User ID
Password
  Forgot User ID
or Register Today!
VegasInsider.com
Follow Us on Facebook Follow Us on Twitter Follow Us on Google+ VI Mobile Scores and Betting Odds
Home
NFL
NBA
NHL
MLB
NCAA FB
NCAA BK
Horses
Golf
Auto
Soccer
More
Betting Tools

 
ASU's Graham finds success in first season

New Sportsbook.ag customers: Make your 1st bet, get your 2nd bet free, 100%, winnings paid in cash.
Join Now

Already have an account? Click here to view new Exclusive Rewards!

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - Sitting in a sparse office that still had pictures leaning against the wall, coach Todd Graham spoke about changing the culture at Arizona State, of adding discipline to a program in need of a healthy dose.

Advertisement
That was in April, just after his first spring game as the Sun Devils' coach.

Nine months later, Graham's office looked more like an entertainment lounge, with a huge TV hanging in the corner, massive leather recliners and colorful photos hanging on the walls.

After an eight-win season that included a comeback over rival Arizona and a bowl blowout, the program he took over has that new and improved look, too.

``I think, no doubt, we have laid a solid foundation,'' Graham said. ``I don't think it's dry yet, so by no means have we arrived yet, but I am very proud of where we're at.''

Graham was faced with a daunting task when he arrived in the desert, taking over a program with a history of mediocrity on the field and apathy from its fan base.

Stumping like a politician, Graham spoke to anyone who would listen to pump up interest in the Sun Devils, promoting his plan to turn them into winners with an exciting but disciplined brand of football.

He backed it up once the season started.

Led by dynamic sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly, the Sun Devils rode Graham's high-octane offense to a 5-1 start and rallied from a four-game losing streak to win their final three games, including two big punctuation marks to end the season.

The first came against Arizona in the regular-season finale, when Arizona State rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the Wildcats 41-34 and capture the Territorial Cup, one of Graham's top priorities for the season.

The Sun Devils capped that emotional victory with a momentum-for-next-year win at the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco by steamrolling Navy 62-28 for their first bowl victory since the 2005 Insight Bowl.

``We go on that four-game losing streak and you hear Arizona State football is cratering again, but I never once saw any bad body language from our players,'' Graham said. ``I never saw any of our guys flinch, question anything that we were asking them to do, and that's how I know we got to their hearts, really built some trust. I was impressed by that.''

That trust might be Graham's biggest accomplishment, not what his team did in the standings.

Under previous coach Dennis Erickson, the Sun Devils were known as a loosely reined bunch waiting to commit the next personal foul.

Once Graham arrived, he turned it into a yes-sir, no-sir operation, installing a dress code, a prohibition on cursing, no hats, earrings or headphones allowed in the football offices.

Graham's players bought into it wholeheartedly, going from worst in the Pac-12 in penalties to best with 30 fewer penalties than the next closest team, Stanford.

``If you would have come in here screaming, `Sit down, shut up, take your earring out,' I think you would have had a lot of pushback,'' Graham said. ``Our philosophy is not that. We treat these guys like young men. You act like a 13-year-old, we're going to treat you like a 13-year-old. But we asked them, `When you come into the building, would you take that earring out?' as a physical gesture that this isn't about you, it's about team.''

Even with success, Graham couldn't escape questions about his loyalty to the program.

After short stints in previous coaching stops, particularly his one-year run at Pittsburgh, the perception was that Graham was a coach who wouldn't stick around for the long haul, someone who would bolt if a better opportunity presented itself.

Graham assuaged concerns in the months after getting the job with his whirlwind tour and built the program in his own image, yet when the season ended and job openings cropped up, the rumblings started up again.

Not that he cared.

``I'm committed to be here. It doesn't bother me,'' Graham said. ``I can tell you my wife and I bought our dream house, we're paying it off in the next three years and win, lose or draw I'm going to be living out there at the base of the McDowell mountain range.''

The future doesn't look too bad for the Sun Devils, either.

Kelly will be back after setting a school record by completing 67.1 percent of his passes while throwing for 3,039 yards and 29 touchdowns. Leading rusher Marion Grice will be back, as will talented freshman running back D.J. Foster.

The Sun Devils also got a big boost when defensive lineman Will Sutton, the first ASU player to earn consensus All-America honors since Terrell Suggs in 2002, announced he will return for his senior season rather than head to the NFL.

Graham had a solid first recruiting class in 2012 despite having just a few months to work on it and has been busy scouring the country for talent leading up to signing day next month.

``It's been going pretty well so far,'' Graham said. ``We're well on our way to 2013.''

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2015
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved

  
HEADLINES
Edwards: Analyzing Golden Nugget Openers
Lawrence: 2015 Conference USA Preview
News: Conference Championship Odds
Edwards: Prescott leads SEC QB race
Lawrence: 2015 Big 12 Preview
Lawrence: 2015 Big Ten Preview
Edwards: GOY Odds - Part II
Lawrence: 2015 ACC Preview
Lawrence: 2015 AAC Preview
MORE HEADLINES
 
Why Buy Picks From VegasInsider.com
NCAAFB College Football Handicapper Sports Picks Records
VegasInsider.com Gold Membership
2014 CFB SEASON PICK RECORDS
Money Leaders
Handicapper Money
Michael Black + 2299
Dave Cokin + 2207
Kevin Rogers + 1254
Last Week's Leaders
Handicapper Money
Brian Edwards + 303
ASA + 300
Jimmy Boyd + 290
Percentage Leaders
Handicapper Pct
Dave Cokin 61 %
Michael Black 57 %
Stephen Nover 57 %
Guaranteed Leaders
Handicapper Money
Chip Chirimbes + 1235
Jimmy Boyd + 765
Michael Black + 440
Over-Under Leaders
Handicapper Money
Kyle Hunter + 1498
Stephen Nover + 1332
Jimmy Boyd + 807
Member Leaders
Handicapper Money
Dave Cokin + 1895
Kevin Rogers + 1135
Kyle Hunter + 405
MORE PICK RECORDS
  
corner graphic
With a VI Gold Membership, you can SAVE 10% off a Live Odds subscription, SAVE 20% off Daily Pick packages, and receive access to up to 1,000 Member Plays each month!
VI Daily Fantasy Sager Bomb