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There are lots of benefits to a bye week, rest and recovery being one of the most obvious ones. But for Arizona State football, the bye week can also be a curse, especially when the mistakes made in the 41-27 loss to Oregon are still lingering fresh in their heads.
"They didn't beat us, we beat ourselves," said sophomore defensive back Alden Darby.
Darby believes that it's pretty much a consensus that most players are still feeling the effects of the loss. In fact, Darby claims that he has never felt more hurt after a loss in his entire life.
"I know we were better than those guys," Darby said. "We should have beat them."
Instead, the penalties piled up to the tune of eight flags for a total of 95 yards.
"Nobody plays a perfect game," Darby said. "But we had more mistakes than normal and it cost us big."
But Darby also knows that some yellow laundry on the field wasn't just their only form of mistake.
"It's [also] guys blitzing the wrong gap, it's picking up this guy and not making that check. Just little mistakes that can't happen that's going to lose us the ball game like [they] did."
Still, there is some silver lining to be found in the overdose of blunders in last Saturday's loss. Darby believes that the team "tried too hard" and "by the mistakes we made, you could tell we were hungry to win." Even seven days later, that hunger has still not subsided.
"We're not scared of anybody," Darby said. "But we want to play Oregon [again]. We want another chance just to show everybody that it wasn't them that beat us, it was ourselves."
Unfortunately for Darby and the rest of the Sun Devils, that is entirely out of their hands. Assuming ASU stays firmly in the driver seat to win the Pac-12 South and doesn't slip up too much along the way, then the opponent they face in the Pac-12 Championship game will most likely come down to whoever wins the November 12 match up of Oregon at Stanford. And if Oregon wins, that means back to the hostile environment of Autzen Stadium one more time.
For now though, the team is just doing a lot of self-evaluating before the Colorado comes to town in a week. And even though ASU is sitting pretty at 5-2, Darby is still not satisfied.
"I have yet to see us play a game to our full potential, on defense [or] offense."
But Darby knows the team learned a valuable lesson in Eugene last Saturday; a lesson that he believes will make them better in the long term.
"That game taught us the more disciplined team is going to win," Darby said. "It doesn't come down to who has better athletes or better talent or speed. It comes down to who is more disciplined."
For junior quarterback Brock Osweiler and the Arizona State football team, this week's bye couldn't come at a better time. After all, is there a better prescription after a 41-27 nationally televised loss to Oregon than seven days off?
"You need breaks throughout the football season just to stay fresh," Osweiler said. "This week is a big mental week for us."
And by mental, Oz means spending a majority of their time in the film room as the second and third stringers get a majority of the reps in practice. But this "mental week" is doubly beneficial for the Sun Devils as the starters get to rest up for the first time in seven weeks.
"We've being going at it since August 1," Osweiler said. "This is the first significant break we've had."
Head coach Dennis Erickson realizes its importance too.
"It kind of depends on when your bye week is," Erickson said. "This late, you just try to get healthy."
That's exactly why Erickson called this week a "get our legs back" period. Junior running back Cameron Marshall is still nursing an ankle injury after playing at "75-80 percent" during the Oregon game. While he was still able to muster up 97 yards and one touchdown on 20 carries, a week off is essential for Marshall as the running game slowly gets back in sync.
And for the first time in seven weeks, Erickson is getting some good injury news. Sophomore defensive end Junior Onyeali will "without a doubt" play in next weeks home game against Colorado, cutting almost two weeks off his previous timetable of six weeks after knee surgery.
Also, while he hasn't put a time table on Omar Bolden's return, the fact that he's back on the practice field is an encouraging sign he might provide a late season spark.
For now though, the backups are getting a hearty serving of reps and that's what matters most.
"We've been beat up a little but it's good for us to get a chance to get a look at our freshmen," Erickson said.
With five games left on the schedule against teams the Devils "should" beat, Erickson isn't using the time off to make any radical changes to the way the team plays. This break is about rest and recuperation.
Now let's just hope none of the newbies get hurt.
Football is a confidence game and this is especially true with college football where you are dealing with kids barely old enough to legally drink. Arizona State Sun Devils coach Dennis Erickson knows that and understands that his team might have to face the Oregon Ducks again in a possible Pac-12 Championship game. So instead of focusing on the talent gap coming out of Saturday's loss in Eugene, the message focused on something fixable.
"I'm disappointed in the outcome. I'm disappoint in some of the penalties we had. I'm not disappointed in the effort and how hard we played. It showed me that we can beat anybody we play if we do the right things," Erickson said after the Sun Devils practice on Tuesday.
It's not as if there weren't plenty of mistakes for Erickson to talk about. The Devils racked up eight flags for 95 yards and they are tied for 117th out of 120 FBS schools with 54 penalties on the season.
There's no question this is an area of improvement but coming off this game, against this opponent, it also is a convenient message to his team and much better than the alternative.
The ASU defense was beat through the air for 187 yards and two touchdowns in the first half alone by a quarterback who only threw for a 101 total yards against the University of Arizona's defense. In the second half with Darron Thomas out due to a knee injury, the defense didn't adjust to back up quarterback Bryan Bennett's ability to run until it was too late and he put 14 quick points on the board.
Offensively, the Sun Devils scored 17 points in the first half and 7 more points on the first drive of the second half. For there they only managed three more points against an Oregon defense that will give up numbers and in a game where they had seven possessions in the second half alone.
Quarterback Brock Osweiler talked about discipline as well but it wasn't just about penalties.
"I thought we were undisciplined in certain areas trying to break out of things we would normally do and kind of do something on your own and that's what hurt us," Owieler said. "If we just do what we're taught to do and coached to do and run our offense, we're the only people that can truly stop us."
Erickson specifically cited the penalties in the first half , "You can go through four or five different scenarios that hurt us. I think it was more the amount than it was one individual thing and they were all pretty much made in the first half."
Three critical penalties stand out in the first half and none lead directly to a touchdown without several other factors coming into play.
1st - The Ducks started with great field position on the ASU 47 after a 23-yard punt return. Vontaze Burfict was flagged for 15 yards for a late hit on a questionable call that moved the ball from the ASU 31 to the ASU 16. The Ducks ran it in on the next play. If the Sun Devils cover the punt better or do a better job in the red zone the penalty is not nearly so costly.
2nd - Roughing the passer called on Bo Moos on 3rd and 12 with the ball on the Oregon 12. That kept the drive alive but the Ducks scored with a 45 yard pass and then a 28 yard touchdown pass. The penalty hurt but the defense still allowed two big pass plays after the flag.
3rd - At the end of the first half, ASU was up 17-14 and driving for another score. They completed a pass to the Oregon 22 but Gerrell Robinson was flagged for a personal foul after he kicked the defender after the play. That turned a 1st and 10 into a 1st and 25 and Osweiler ended up throwing an interception that was returned to the 50.
With under a minute on the clock, the Ducks scored on three plays with three passes for 11, 27 and 12 yards. That turned a 17-14 ASU lead with a chance to score into a 21-17 lead for the Ducks. The Robinson foul, the Owseiler interception and the Ducks quick score was the key sequence in the game.
Burfict had another personal foul for a late hit in the first half but the Sun Devils intercepted the ball on the next play which negated that mistake.
Those were big plays but good teams overcome those kinds of mistakes. Oregon had their share as well in the first half.
Late in the first quarter the Ducks had a 59-yard touchdown run negated by a penalty and ended up turning the ball over on downs. They also had a 15-yard person foul on ASU's first touchdown drive and another personal foul late in the half. Down 17-14 in the second quarter, the Ducks had a drive stalled by a personal foul that turned a 1st and 10 into a 1st and 25 which resulted in a punt.
In his half time interview with ESPN, coach Chip Kelly pointed out these mistakes, "We've got to play with poise and play with emotion but don't let emotion play with us. That stuff's not part of football."
ASU had five first half penalties with three being critical. Oregon had four first half penalties with three being critical.
The mistakes hurt the Sun Devils but only because they couldn't defend against Thomas through the air in the first half, couldn't stop the run in the second half when the Ducks back-up QB wasn't a threat to throw, and because they scored just 10 points on seven possessions in the second half.
Erickson's message about discipline and mistakes is important but it's also useful cover for the talent gap between these two teams that might face each other again this season.
There were a lot of takeaways for the Arizona State Sun Devils following their 41-27 loss to the Oregon Ducks. The main focus from coach Dennis Erickson was on defensive penalties in the first half and sense of blown opportunities. Quarterback Brock Owseiler talked about offensive players "trying to break out of things we normally do and kind of do something on your own".
One discussion point for fans and media after the game, however, was coach Dennis Erickson's decision to punt the ball on fourth down with his team down 14 points with under 8 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
As Erickson remembered it, his team was near their own 25-yard line facing a 4th down conversion attempt that was too risky. If it was 4th and 1, he said he would have gone for it but facing a longer situation with the ball where it was he felt a failure to convert would have ended the Sun Devils chances.
On the replay (available at ESPN 3), we can see after Osweiler ran 14 yards on 3rd and 16 that about 10 seconds ran off the play clock before the punt unit came on facing a 4th and 2 at the ASU 32. There was no urgency in getting set and the clock expired right as the snap was made. The five-yard delay of game pushed it back to 4th and 7 at the ASU 27 and the Sun Devils punted.
The Sun Devils defense did get the stop after the punt but only after Oregon ran 3:13 off the clock. ASU got the ball back on their five and drove 87 yards in 3:37 before the drive ended with Jamal Miles dropping a sure touchdown in the end zone which ended up in the hands of the Duck defender and essentially ended the game.
Take what you will from Erickson's explanation. It was his call to make and ultimately, that one decision didn't decide the game.
The ASU Sun Devils are coming off of a disappointing 41-27 loss to the Oregon Ducks and head into their bye week this weekend. Despite the loss, the Sun Devils are making progress on the injury front and could see several players back on the field at full strength in two weeks against Colorado.
The big news for the Sun Devils is the return of defensive end Junior Onyeali, who has struggled with injuries but plans to make his return against Colorado. Erickson confirmed after Tuesday's practice what he said on KTAR radio earlier in the day regarding Onyeali who practiced with the second unit defensive line.
Left tackle Evan Finkenberg may be ready to go against Colorado as well, but should play against UCLA if he isn't healthy by that time.
Cornerback Omar Bolden, who has been dealing with a knee issue since the offseason, was dressed for practice and did some work on Tuesday. Head coach Dennis Erickson has stated that Bolden may return after the bye week in recent weeks, and it appears that both Erickson and Bolden will judge the timeframe of his return on the day-to-day feel of his knee.
Center Garth Gerhart and running back Cameron Marshall both hope to use the off week to heal their ailing injuries. Gerhart, who is dealing with an ankle problem, will rest up this week in an attempt to recover. Marshall, meanwhile, who posted 97 yards and one touchdown on 20 carries against the Ducks, has struggled with a knee injury and wasn't quite at full strength during the game. He will use the bye week to catch up and should be back at 100% against Colorado.
The Sun Devils will recuperate during the bye week and hope to come back healthy when Colorado comes to town. For a team that has suffered injuries to several key contributors, a week off may be just what the team needs to return energized and refocused.
Arizona State football coach Dennis Erickson was on with Gambo and Burns early this afternoon, and the two KTAR-AM hosts reviewed Saturday’s loss to Oregon with Erickson.
"There’s no question in my mind, we can beat them," Erickson said when asked if he learned enough about the Ducks to correct the mistakes that cost the Devils, and beat them next time.
"But we had our opportunity. Who knows what’s going to happen in the next six weeks? But we’ll see. I think we learned a lot from that game. I think we felt like we had a chance to win and we were positioned to win."
There may not be a next time this year. Oregon must go to Stanford in a battle of what figures to be top-10 teams later this season and win, and before that beat a very much improved Washington team on the road in Seattle before earning a spot in the Pac-12 championship game.
ASU is in grand position to represent the Pac-12 South in that title game.
The Devils clearly caved in to the magnitude of the game and were affected by mental mistakes and key penalties, with the atmosphere at Autzen Stadium also more than they could handle, apparently.
"You get in a game like that, nobody has penalties on purpose," Erickson said. "We will talk about that (Tuesday) when we have our team meeting."
The good news is DE Junior Onyeali will be back for the Colorado game on Oct. 29, a game that means a lot to the sophomore from Denver. It’s a game the Devils should win handily the way the Buffaloes (1-6) have played this season.
Regarding the Oregon game, Erickson isn’t into moral victories. "We could have won the football game had we did some things right that we didn’t do… we didn’t do the little things that we needed to to win."
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