ASU football remains confident ahead of Thursday night matchup with Stanford

ASU's bye week filled with optimism before hosting the Stanford Cardinal

Spirits remain high around the ASU football program this week, despite a backbreaking seven-point loss in Colorado last week that dropped the Sun Devils to 3-3 on the season.

Saturday’s 28-21 loss to the 19th ranked Buffaloes keeps ASU winless away from Sun Devil Stadium, as the once ranked Sun Devils have now lost three of their last four contests by a combined 21 points. 

The frustration among players and coaches alike surrounding these close losses is palpable, and the team’s propensity for untimely mistakes has reared its ugly head in each game. With the team currently enjoying its bye week and its next game not coming until Oct. 18 against the Stanford Cardinal, the Sun Devils have begun to dwell on a disappointing loss and what could have been. 

“There hasn’t been no blowout, no anything,” said redshirt senior quarterback Manny Wilkins. “Combined the three games we’ve lost by 21 points. So, if we score four more touchdowns throughout this season, four more touchdowns and we win all of those games. Now everybody’s talking to us about playoff and all this stuff. Four touchdowns, that’s it, that’s how little it is.”

It’s easy to find the silver linings in each of the Sun Devils' single-digit losses, but a .500 record through six games will likely hold ASU back from the lofty expectations held at the beginning of the year. 

The last team to win the Pac-12 with three losses was Stanford back in 2013. Yet, a sense of optimism remains as the team begins a stretch where three of its next four games will come at home. 

As the Sun Devils embark on the crucial four-game stretch, coach Herm Edwards realizes the importance of playing sound football. 

“What we have to do now is correct the mental errors,” Edwards said. “If we cut mental errors in half from every position group, we’re going to be a better football team. That’s just my opinion, that’s just how I look at it when I watch tape and I watch all the games." 

Edwards said there's room for improvement within the team.

"We’ve made a lot of mistakes in games and it's little things that become big issues," he said. "I’ve always told the story, one player says, ‘Well, I only made one.’ Yeah, but your partner made one and if everybody made one, that’s 22 errors. Against a good team, you’re not going to win.”

Stanford suffered its second loss of the season Saturday when the team fell at home to the 3-2 Utah Utes. Without star running back Bryce Love, the offense looked simplistic as the unit only managed 21 points in the loss. 

The more pressing concern though, may stem from the team's typically staunch defense, who looked uncharacteristically sloppy, allowing 40 points. Love is expected to be fully healed by next Thursday’s tilt, and a return to form for the entire Stanford team could spell trouble for the Sun Devils.

“They’re always where they’re supposed to be, they do the right thing. They’re big and strong, and they can run,” said offensive coordinator Rob Likens in reference to the Stanford defense. “On top of that, unfortunately, they tackle very well ... and they’re strong. It’s the same formula and you look on their roster and they just do it the right way. Most of the time, their starting units are juniors and seniors. They build guys up and they get them in the weight room and they develop them.”

The stage is set for a season-defining victory this week with the Sun Devils' backs up against the wall. Losers of three of their last four, the time is now for ASU to salvage a winning season. 

They host an equally frustrated Stanford team. The odds are not in their favor, yet a sense of optimism not typically found in .500 ball clubs has enveloped ASU.

They sense they are on the brink of something special, and the feeling is shared by essentially every member of the team. This sentiment of confidence and enthusiasm starts at the top, and coming from the most positive guy in Tempe, it makes a lot sense. 

“The most powerful word in the English language, in my opinion, is the word called hope,” Edwards said. “And that’s what you do as a coach, you give people hope.”

Reach the reporter at or follow @jacobrosenfarb on Twitter. 

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