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ASU football disappointed in self-destructive play

Arizona State's Kody Kohl drops a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Southern California on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Numerous factors have led to the Arizona State football team’s disappointing start. The easiest one to analyze is turnover margin.

The Sun Devils are tied for 98th (out of 127 FBS programs) in turnover margin at minus-3. Quarterback Mike Bercovici has thrown two interceptions and the Sun Devils have lost seven out of 13 fumbles in four games.

To put that in perspective, ASU had the sixth-best turnover margin per game in the nation in 2014 at plus-1.2. The Sun Devils fumbled 15 times all season and lost just four. In 2013, they were 11th in turnover margin per game at plus-0.8.

Ball security has been a hallmark of the Todd Graham era, but Saturday’s 42-14 loss to USC at Sun Devil Stadium was a microcosm of this season.

The Sun Devils turned the ball over four times (three fumbles and an interception) and the Trojans scored 28 points off those turnovers. One of those was the backbreaker. With ASU trailing 21-0 in the second quarter, Bercovici fumbled at the USC 1-yard line. Trojans safety Chris Hawkins scooped up the ball and returned it 94 yards for a touchdown to remove all hope of a Sun Devil comeback.

“That tilts it in a hurry in a game like that,” coach Todd Graham said Monday at his weekly press conference. “Our league is very explosive.”

Graham said the issue has been addressed in meetings, but that is nothing new. Ball security is always emphasized. It is just one of the characteristics that has come to define this year’s club early in the season, and it’s a characteristic that must die if the Sun Devils are to rebound from this abysmal performance, just as they did last season after a 62-27 home loss to UCLA, which also came at home in Week 4.

“There’s not much to talk about. We are self-destructing, turning the football over,” Graham said. “It reminded me of the UCLA game right before the half where we self-destructed with takeaways, making poor decisions.”

Neither Graham nor Bercovici could pinpoint a common theme or reason behind the turnovers.

“There’s not really a common theme,” Bercovici said, noting that it is a point of emphasis. “When you’re holding that football you’re carrying the weight of this football team.”

ASU has forced six turnovers in four games, not an unusually high number but it still ranks 57th in the nation and looks a little better when you consider they have faced two triple option teams that are run-heavy so the opportunities for interceptions were lessened.

“I want to come in here and just say we’re disappointed and we know the fans are disappointed,” Graham said. “We can’t beat ourselves like that by turning the football over and making bad decisions doing it. Simply put, we just need to get it done.”

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