ASU football’s struggles continue in 20-13 loss to Stanford

ASU loses another one score contest as they fall to Stanford 20-13

Emotions were riding high for Sun Devil football entering Thursday’s matchup with the Stanford Cardinal, but untimely turnovers, an inability to get off the field, and a handful of questionable play calls produced possibly the worst showing of the Herm Edwards era. 

With over a week to prepare, Arizona State’s struggles moving the ball on the offensive side were glaring, and a handful of turnovers all but squashed any chance of a Sun Devil victory. 

“Tonight was a game of dropped balls, it was a game of turnovers, and it was a game of penalties,” Edwards said. “And that’s all on us, that got nothing to do with them. I think when you learn to correct that, you’ll win these type of games.” 

The seven-point loss continues a frustrating trend for the Sun Devils, as this game marks their fourth straight defeat by exactly seven points. Arizona State had a chance to tie or possibly win the game as time expired, as redshirt senior quarterback Manny Wilkins had driven the offense down the length of the field in under 90 seconds. 

With only seven seconds left and ASU threatening on the Stanford 20-yard line, Wilkins didn’t see an option he liked in the end zone and instead checked the ball down to sophomore running back Eno Benjamin

As the clock hit triple zeroes, the Sun Devil offense was left scrambling back to the line as Stanford began their post-game celebration. 

“I should’ve thrown it at Eno’s feet,” said an emotional Wilkins. “Instead I threw it at his chest, and he caught it. That’s just poor clock management and spatial awareness on my part.”   

The defeat marks a pivotal moment in an overall disappointing season for ASU. Now losers of two straight games, the path to bowl contention grows more unlikely as teams continue to leap frog the Sun Devils in the Pac-12 standings. 

“I’m sick and tired of coming in here always saying we’re one play away,” Wilkins said. “We have got to fix it. Two turnovers on my part is completely inexcusable, and I’m beating myself up over that. I feel like I let the team down.” 

Defensively the Sun Devils shined, as a heavy dosage of pressure off the edge kept Stanford junior quarterback KJ Costello uneasy all night. 

Star senior Stanford running back Bryce Love was kept in check the entire game, finishing with only 21 yards on 11 carries. Yet the Sun Devils were unable to get stops when they needed them most, as a combination of sloppy play kept the ASU defense on the field for most of the second half. 

“The difference in the game was the third quarter,” said defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales. “We let them score two touchdowns and we didn’t answer them on offense. That was the difference.”

ASU’s failure to capitalize when they found themselves in Stanford territory played a major impact on the game, and poor decision making haunted them in the red zone. The Sun Devils only managed three trips onto the Stanford side of the field in the first half, with two of the three ending in turnovers. 

The game’s first turnover came in the form of a N’Keal Harry interception after a double reverse put the ball in his hands with room to run. With blockers in front of him, Harry opted for the aerial attack and tried to find junior wide receiver Kyle Williams along the sideline, but instead lofted the ball into the waiting arms of senior Stanford linebacker Sean Barton.

Later that half, the turnover bug once again bit the Sun Devils as Wilkins coughed up the ball trying to pick up a few extra yards on a quarterback scramble. Arizona State’s defense was unable to create turnovers of their own, and as the seconds ticked away it became evident to everyone in the stadium just how devastating those turnovers were. 

“The two turnovers in the first half killed us,” said offensive coordinator Rob Likens. “If it's zero zero in the turnover battle, we’re probably over here celebrating and smiling.” 

Thursday’s loss is just the most recent in a string of particularly painful Sun Devil defeats, each complete with a small handful of plays that essentially determined the game. 

Edwards and the rest of the coaching staff will likely harp on the same talking points they have all season, but they can only be repeated so many times before they begin to lose their meaning. Two extra touchdowns remains the goal, but for a team that’s four losses have come by a combined 28 points, there’s only so much you can say. 

“This is kind of who we are,” said a despondent Edwards. “We’ve lost four games by one score. That’s just not good enough. There are players hurting in there. We fell short and we ran out of time, that’s kind of how it’s been in the four games we’ve lost. They’ve all kind of ended the same way, with a thud.”  

 Reach the reporter at or follow @jacobrosenfarb on Twitter. 

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