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Herm Edwards: Errors cost ASU at UW, and there are no moral victories

Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards, second from right, reacts to a play on the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Washington, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, in Seattle. Washington won 27-20. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The New England Patriots have lost back-to-back games.

It was said to be the first time Bill Belichick’s Patriots have lost back-to-back games by double digits since 2002, when the Herm Edwards-led New York Jets beat New England 30-17 (the Titans had beat the Patriots the week before, 24-7).

Sixteen years later, Edwards’ Arizona State Sun Devils are in good company. Like the Patriots, they too have lost back-to-back games, though not by double digits. After opening the season 2-0 against UTSA and Michigan State, ASU dropped its third game to San Diego State on the road, then went to Washington and lost its Pac-12 opener on Saturday. Each loss was by a margin of one touchdown, the second one to a team that was ranked No. 10 in the AP Top 25.

That doesn’t make it a moral victory, though. Edwards doesn’t believe in that.

“I do not,” he said when he joined Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Monday. “I just think that, obviously — winning’s important. Winning is always important. You’re supposed to play hard, by the way, last time I checked. That’s just the way I think. I just think sometimes we don’t play smart. Here again, that’s what got us in this game. When you play against good teams, you can’t give them second chances.

“And there was a couple times in this game where that came to fruition and we either killed drives on offense or we extend drives defensively because of missed tackles and missed assignments.”

Doug & Wolf’s Doug Franz made Edwards aware of that earlier Patriots factoid, and Edwards complimented Belichick on the “program” he’s built in New England. Likewise, Edwards is trying to build something in Tempe.

But that’s a work in progress.

“There’s winning and there’s learning,” Edwards said. “And when you learn something through defeat, hopefully that will help you the next go around when you play again. We learned some things here again. I’ll go back to errors — you can’t make errors against good teams, especially on the road. That always comes back to get you.”

In that process of building a program, Edwards has to figure out what exactly he’s dealing with. Just four games into his career as the head coach of the Sun Devils, he’s still learning who each of his players are.

“When you get into this coaching profession, you’ve got to figure out what your team is,” Edwards said. “I’ve been around these guys now for four games. You get a better feeling of who they are. Players, you know this, they’re all different emotionally. You’ve got to figure out the button to tap.

“I don’t know them. I know some of them, but I don’t know all of them. You’re constantly massaging guys every day. That’s what you do as a head coach, when you walk around practice you pick four or five guys every day you’re talking to — whether it’s in the locker room, the weight room. You’re constantly trying to get them motivated and give them encouragement. I think when you learn your team, you have a better way of saying things to them to make them understand the importance of situations.”

THE DEAL WITH N’KEAL

Star wide receiver N’Keal Harry made only five catches for 20 yards in the loss to Washington. It was the fewest number of catches, the lowest yardage total and the only time that he’s gone without a touchdown in a game in 2018.

So what happened?

“Well, we tried,” Edwards said. “We missed him on a couple throws. He probably dropped one that he generally catches. But it was a game of knowing that- you watch their defense, they’re not going to let you have a lot of vertical passes. You have to throw things underneath. With that, we were able to run the football.”

As a team, ASU ran the ball 40 times for 164 yards for an average of 4.1 yards per carry. Both of the Sun Devils’ touchdowns on Saturday were on the ground.

“N’Keal, we have to get him the ball, there’s no doubt about that,” Edwards added. “Only five receptions, no explosive plays. So they did a pretty good job, this is one of the better secondaries that you’re going to face. With that being said, we had some opportunities, we just missed them. And when you miss them, you don’t get second chances.”

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