Miscues doom Devils in Columbia

Miscues doom Devils in Columbia

COLUMBIA, Mo. – what has been more impressive than ASU's 2-0 record coming into tonight, was the manner in which they achieved their victories, namely minimal mental mistakes. In their first road game of the year, turnovers, costly penalties and crucial mistakes on special teams were all too common and evoked memories of a maddening 2011 season, resulting in a 24-20 loss to Missouri.

Earlier this week Arizona State (2-1) Head Coach Todd Graham stated that the only team that can beat the Sun Devils are the Sun Devils themselves. Some may have snickered at that remark yet tonight's box score is a ringing endorsement to that statement as numerous mistakes led to the Missouri (2-1) victory.

- ASU's first defensive penalty of the season, a helmet to helmet hit by linebacker Chris Young on 3rd down keeps the drive alive for the Tigers who ultimately scored a field goal.

- A muffed punt return by Jamal Miles lead to the hosts' first touchdown of the game expanding their advantage to 10-0.

- Josh Hubner's career-best 62-yard punt was negated by a poor special teams coverage leading to a 38-yard return and another touchdown drive by Missouri.

- Hubner's record night is further ruined as he mishandles a snap, and punts for just 11 yards. The Tigers fielded the ball on ASU's 33-yard line and scored to go up 24-7. Yet that score with 4:08 left in the quarter were the last points the hosts would register in this game.

- Following an ASU touchdown with a chance to make it a three-point contest quarterback Ryan Woods mishandles the extra point snap.

- The Sun Devils, forced now to score a touchdown had two shots inside the red zone to score. On its last drive quarterback Taylor Kelly was intercepted as he attempted a touchdown pass to wide receiver Jamal Miles, sealing the game's fate.

We're not even counting the several dropped passes, missed tackles and other errors that plagued ASU.

"I'm really proud of our guys," Graham said. "Our guys showed great character. I thought we were going to come back and win the game and we had an opportunity too, but you have to give (Missouri) credit. We had two chances to score at the end and we didn't do it.

"The last play our guy was open and we threw an interception. That's our job as coaches to get our guys ready to play. I loved how our guys responded in the second half. We faced a lot of adversity and those kids never broke. Obviously we are not here just to compete, we're here to win."

There were certainly some positives to take away from this contest.

The defense prevented ASU from being blown out in the first half and limiting Missouri to only 150 yards of offense despite running 46 plays. Furthermore, they did shut out the hosts in the last 19 plus minutes of play giving the Sun Devil offense a chance at an improbable comeback as they trailed by two scores for most of the night. Linebacker Brandon Magee, who also had an interception, and safety Alden Darby each had 12 tackles to pace ASU and were part of solid effort to frustrate backup quarterback Corbin Berkstresser who passed for just 198 yards and no touchdowns.

Kelly certainly had a night he rather forget, completing 14 of 23 passes for 178 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, a fumble to go along with three sacks. Nonetheless, in the second half he went 9 of 11 and passed for 116 yards. The sophomore also rushed for 59 net yards. Running back Marion Grice added two touchdowns tonight making him the improbable leading team scorer to date with five.

"He made spectacular plays," Graham said of Kelly. "There's no doubt he will be a star quarterback."

Not much consolation for the ASU signal caller.

"We beat ourselves with turnovers tonight," Kelly said. "We have to protect the football a lot better next week."

A 2-1 record is a mark that many expected the Sun Devils to hold after the first three games, and that in itself in no reason for ASU to hang their heads low after tonight's loss. However, for players and observers it was a cruel reminder of how several frustrating defeats took place in the last two seasons.

With Utah coming into Sun Devil stadium on Saturday to begin the Pac-12 portion of the schedule, it would be behoove ASU to heed the lessons learned from this loss so they do not relive the nightmare they underwent the last two seasons.

Sure, we saw resiliency tonight, but a plethora of mental errors will more than negate that essential trait.

"We're 2-1. That season is over," Graham said. "That's preseason. Now we start conference play and our focus is moving on to Utah."

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