I do think progress has shown some out there not just in the wins, I think even in the losses. I think you can see some fight, some intensity, some emotion, some ability to compete and that’s all part of it. I think we’re on the way. Have we gotten close to arriving? No. I sure hope we’re closer this Saturday and I expect us to go win just like Todd (Graham) expects their team to go win.”

On Special Teams Mistakes “Last Week we didn’t have any. Matter of fact we should have caused a couple (mistakes). Darragh (O’Neill) pinned five times inside the 20. That’s pretty good. It was based on adjustments and guys doing what they’re supposed to do we just got more repetitions at it. A lot of the kids were young and they saw the mistakes that happened to them and I think that helped it. Tody (Neinas) does a great job in teaching our guys and we’ve done a lot of different drills consistently. I think we did more of those over the off-week and I think that’s why those young kids were able to improve in that area.”

On Ryan Severson “Severson is getting a lot more comfortable (returning kicks) and I think he’s doing some really good things. He’s doing good things on the coverage units also.”

On Being an Underdog vs. Being Favored Heading into a Game “I don’t think you approach games differently. You’re still trying to win no matter if you’re an underdog or you’re favored. But I do think it’s human nature to have a little bit more of a chip on your shoulder, a little bit more of that ‘I’ll show you’ type attitude. But when you’re favored you better have the other side of the chip on your shoulder. You better not let them show you. I think it’s the same thing just a little bit different type of motivation maybe but I think you don’t approach any of them any different. I do one thing, either way you better not be uptight because that’s when you play bad either way. If you’re worried about losing because you’re favored or if you’re worried not winning because you’re not favored, you better just go play. And I think our kids are starting to learn to just go play. Just go play.”

On Possibly Playing the Backup Quarterbacks in One-Sided Games “Yeah I thought about it but I wanted it to be a situation where I felt like everything was in the right situation at the right time. I did think about it but just decided not to do it. The biggest reason was that Connor hasn’t played a lot of football. He’s played four football games in his life. Really. I think they played him a quarter before and they jerked him. He never played at Texas so at the same time I’m trying to get him ….. He showed some good signs and I’m trying to give him a look so there’s not an exact science on that but that is something that I’ve thought about yes.”

On What Might Be the Right Situation in Which to Play a Backup Quarterback “I don’t know…. Whatever I feel like at the time. There’s probably no perfect situation I just felt like Connor needed to get some more reps to help him improve.”

On When Jordan Webb Might Play “Well Webb’s ready to go. He’ll dress this week because he was cleared by the doctor three weeks ago but I wanted to make sure he was moving right and last week would’ve been his game where he couldn’t play and so we’ve discussed that and I’m not definitely sure on that answer to be honest with you.”

On The Team’s Progress after Four Games “Well I do think they have resiliency.  That’s one thing that I wasn’t sure they had.  To me, at this point, they’ve shown a lot of resiliency and a lot of heart as far as coming back and practicing and improving and working hard and getting better.  I know we got beat bad Saturday but I think we were a lot better than we were the first week.  I really do.  I just think (Oregon) is really, really good.”

October 8th

Arizona State wary of “trap game” against Colorado

From House of Sparky … The phrase “trap game” is overused in college football, but that’s exactly what Arizona State will play in this weekend when it hosts the Colorado Buffaloes in Tempe.

Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, the Colorado Buffaloes have been a Pac-12 cellar dweller. This offseason, the program announced the hiring of coach Mike MacIntyre who transformed San Jose State into a WAC contender during his time with the school. Though the Buffaloes are just 2-2 and have lost both conference games, Colorado is playing inspired football and has made marked changes on the field.

“They got their guys playing with a spirit. You can tell that they’re playing hard and that they’re passionate about what they’re doing,” Arizona State coach Todd Graham said at his Monday press conference.

Graham knows the dangers of playing against a program in transition. Last season, he guided the Sun Devils to an 8-5 record and his players fed off of the excitement and energy he infused into the program. Arizona State thrived on an improved defense in Graham’s first season and that’s exactly what he sees in Colorado this year.

“I think they’re playing a lot better defensively,” Graham said. “Their defensive coordinator’s doing a great job with their defense and varying what they’re doing and being sound about what they’re doing.”

Colorado opened the season with an impressive 41-27 victory over Colorado State and followed that up with a 14-point win against Central Arkansas. From week one, Colorado has forced Pac-12 coaches to think a little harder about stopping the Buffaloes and Graham says they’ve made an impression on his coaching staff.

We’ve been looking at film for four weeks and each week, there’s nobody in here that’s watching film that’s not going, ‘Man, these guys are good,'” Graham said.

Last year, the Buffaloes allowed 46 points per game including 51 against Arizona State when the Sun Devils came to visit in mid-October. Through four games this year, Colorado has decreased that number to 38 points per game. Though that number doesn’t reflect a particularly stout defense, the Buffaloes did face an unstoppable Oregon offense this weekend.

It’s also notable that in Arizona State’s trip to Boulder last season, the Buffaloes were right in the thick of things at halftime. Arizona State led just 20-17 before exploding for 31 points in the second half to finish off the 51-17 victory. Graham recalled that game at Monday press conference and said he knows his players understand the importance of not letting up for a single snap.

“It was a little stressful at halftime. I remember it,” Graham said. “That’s the danger. The hardest thing in the world is to get guys to bring it every single week but these guys, this team I feel really good about.”

Still, Graham does say that after running a four-game gauntlet against Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame, playing against weaker competition can impact a player’s mindset. He maintains that it’s up to the coaching staff and the leaders on Arizona State’s team to ensure that this team doesn’t miss a beat in terms of its attitude.

“When you come in and you watch film, obviously the caliber team we’ve been playing and where they’re at right now is a little bit different and what will happen is guys think this is not going to be as big of a challenge,” Graham said.

The rise of Colorado’s program this season does excite Graham because it means that his team is competing in a deeper conference. There are no cake walks this season, Graham believes every win is a quality win.

“They can definitely beat you, there’s no question about it,” Graham said. “There’s not anybody in the Pac-12 that can’t beat another team. I think it’s one of the great things about our conference is the parity in our league.”

Fortunately for Arizona State, it’s easier to come back motivated after a loss. The Sun Devils still have their goal of winning the Pac-12 South intact and they now must approach every game with a must-win demeanor. Colorado poses challenges, and the response to those challenges starts from within.

“Our big deal is just like any other week, it’s about our team and our team getting ready,” Graham said. “I do like where are guys are, our guys know that we have a very good football team. I think our guys know that we can win this thing.”

Colorado v. Arizona State – Statistical analysis

From … On the surface, Arizona State has the perfect tonic ahead of them following their tough loss to Notre Dame: the Colorado Buffaloes.

Colorado continues to occupy the Pac-12 South cellar that they’ve been in since they joined the conference, but they have shown signs of improvement this far in 2013. They enter the game 2-2 on the year, but have been blown out in each of their two conference games.

Let’s take an early look at where these teams stand statistically.

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