Small pieces add up to big loss for ASU
Some cuss all the way down the tunnel like something they had earned has been taken away illegally.
Some sit at their lockers staring blankly at the grain of the wood, assuming if their jersey stays on there is still one last play.
Some undress quickly with great force to show their shoulder pads who's boss in a display of equipment abuse.
After most games I run into a separate room and prepare the headset for Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson. At the Rose Bowl, I went right through the middle of the locker room. I witnessed how each kid handles a crushing loss.
I normally believe a game can be broken down to very small points in time. The ASU loss to UCLA Saturday wasn't like that. Sure, you can say three missed field goals were the difference in the game, but what about other factors that led to the three missed field goals?
The play clock wound down to two on the first attempt and the kick was rushed. Why wasn't one of the two time outs the Devils had used?
The second missed field goal happened after a huge UCLA turnover but the offense couldn't ice the game. An offense with those weapons had to put a team away with an opportunity handed to them by the UCLA kick return team.
Granted, the third missed field goal was inexcusable but the opportunity was a gift. After Gerell Robinson displayed one of the worst showings of football intelligence with his attempted pass to Erickson, ASU not only had the gift of replay to aid their effort but also had a magic flag land from the sky on a terrible pass interference penalty that set-up the Devils for the game-winning kick.
Everything that could be said as to why ASU should have won can be turned into why they deserved a loss.
Third & 29 should never become first and goal.
Alden Darby has had a great season. He's a safety. He's a cornerback. He's an interception waiting to happen. He's done everything his team has asked him to do and done it well. He got completely turned around on what could be the play of the season.
ASU had an easy touchdown on a screen pass in the first half but left tackle Evan Finkenberg didn't hold his block long enough. Osweiler had to throw it early. Marshall couldn't handle the poor pass thrown earlier than expected. The pass was incomplete.
In order for this loss to be doom and gloom, you have to believe UCLA will run the table. They won't. The teams are tied now with UCLA owning the tie-breaker. Comparing the schedules, ASU has a much better chance of winning out than do the Bruins. I still believe ASU is going to the first Pac-12 Championship Game.
The problem is, it's a hollow feeling. If ASU finishes the season with more conference wins than UCLA, then ASU clearly earned the division championship. That's the logic trying to convince the heart to feel good. Going 9-3 is a great year for this program. Losing to a bad UCLA team and blowing chances at Illinois isn't a great season.
ASU fans have been tormented by so many close losses. The days of the program building are over. The program is mature enough now that it's about wins and losses.