Graham preaches discipline at last practice before home opener

Arizona State plays its home opener Saturday night vs. Cal Poly of the Big Sky Conference.

Allyson Cummings

TEMPE, Ariz. — As Arizona State wrapped up its final practice Thursday in advance of Saturday’s game, head coach Todd Graham preached discipline as a key factor in defending against Cal Poly’s triple option attack. The ASU defense lining up to battle the Mustangs will include a player suiting up for the Sun Devils for the first time.

RICHARDSON AND JONES SET TO PLAY: After his suspension last week for violating team rules, redshirt freshman linebacker Ismael Murphy-Richardson will make his first start Saturday. While at Goodyear’s Desert Edge High School, he recorded 61 tackles during his senior campaign, earning him First-Team Arizona All-State Division III honors from The Arizona Republic.

"He’s had a really great week, he’s going to play disciplined," Graham said. "He’s never played in a game, you know, so we will see where he’s at. I think he’s a guy that can be a really great player for us, just got to continue to learn what we are doing."

Another player who may start against Cal Poly is offensive lineman Sam Jones. Also a redshirt freshman, Jones was one of the top overall prospects in the state of Colorado. Graham said Evan Goodman still might be a little banged up and if he can’t play, Jones would start.

BERCOVICI READY: Quarterback Mike Bercovici was in high spirits, joking with the media about preferring to be an ‘oak tree’ when asked the question what kind of tree he would be. He also made it clear that the game against Texas A&M is firmly in the rearview mirror and the team is ready to move on.

"The message has been clear, ever since Monday when we got together for workouts we knew what the motto is and that is to beat Cal Poly," Bercovici said. "Nobody is lingering on (the Texas A&M game). It’s football, stuff happens, it’s just one game and now we move on and we head into week by week."

Bercovici is confident that if the Sun Devils can win the turnover battle on Saturday, they can pick up their first victory of the season.

"Biggest key to the game is to own the football," Bercovici said in regards to their game plan. "The person who wins the turnover ratio wins the game. That’s Coach Graham’s philosophy, it’s our offense’s philosophy as well and we are excited to implement that because we know our identity and it’s going to be fun to go out there and perform on Saturday."

HOME IMPROVEMENT: The Sun Devils are excited to play their home opener in the newly renovated Sun Devil Stadium.

"I’m looking forward to running out of Tillman Tunnel," Graham said. "A place where our fans know we’re 12-1 in regular season at home. Our guys know how important this place is and we are approaching this game like it’s the championship game, " Graham said.

When asked if the team prepares differently for home games, senior captain and defensive back Jordan Simone said that there was no change.

"I think if you’re a true competitor you got to prepare for every game like it’s the championship game, whether that be home or away so you know we are excited to get back on the field," Simone said.