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Arizona State turning Utah loss into learning experience, life lesson

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Experience is key for any college team, especially for a squad full of youth.

After getting hit in the mouth against Utah in wet conditions, the No. 24 Arizona State Sun Devils are focusing in on making the loss mean more than a blemish on their record.

Growing pains, or whatever you want to call them, are going to be there for younger teams as the season progresses. It’s taking those moments and bottling the good while washing away the bad.

The loss certainly stings, but offensive coordinator Rob Likens and the rest of the ASU coaching staff are working to turn the negative to a positive.

“I thought we had a really good plan, we made some mistakes that we could have — I think the experience will prevent us in the future of making those,” Likens said after Tuesday’s practice. “There are so many things that you just can’t cover. There are so many things that can happen in football, you’re never going to be able to cover it all with a freshmen quarterback. It’s just stuff he has to live through … and when that happens you’re going to have to do this.

“And yeah you wished you covered it but it’s like impossible to cover every scenario, and those are what people call the old growing pains that no one wants to talk about or hear about. I don’t and I’ve said it before, I’m as big a fan as anybody. I understand how fans think. I’ve sent Derek Jeter down to the minors about a 1,000 times [in my head], so I know how fans think.”

For the first time this season, the Sun Devils fell by more than three points, losing 21-3 at the hands of the Utes. True freshman Jayden Daniels experienced his worst game as a college athlete, completing just four of his 18 throws for 25 yards and an interception. The loss marked the first time the QB completed less than 14 passes and had under 140 yards all year.

But even in the midst of his worst performance as a Sun Devil, Daniels remained level-headed.

“Nope, never at all,” Likens said when asked about Daniels being upset or frustrated on the sideline on Saturday. “We always felt like we’re one play away, we’re one play-action pass away, we were one something away from making it 14-10. And then getting our last drive of the game in the fourth quarter and try to win it.

“That’s how we felt the whole way, and Jayden, we talked about it. He was perfectly fine, he did take a couple of good shots, he hasn’t been hit like that all year. I think one of the hits was pretty good, but he got right back up there and it didn’t affect him mentally.”

With positive growth on the brain, the coaching staff’s looking much more inward at itself and its team. Something that will only benefit the relationships between coaches and players.

“That’s why I love Herm [Edwards], I love working for Herm. Herm doesn’t just go ‘don’t worry about them,'” Likens said. “We sit around and we think about the kids, we try to think about each kid’s individual experience in situations. We talked about this yesterday … every day get up and think about what it’s like to be this guy. Put yourself in their shoes and I think that’s a great point.

“You want to keep everybody involved and you want them to be happy and you want them to be proud to be here at this university and enjoy the process and all that stuff. But also I think it’s very important to teach the kids how to think properly. Surprise, the world doesn’t revolve around you … so I think it’s important that we try to teach the kids that life isn’t about all the time getting your way. And then when you don’t how do you deal with that?”

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