'It's how you finish': Todd Graham unconcerned about the Arizona State Sun Devils' slow starts

Posted at 2:38 PM, Sep 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-27 17:41:09-04

The Arizona State Sun Devils are 4-0 for the first time since 2007.

And yet...

More than a few ASU fans are concerned about the way the team has opened each of its last two games. The Devils had to rally from a 16-point deficit on the road against a mediocre UTSA team two weeks ago, and trailed 24-10 at halftime at home against Cal last weekend before scoring 31 fourth-quarter points and earning another come-from-behind win.

So, what do the Devils need to change in order to avoid a slow start Saturday in their first Pac-12 road game against USC?

"Nothing. We just need to finish the game ahead. That's what we need to do," ASU coach Todd Graham said Tuesday.

The fifth-year Sun Devil coach suggested his team hasn't come out sluggish; rather, ASU has taken its best shot from its opponents early on.

"It's not like it's really something we're doing (wrong) or something like that. People work and practice and they have plans. Usually you get their best shot there early," he said.

However, ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins said he needs to be as efficient in the first half as he has been in the second half in recent games. Against Cal, the redshirt sophomore completed just 5 of 10 passes for 62 yards in the first half before going 16 of 20 for 228 yards and a touchdown in the second half.

"I've just got to be more on my game," Wilkins said. "The (offensive) line did a great job protecting me. The running backs did a great job of running downhill. Receivers caught balls when they were thrown to them. I've just got to make sure I get myself started early to get this offense going."

Wilkins takes pride in the resiliency the Devils have shown by rallying to win their last two games. He says ASU simply needs to apply its second-half mentality to its first-half play.

"We never switch the game plan up or anything; we just kind of hone in and just get after what we were practicing all week," he said.

"That's really the mindset, is just come out in the second half like you should have come out in the first half, but with more."

Graham reiterated that winning is the only thing that matters. In that regard, he'll be fine with however Saturday's game vs. the Trojans plays out, as long as his Devils are ahead when time runs out.

"I would love to get off to a faster start, but it ain't how you start; it's how you finish," he said. "If we get off to a great start, great. If we don't, great. All I care about is how we finish."