Sun Devil Nation surely is disappointed that they lost the Pac-12 Championship Game. They are probably even more disappointed in how they lost.
It appears that Stanford has Arizona State’s number. It’s one thing for ASU to lose a game to Stanford. It’s another thing to lose to them in similar fashion twice in one year.
No one will doubt that Stanford pushed the Sun Devils around on the line of scrimmage. In the football world, that is somewhat excusable. The bigger, stronger man usually wins. However, line play had nothing to do with several of ASU’s problems on Saturday night.
Superiority with the big guys up front had nothing to do with two shanked punts, a missed short field goal, poor coverage, dropped passes, overthrown/underthrown passes, poor tackling and blown assignments. Those are all “self-inflicted” mistakes.
The last time ASU had a game like this was up in Palo Alto against the very same Stanford team. It could either be a mental roadblock or just coincidence. Maybe time will tell, but we’ll probably never know.
Arizona State appeared nervous against the Cardinal. The players looked unsure of themselves. To most ASU fans, this should come as a surprise. One of the best characteristics of this Sun Devil team all year has been confidence, belief in themselves and being prepared — especially at home.
None of that was visible against Stanford.
In many cases, the ASU defense got worked by one-on-one blocks. The linebackers ran to the wrong gaps. Defensive backs frequently over-pursued on outside runs and got beat in their man-to-man coverage.
It seemed like the Cardinal got what they needed when they needed it, which is what championship teams do. When they needed six yards, they got eight. When they needed 12, they got 14.
The ASU offense was not as fortunate. In fact, they were disappointing on crucial downs. When they needed a completion, the pass would sail over the receiver’s head or land behind him. When quarterback Taylor Kelly found his mark, receivers dropped passes when their team really needed it. And of course, down in the red zone, ASU came up empty twice in the third quarter, including a third-and-goal from the one yard line.
The Stanford defense only had two bad plays, which led to long touchdowns by RB D.J. Foster.
Now the Sun Devils have a challenging task in front of them. They have to recover from this disappointing loss. They have to get over the fact that they aren’t going to the Rose Bowl and get excited to play Texas Tech in the Holiday bowl.
This bowl game will also be somewhat of a measuring stick for the ASU program. A bowl win helps with recruiting, adds momentum into next year and gives an overall good feeling about the season. This will be a test for coach Todd Graham and his staff to see if they can rally their troops to play their best.
ASU has nothing to be ashamed of. A 10-win season is something to be proud of. Eleven is even better. This football team can make the off-season a lot more fun if they secure a win on Dec. 30 in San Diego.