ASU Football: Rapid Reaction of Sun Devils’ 20-13 loss to Stanford

TEMPE, AZ - OCTOBER 18: Bryce Love #20 of the Stanford Cardinal runs the ball against the Arizona State Sun Devils in the first quarter of the game at Sun Devil Stadium on October 18, 2018 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
TEMPE, AZ - OCTOBER 18: Bryce Love #20 of the Stanford Cardinal runs the ball against the Arizona State Sun Devils in the first quarter of the game at Sun Devil Stadium on October 18, 2018 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Failed scoring chances and a lack of possession derailed a fourth quarter comeback in ASU football‘s 20-13 loss to Stanford.

It was okay when it happened once. A second time hurt, but it didn’t end their chances. But after Arizona State coughed up a third, fourth and fifth opportunity to score a touchdown, that’s when they lost their chance.

The Sun Devils were competitive in their 20-13 loss to Stanford, but it was their own errors that became their undoing. ASU gave up the ball three times – a big number for a usually consistent offense – and had three-and-outs and missed opportunities that disabled them from getting back in the game.

By the time they made a fourth quarter push, it was too little, too late. ASU dropped their first home game of the season and potentially any chance for a Pac-12 South push.

Here are some takeaways from tonight’s game.

The offense didn’t capitalize on enough opportunities

If you recall from my three scenarios article, this is exactly what we didn’t want to see.

For all but five or six plays tonight (and most of the third quarter), the ASU offense looked good. Manny Wilkins hit deep balls to Brandon Aiyuk and Frank Darby, Eno Benjamin made plays as a runner and receiver and ASU found ways to consistently move into Cardinal territory.

But they couldn’t finish the job.

In a night where the Arizona Cardinals almost didn’t score a touchdown, the Sun Devils did the same. All those plays I mentioned earlier – 51, 38 and 29-yard receptions by Aiyuk, Darby and Benjamin, respectively – and an 18-yard carry by Benjamin didn’t result in six points.

Part of the reason was turnovers. ASU coughed a fumble on a draw by Wilkins and N’Keal Harry threw an interception on a trick play, allowing Stanford to take a 6-3 lead at halftime.

In the second frame, the Sun Devils held the ball but they didn’t build off big plays. Following Darby’s reception and Benjamin’s rush, ASU didn’t get a first down on each of those drives.

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Wilkins almost willed a late push in the fourth quarter with a 10-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to single digits. But on their next opportunity, three straight incompletions followed a first down, eliminating another chance.

ASU tried to will an opportunity on their final drive, moving inside Stanford’s 20-yard line with less than 30 seconds go. They didn’t get any further, as time ran out after Benjamin failed to get out of bounds after a completion.

On the other side, the Cardinal took advantage of their opportunities. K.J. Costello nailed JJ Arcega-Whiteside in stride for a 28-yard touchdown in their first drive of the third quarter and Cameron Scarlett punched in a score on the ensuing offensive possession.

You have to like ASU’s fight, but it would’ve been nice to see it before being down two touchdowns.

Not enough in the defensive gas tank

There were plenty of reasons why ASU lost tonight. The defense was not one of them.

For the first time in a month, Danny Gonzales got some of the physicality and movement he hoped for. The Sun Devils were all over Cardinal rushers in the first half, limiting Bryce Love and others to 60 yards on 22 carries.

After the Cardinal gave up nine sacks in their two losses to Notre Dame and Utah, Merlin Robertson added more to the total, dropping Costello for nine yards in Stanford’s second drive of the game.

Unfortunately, the offense couldn’t take advantage. ASU turned the ball over twice after moving in Stanford territory, forcing the defense to make two stands that ended up as field goals before halftime.

In the third quarter, the offense held the ball but didn’t fix the lack of scoring. It felt like the defense was on the field for most of the 15 minutes, tiring them and allowing Stanford to take a two-touchdown lead.

Granted, the defense continued to stand tall when it counted. When the Sun Devils cut the lead to seven, they got stops necessary to have a shot at the end. It was just a case of too little, too late.

Although the team lost, the defensive effort is a good sign moving forward. They finally corralled the run and limited an offense that controlled time of possession for more than 16 minutes to 20 points.

They can only hope help will come in the future.

A case of familiarity

I can’t believe it happened again, but it did. For the fourth time in their four losses, the Sun Devils lost by exactly seven points.

Granted, not every game has felt the same. Yes, ASU had chances to win them, but whether it was the defense, offensive miscues or coaching decisions, each loss had a feel of its own.

Tonight was no different. The Sun Devils lost by seven, but it sure felt like they lost by more.

After three incompletions ended ASU’s second drive of the third quarter, the game almost felt lost. The defense had to get a stop again, and in a game where they were on the field for more than 10 minutes than the offense, that’s a difficult task.

Stanford scored, and suddenly, a 14-point lead made it feel like the game was over.

Give this ASU team credit– they fought back and gave themselves a chance to tie the game. But again, it turned out to be the plays of the past that doomed them for a chance to emerge victorious.

Next. ASU Football: Halftime analysis as Stanford leads 6-3. dark

The Sun Devils spent the last two weeks hoping things like tonight wouldn’t reappear. Unfortunately, they did. The focus now shifts to another opportunity to stop it.