Season Report Card: Arizona State Sun Devils
That's what Graham has been able to do in Tempe, accumulating winning seasons in both years. But, more specifically, he was able to capture what barely eluded him in his first season: a Pac-12 South Division crown.
The Sun Devils stayed ahead of the pack all season long, finishing at 10-4 overall, and a fantastic 8-1 in one of the toughest conferences in the country. Arizona State's sole Pac-12 loss during the regular season ironically came against Stanford, the same team that it would meet (and lose to) in the Pac-12 title game several months later.
But playing for the championship was a major accomplishment in and of itself, proving that Graham has found a formula that works, and should continue to lead the program to more and more success as long as he's there.
With all that in mind, let's grade Arizona State on the 2013 season:
The Sun Devils didn't have trouble racking up yards on offense, which obviously led to a ton of points being scored. Arizona State finished 10th in the nation in scoring offense, averaging nearly 40 points per contest. The attack was led by junior quarterback Taylor Kelly, who threw for over 3,600 yards on the season, and also managed to tack on a whopping 28 touchdowns through the air. Running back Marion Grice was only four yards short of a 1,000-yard season, but made it up for it by accounting for 20 total touchdowns on the year.
Although the offense received most of the spotlight on this team, the defense was solid enough to get the job done. Sure, it gave up a lot of points (nearly 27 per game), but Arizona State played teams outside of the conference (Wisconsin and Notre Dame) that knew how to score. The brightest spot on this defense was the 40 total sacks that the Sun Devils racked up, good for sixth in the nation overall. Senior linebacker Chris Young was an absolute machine, piling up 112 total tackles, with 79 of those solo efforts.
Graham undoubtedly gets a high grade in this category. Arizona State won some pretty big games this season, with victories over Wisconsin and UCLA standing out the most. The struggle in the Pac-12 title game was obviously disappointing, but for the season as a whole, Graham did a marvelous job in navigating this team to a division championship.
It was a pretty fabulous season for this program, and considering that two of the its four losses were to a ridiculously good Stanford team, Arizona State has nothing to feel down about. Again, having a better outing in the Pac-12 championship would have been nice, but it doesn't take away from the fact that it exceeded expectations and controlled the Pac-12 South from start to finish.
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