Todd Graham revamped Arizona State's program around discipline, holding the players accountable for their actions on the field, in practice, around campus.
It's worked, too. The Sun Devils have bought into Graham's approach with a yes-sir, no-sir mentality, attention to detail and fewer penalties than nearly every team in the country.
That's why Graham couldn't believe what he saw from his team in last week's loss to Texas A&M.
"I was a bit surprised at some of the undisciplined play that we had," Graham said. "Some of the things that we didn't adjust very well to what they were doing. Those are some things that we can learn and we can be better from."
The Sun Devils entered the game ranked 15th in The Associated Press Top 25, but dropped out this week after losing 38-17 to the Aggies in Houston.
Arizona State struggled to move the ball consistently on offense, had some big breakdowns on special teams and a couple of missed assignments that tarnished an otherwise decent day on defense.
The Sun Devils hope to get better for Saturday's home opener against Cal Poly.
The Mustangs aren't as big or fast as the Aggies, but they run an effective triple option, which can be hard to defend, and beat FCS powerhouse Montana last week on a last-second field goal.
"I feel good about where we're at," Graham said. "Obviously not happy to lose the game, but all the things that I see are things that we can improve upon. I do think this game will make us better moving forward down the stretch."
A few more things to watch for when the Sun Devils face the Mustangs on Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium:
TIME FOR BERCO: Senior quarterback Mike Bercovici had a hard time getting into a rhythm against the Aggies. Texas A&M's defensive ends wreaked havoc with the Sun Devils' two new tackles with their speed and ability to time Arizona State's snap count. The Sun Devils' receivers also had a hard time getting into their routes against the Aggies cornerbacks, preventing Bercovici from airing out his big arm. Bercovici added to it by not getting rid of the ball on a few occasions and was sacked nine times.
TRIPLE POLY: Few teams still run the triple option, making it difficult to prepare for. The Mustangs are good at it, too, making it an even tougher assignment for the Sun Devils. Cal Poly had a pair of 1,000-yard rushers last season, including QB Chris Brown, and ran for 330 yards against Montana last week. Arizona State will face another triple-option team next week in New Mexico.
GET THE BALL TO 8: One of Graham's biggest criticisms directed at Arizona State's offense last week was the limited touches by D.J. Foster. The senior running back-turned-receiver was expected to be one of ASU's biggest offensive threats this season, lining up all over the field, but finished with 61 total yards on nine touches. Expect him to get the ball more against Cal Poly.
UNSPECIAL TEAMS: Arizona State has struggled on special teams under Graham, so it became a big offseason emphasis. Arizona State hired former Green Packers coach Shawn Slocum to run special teams and Graham said the team spent twice as much time working on it this season. It didn't pay off in the opener. The Sun Devils gave up a 79-yard punt return for a touchdown due to several missed assignments and had two penalties for running into the kicker -- one by a player who wasn't even supposed to be rushing the punter.
STOPPING BROWN: The key to stopping Cal Poly's offense is to contain Brown. The fifth-year senior has been running the option since high school, so he knows the offense inside out. He led the Mustangs with 1,265 yards rushing last season and threw for 1,465 more. Brown ran for 130 yards and reeled off a 60-yard touchdown in the first quarter against Montana.