TEMPE, Ariz. — Despite two missed field goals by Zane Gonzalez, Todd Graham was pleased with the performance of the freshman place-kicker in his collegiate debut.
Gonzalez made field goals of 40 and 29 yards but missed kicks of 33 and 39 yards while also going 7 for 7 on point-after attempts.
“I was very pleased with how he contacted the football,” Graham said. “I really couldn’t have scripted the outcome better.”
Graham said three of the four field goals were well-struck. Regarding the two misses, Graham believes a young kicker needs to experience a little adversity to improve.
“I don’t worry about his confidence at all,” Graham said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in Zane, all the confidence in the world in him.”
Graham’s confidence in Gonzalez was evident in his decision to have him handle point-after duties over senior Alex Garoutte, who at one point last year had made more than 100 consecutive successful PATs. Graham said the decision was made to help Gonzalez on field goals.
“I think it’s really hard to be a field-goal kicker and sit on the sideline cold,” Graham said. “Coach (Joe) Lorig and I felt like that was the best thing to do. He’s not just going in there cold kicking a field goal. That kind of helps you stay in the rhythm of the game, and he did a nice job of it.”
Graham also said Garoutte’s leg has gotten stronger and that he will likely handle long field-goal duties.
ASU HONORS FALLEN FIREFIGHTERS
ASU this week will honor the 19 firefighters killed in the Yarnell Hill Fire in July with a “19” helmet decal. It is also “first responders night” at the game.
The July fire about an hour and a half from Phoenix took the lives of 19 members of the Prescott Fire Department’s Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite unit designated to fight wildfires. One member of the crew survived the fire.
NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS
— Safety Damarious Randall, who missed most of camp with a groin strain and sat out the season opener, had what Graham called a “phenomenal practice” on Sunday. Randall is likely to play Saturday against Wisconsin.
— Linebacker Carlos Mendoza also had a good practice Sunday, Graham said, getting second-team reps after missing much of camp and the opener with a knee injury. He also is expected to play Saturday.
— Graham believes his new wide-receivers unit looks good but is far from its potential. He mentioned needing to get freshman Cameron Smith (hamstring) healthy, and also suggested freshman Ellis Jefferson is not 100 percent.
— ASU’s game at Stanford on Sept. 21 has been picked up for national telecast by FOX. It will kick off at 4 p.m. and air locally on KSAZ channel 10.