Ka’Raun White

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

Todd Graham takes blame for Arizona State’s mismanagement in Cactus Bowl

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For those who stayed up late enough to experience Pac-12 bowl action after dark on Saturday night and into the early Sunday hours, you were witness to some poor game management by Arizona State and head coach Todd Graham. Arizona State (6-7) lost to West Virginia (8-5) in the Cactus Bowl in Phoenix, 43-42, in part because Graham opted to kick an extra point to build a late six-point lead. Given the offensive trends in the game and the timing of the situation, going for two points was an easy call, and Graham blew it.

It’s my fault,” Graham said, accepting blame for the kicking of an extra-point instead of opting for a two-point conversion attempt with 4:56 to play. “We have a chart in the (coaches) box that we go by. We’re supposed to be going for two. We didn’t. Mismanagement on my part. That’s my responsibility.”

“Ball was snapped, kicked the extra point, tried to call a timeout. We had several things like that today. Not much to say about that—just mismanagement.”

There was more mismanagement, as Graham calls it, in the fourth quarter that resulted in a burned timeout. Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez kicked a 48-yard field goal to pull the Sun Devils to within one point of the Mountaineers in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. Before the ensuing kickoff, Graham called for a timeout because Graham wanted to attempt an onsides kick but the wrong kickoff team was on the field.

“We were fixing to do an onside kick and we didn’t have the right personnel on the field,” he said. “Another mismanagement deal.”

That was quite a blunder of its own. The mistakes were there all night for Graham and the Sun Devils, such as a delay of game penalty on the first play of a drive, a false start penalty on third down that likely killed another drive that ended in a missed 40-yard field goal, and the list goes on.

Of course, you knew it wouldn’t be Arizona State’s night when plays like this were happening for West Virginia…

You can blame Graham for much more than those mental and coaching blunders (and one Arizona outlet is already calling it the lowest point of Graham’s career at Arizona State). Arizona State’s defense was ripped to shreds by Dana Holgorsen‘s West Virginia offense. The Mountaineers totaled 676 yards of offense, including 532 yards through the air by Skyler Howard (five touchdowns as well) with receivers Shelton Gibson and Ka’Raun White each going off for 100-yard nights 29 first downs.

It gets tiring watching coaches getting paid big money make such silly mistakes the way Graham made them last night.