Arizona State football: Arizona game is zero hour for Sun Devils

2012-11-20T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T16:05:30Z Arizona State football: Arizona game is zero hour for Sun DevilsPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 20, 2012 12:00 am  • 

TEMPE -Shortly after arriving at Arizona State, Todd Graham installed digital clocks in the team's weight room and locker room. They ticked backward.

"Days, hours, minutes and seconds," left tackle Evan Finkenberg said. "So you know the exact time when the countdown is every day."

Friday at 8 p.m., the clock will hit zero. The Arizona Wildcats game will be upon the Sun Devils.

"It's the biggest game of the year, every year," Graham said. "Because this game is about Arizona State University winning the Territorial Cup, and that's it."

The clocks provided the not-so-subtle reminder all spring, summer and fall. Not that it was a new concept: Even as a freshman four years ago, Finkenberg, a redshirt junior, called his final weight room shift of the day "the U of A rep."

"You kinda look at that clock like, 'Y'know, I gotta get some work done,' " he said.

The Sun Devils participated in a walk-through Monday, installing parts of their game plan.

Graham later spoke of learning about the Territorial Cup since arriving from Pittsburgh in December. He's allowed former Sun Devils to give speeches all season, and those typically include the importance of beating the UA. ASU installed a history of the Territorial Cup on the walls in the football office, too.

Graham said legendary ASU coach Frank Kush has told him, "You can be 11-0, and if you don't win this game, you've had an unsuccessful season."

"That's what college football is about - rivalry games," he said. "Nothing has more passion than this one."

Graham tried to play down his relationship with UA coach Rich Rodriguez, with whom he worked at West Virginia, saying most coaches are familiar with one another.

"I don't think anything about that," he said. "What I think about is, every face I looked at, every hand I shook, and the passion that was there about this game and how important it is.

"It is much bigger than any individual or any person or anything. … You don't want to beat yourself by being too emotionally evolved."

On Ka'Deem

Graham declared UA running back Ka'Deem Carey, who leads the nation with 144.1 rushing yards per game, elite.

"I think he's the best running back we've played," Graham said. "We've played some pretty good backs. ... but just as far as the amount of carries he has and what he does, he is as good as there is.

"He is, no question, the guy you have to stop - and it is a tall order to do that. Not many people have even come close."

Free safety Keelan Johnson said ASU was more focused on its own defense than Arizona's offense.

"It all comes back down to what we need to do," he said. "As long as we can stop the run and rattle the quarterback, everything else should take care of itself."

Extra points

• Graham said, after reviewing film, ASU "obviously dominated on both sides of the ball" in Saturday's 46-7 home win against Washington State. "(But) we didn't celebrate that very long," he said.

ASU snapped a four-game losing streak.

"We wanted to be more engaged in the offense," wideout Kevin Ozier said. "In the past, the receivers had been kind of down, so we wanted to show everyone that we are playmakers, like we're supposed to be."

• The game is "very, very important" to recruiting, the ASU coach said.

"Winning is the key component, success, to attracting the best and brightest players here in the state and even outside the state," Graham said.

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