Texas A&M 'game week' finally arrives for Sun Devils
TEMPE, Ariz. -- As he walked into practice Monday morning, Arizona State safety Jordan Simone screamed the same words he had tweeted at 6 a.m.: "Game Week."
That energy permeated the Sun Devils practice facility as the team began a week that will culminate in Saturday's much-anticipated matchup with Texas A&M. ASU coach Todd Graham made it a point to make practice noisy, with artificial crowd noise piped in to help prepare the Sun Devils for the expected 72,000 fans that will greet them at NRG Stadium in Houston.
This while starting quarterback Mike Bercovici ran a quick, up-tempo, no-huddle offense.
Intensity was high during the roughly 10 minutes the media was able to observe practice. Graham told his team he wants it to be the "best tackling team in the country."
After practice, Graham held his weekly Monday afternoon press conference where he talked about a variety of topics.
NO BETTER WAY TO START: "I wish we would have a national scheduling policy, for the fans because, man, this is the way you ought to start it every year." Graham said that opening the season with a quality opponent makes things more interesting for the fans while helping the team improve. "I think it has made our team better. I think our team has had a sense of urgency in preparation. I think our team is going to be tested in a big way. "
EXCITED ABOUT BIG GAME OPPORTUNITY: "This is going to be the best atmosphere I think on the road that we've probably played against. This is the kind of game you want to coach in. This is the kind of game you want to play in."
IMPRESSED WITH AGGIES DEFENSIVE LINEMAN MYLES GARRETT: "He's arguably the best passer rusher in their conference. (He) would have to be the best in the country that I have seen on film." Graham said the key Saturday is going to be neutralizing Garrett.
HIGH PRAISE FOR AGGIES QUARTERBACK AND DESERT MOUNTAIN ALUMNUS KYLE ALLEN: "He is a high character kid. Very much in command, very smart quarterback. Makes all of the throws, executes their offense very well." Graham compared Allen to USC's Cody Kessler because of his successful ability to drop back in the pocket.
HONORED BY ESPN'S KIRK HERBSTREIT'S TOP 4 RANKING: "It is gratifying that we worked our tail off to put ourselves in position that someone of Kirk's knowledge and prestige would pick us in the top four ... We liked it. Our kids liked it. It doesn't mean anything. We appreciate it. It is a show of respect."
BERCOVICI LIKE ANOTHER COACH ON THE FIELD: "He definitely has the respect of everyone in the room." Graham said that Bercovici is as good as former quarterback Taylor Kelly was and has the potential to be even better. "All the things that Taylor did, he is at that level and has expanded upon that level."
PLAY BIG GAMES TO WIN BIG GAMES: "When you play better people it makes you better. You can't win big games and never play in a big game. "
Bercovici also spoke during Monday's press conference. He talked about how different this Sun Devil team is.
SUN DEVILS LEAN ON ONE ANOTHER: "This team builds off of each other. I got Jordan Simone telling me, 'Get louder, be more of a leader.' Bercovici described that this is very important to him. "When I've got a young guy like (sophomore linebacker) Christian Sam telling me step it up, let's go, that is all the difference in the world."
THINGS ARE DIFFERENT IN 2015: "It hasn't been like that in year's past. We have had coaches trying to set the energy. It is completely different right now."