Todd Graham: ‘The best team won that game’

TEMPE, Ariz. — After the Pac-12’s reprimand of officials for mishandling the end of Arizona State’s 32-30 win over Wisconsin on Saturday, Arizona State coach Todd Graham on Monday defended his team’s win.

“I’m proud of our guys and how they played, and they deserved to win,” Graham said. “I firmly believe the best team won that game.”

Graham said he had not read the Pac-12’s statement — which said officials failed to “properly administer the end of game situation and act with appropriate urgency on the game’s final play” — but was not surprised by the ruling.

“I fully expected that,” Graham said. “I knew exactly what happened. There’s a human element to this game. You win or you lose. We won, you go to the next deal. Obviously that was a very unusual deal.”

Graham admitted to confusion over whether Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave had actually kneeled before setting the ball on the ground. Accordingly, Graham urged his players to jump on the ball. After the game, Graham insisted the play was a fumble, but having reviewed the film he could see Stave had kneeled, making the ball dead.

The play had been whistled dead, so Stave placed the ball on the ground to be spotted by officials. This set off confusion on both sides. Wisconsin right tackle Rob Havenstein jerked toward the ball as if it were live, Graham said, causing ASU to do the same.

“Everybody kind of flinched, and our guys jumped on the ball,” Graham said. “I knew right then they were going to have a hard time getting that play off.”

The confusion could have been avoided if Stave handed the ball to an official rather than spotting it himself. But Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said at his Monday press conference Stave executed the play as it is taught.

“The idea of putting the ball on the ground is to give the officials the opportunity to get the ball spotted quicker and cleaner,” Andersen said.

That’s essentially the opposite of what ASU teaches its players. Graham said players are taught to, when possible, give the ball to the umpire, who is tasked with spotting the ball.

“We hand the ball to the official after every play,” Graham said. “We go through that whole process with our players of how the ball is spotted.”

Graham admitted his team made its share of mistakes but outplayed Wisconsin as a whole. Now, ASU is ready to move on and prepare for Stanford.
 
“You check that one off and you go to the next one,” Graham said. “It was just one of those things that happened, it’s the human element of the game.”

UP NEXT: ASU AT STANFORD

When:

Saturday, Sept. 21, 4 p.m.

PT

Where: Stanford Stadium, Palo

Alto, Calif.

TV: FOX (Gus Johnson,

Charles Davis)

Records: ASU 2-0;

Stanford 2-0

Stanford last week:

The Cardinal started slow against Army but pulled away for a 34-20 road

win in West Point.

Scouting

report: Like Wisconsin did, Stanford enters its matchup with

ASU mostly untested after starting the season against San Jose State and

Army. But with Stanford, there’s a little less unknown. The Cardinal

are the defending Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champions and have playmakers

back all over the field. Similar to the Badgers, Stanford is a power run

team and will provide another test of ASU’s run defense, which mostly

contained Wisconsin’s inside rushing attack but struggled to stop

outside runs. Senior running back Tyler Gaffney is averaging 118.0

rushing yards per game. With redshirt sophomore quarterback Kevin Hogan

running the offense, Stanford can also be dangerous in the passing game,

especially with play action. ASU coach Todd Graham compared Hogan to

Taylor Kelly for their similar ability to extend plays. But it’s

Stanford’s defense that could present the greatest challenge. It was the

Pac-12’s best last season and currently ranks third in the conference,

giving up 292.0 yards allowed per game.