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The Moment Todd Graham

Proved His Mettle

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Todd Graham, head football coach at Arizona State University.
Beyond The Blowout Scores In The Sun Devils’ Two Wins Are The Way They Have Gone About It And How The New Head Coach Expects It Every Play

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By Bob Goodwood
Modern Times Magazine

Sept. 11, 2012 — Fans of Sun Devil football have been cautiously optimistic with Todd Graham's reign.

Who could blame them?

They have seen more than 25 years of decent football since the last Rose Bowl squad. But decent is definitely not great. The two coaches that followed Bruce Snyder — the last coach to take an ASU team to the Rose Bowl — claimed the goal of the program was to compete “year in, year out” for national championships.

But instead of competing for championships, Dirk Koetter and Dennis Erickson mostly underwhelmed.

Besides Erickson’s debut season, there has been very little dominance at Frank Kush field.

So in comes Todd Graham last spring — a guy who Pitt fans declared was the second coming of not Jesus, but Judas. He was all talk and bluster, they said.

But through the signing period, spring practice and then fall practice, he delivered. The team has seemed to thrive off a quarterback competition that turned into team building — unlike Dirk Koetter’s bumbling of the competition between Sam Keller and Rudy Carpenter.

Despite progressing during the off-season, critics wondered what would happen when the Sun Devils finally played real games against real teams.

Surprise! They have looked like national championship contenders in their first two games against Northern Arizona and Illinois. Even better, they have cut penalties down severely — they had a puny one against the Illini — an intentional delay of game to move the punter back.

But despite all of the stats and great performances, the moment that seemed to define the differences between the coaches that followed Snyder and Todd Graham happened with just about 4 minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Sun Devils were routing the Illini and some of the players began to dog it, narrowly avoiding a penalty as they sent up to defend a punt.

Todd Graham seemed to go ballistic.

Sure, we all saw Dennis Erickson get mad at that sort of stuff on the sideline. The difference was that when Graham spoke on Saturday night, the players listened.

Soon after, defensive coordinator Paul Randolph was seen telling his players to win with class, signaling to them to keep their lips closed by seeming to zip his own.

Those two incidents give legs to all the talk about respect and working hard. If the coaches aren’t even celebrating the big win over Illinois, the players have to buy in.

And the team proved just how deeply they have bought into Graham’s dreams — they are all starting to believe they are amongst the best in the country.

Sure, there are many tests still to come. For example, they haven’t had to face much adversity yet and the PAC-12 season hasn’t even started. But the players on this team are on the same page. The two impressive victories under their belts are a testament to the 360 degree change Graham has brought to the karma of the program.

The change is palpable and might be a sign of some good things to come.

If so, let's just hope Graham stays.


Bob Goodwood lives in Scottsdale. Reach him at bob.goodwood@yahoo.com.
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