TEMPE, Ariz. — Too many critical errors. Too many mental mistakes.
Arizona State did not give itself a chance against Stanford, according to head coach Todd Graham.
“We played very, very poorly, obviously, in the first half; made every mistake you could possibly make,” Graham said referring to the 29-0 halftime deficit.
There were mistakes on offense (dropped passes), defense (blown coverages) and special teams, specifically the kicking game. ASU had two punts blocked and missed a field goal.
“It will be a major priority, but it is every week,” Graham said at his weekly Monday press conference. “You can’t spend any more meeting time or practice time than what we spend on special teams. It’s the most I’ve ever spent. That will be a focus this week, but on the same hand it’s things we’ve got to get corrected, and we’ve got to be better prepared and have people performing better than what they did Saturday.”
Add it all up, plus factor in that Stanford — ranked No. 5 in the country — is a very, very good football team, and it’s no wonder ASU fell short in Palo Alto, losing 42-28.
“What’s disappointing is I think we’re a lot better than what Saturday indicated,” Graham said.
Perhaps, but saying it and proving it are two very different things.
Graham, though, indicated that there was nothing he saw either during the game or while reviewing the film that isn’t correctable.
His biggest concern is on offense.
ASU rushed for a season-low 50 yards on 24 attempts against Stanford.
“We’ve got to be able to run the football and be able to come off the ball and move people,” he said.
Graham, however, found positives in receiver Jaelen Strong, who had his second straight 100-yard receiving game, linebacker Salamo Fiso, who “really stepped up.
And when asked about his defensive line, a group that recorded its first sack in three games Saturday, he responded, “It’s the last thing I’m worried about right now.”
It’s a unit that will likely be without nose tackle Jaxon Hood this week, after the sophomore suffered what appeared to be a leg injury in the loss to the Cardinal. He was seen afterwards on crutches.
Graham said the Sun Devils will probably move starter Gannon Conway inside with senior Jake Sheffield and sophomore Mo Latu getting some snaps, as well. They’ll then rotate senior Davon Coleman and junior Marcus Hardison at defensive end.
ASU will try to bounce back at home against USC, a team they have beaten only once in 13 meetings since 2000.
“You go win this one and everybody will love you again,” Graham said.