ASU football looks to regroup after suffering first loss of season

The Sun Devils look to re-enter the win column this week against No. 15 Cal

The sense of frustration emanating from the ASU locker room following the Sun Devils 34-31 loss to the Colorado Buffaloes Saturday was palpable, even through the thick double doors separating the team from the leering eyes of the media. 

This defeat, the first of a young season, was punctuated by a handful of especially maddening plays, most notably a roughing the holder call with 34 seconds remaining to negate any chance of an ASU comeback. 

“They’re disappointed, which is a good sign,” head coach Herm Edwards said Monday of the team’s mood following the loss to Colorado. “They’re not sad, they’re disappointed. They had an opportunity to do something and it got away from them, so we now we get another opportunity.” 

The loss, which ousted the Sun Devils from the AP top 25 just a week after they had entered it, was a disheartening follow-up to the team’s upset win the week prior against Michigan State. 

The similarities between the two games were sparse. The ASU defense that held a potent MSU offense to only seven points looked disjointed and overmatched against Colorado.

“Our D-lineman have to win one-on-one matchups,” defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales said on what the defense needs to improve. “We’re not winning those matchups right now, our D-line (has) got to get better at that.”

Gonzales' criticism did not stop at the defensive line. He also had harsh words for a secondary that allowed a number of chunk plays down the field.

“I was a lot disappointed in the aggressiveness of our (defensive backs),” Gonzales said. “I think they were trying to feel their way into the speed of the game … and I think that shows a little bit of a lack of confidence in yourself.” 

Click here for the full transcript of the video. Video Credit: Samantha Chow (@SamanthaChow_ on Twitter)

The defensive shortcomings were heightened by a pass rush that failed to generate consistent pressure on Buffaloes quarterback Steven Montez. The lack of a pass rush was new for the Sun Devils, the team has thrived on getting into the opponent’s backfield in their first three games. 

This remains an emphasis as the team looks to return to their winning ways next weekend against the Cal Golden Bears. 

“We never collapsed the pocket,” Edwards said. “It was always clean for him, and when quarterbacks have a clean pocket … and they can sit there and survey the field, it becomes very difficult.”

Offensively, ASU will look to build off of their most impressive showing of the season, as the unit set season highs in point total, passing yards and first downs. Freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels built off his hot start with another strong showing, throwing for 345 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, senior wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk continued his ascension to wide receiver one status with a stellar nine catch, 122-yard, one touchdown performance. 

“We got out there and we started throwing it a little bit and go ‘ooh’ I think (Daniels) has a hot hand tonight,” offensive coordinator Rob Likens said on the game plan. “Coach (Charlie) Fisher’s like ‘Brandon Aiyuk’s hot’ ... so we started throwing the ball more and he just kept completing them and completing them, and we were on a roll.”

Much of the unit’s success can be attributed to drastic improvement from the offensive line. The coaching staff appears to have finally found a five-man group they can trust, anchored by senior Cohl Cabral at center. The decision to move Cabral back to his natural position after a short stint at left tackle has paid off for the offense as a whole, opening up new facets that were unavailable in the team’s first two games. 

“Everything just looks so much more smooth,” Likens said of the offensive line. “(I'm) very pleased with the effort that they gave … all of the procedural stuff was so much better.” 

Up next is a Cal team that remained undefeated after a 28-20 win last week against the Ole Miss Rebels. One of the early surprises of the 2019 season, the Golden Bears now sit atop the Pac-12 North with a 4-0 record and are the No. 15 slot in this week’s AP poll. 

With a chance to maneuver their way back into the win column, a new energy and ferocity has consumed an ASU team now dealing with its first loss. 

“It’s a process,” Edwards said. “It’s hard and it’s cumbersome. Sometimes you fall and you have to get back up, and that’s what we’re going to do.” 


Reach the reporter at Jrosenfa@asu.edu or follow @jacobrosenfarb on Twitter. 

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