After starting the game strong and scoring the game’s first fourteen points, ASU fell behind and was forced to play catch up the entire second half. The Sun Devils managed to score the go ahead touchdown with 1:33 left in the game, but UCLA drove back down the field and hit a game winning 33 yard field goal.
“It was a heck of a ball game and you have to give them a lot of credit,” Arizona State Head Coach Todd Graham said. “It had a lot to do with mental mistakes and missed assignments. The mistakes we were making were ones we haven’t made, and they were in critical times. We learned a valuable lesson today, and I’m disappointed for our fans. It was 1:33, and all you have to do is hold them. We just didn’t show up and play defensively today. You can’t win football games playing defense like that.”
In a game that was decided by the last play, the Sun Devils had a lot of miscues on the field. With a crucial turnover, key penalties and multiple missed assignments on defense, ASU played an uncharacteristically sloppy game.
“We couldn’t get lined up,” Graham noted. “It came down to one drive and play, and we didn’t play very well. We missed a lot of tackles today. We spotted them points on dumb mistakes on both sides of the ball. Obviously we didn’t get it done. UCLA is averaging seven to nine penalties a game, and they had 77 yards in penalties. If we could go zero, that’s 77 more yards for us, and we didn’t do that. Obviously we got the late penalty on our coaching staff before the half. Four penalties is not a lot, but it was four more than we needed to get.
“We gave them seven points with our one turnover, and we gave them three touchdowns with our defensive miscues.”
After tough loses, Coach Graham particularly feels bad for the seniors who are fighting every play of the game to help the team earn a victory.
“It’s disheartening,” Graham admitted. “I’m in the locker room, and I’m thinking about Cameron Marshall, Brandon Magee and those seniors that are laying it on the line. They are battling every play and trying their best to help us win out there.”
Coach Graham was proud of the perseverance that his players showed, and how they continued to fight the entire game.
“We battled as a team,” Graham commented. “I was proud of the guys. We have a lot of warriors on this team, and I’m very proud to be their coach, they gave me everything they had. I’m proud of the character. Davon Coleman, I’m especially proud of. He goes in and replaces Will [Sutton] and he’s battling through an injury too.
“No doubt, our guys have character. There’s no doubt about it. But we are a young team, and we’re going to battle back. We’re not giving up on nothing.”
With ASU having to deal with a multitude of injuries on defense, Coach Graham was relying on players that have very little game experience.
“We have a lot of people getting hurt, and that’s part of football," Graham remarked. "You have to have guys prepared to go in there. We’re down to our third and fourth team defensive linemen, and we have guys all over the place trying to get in and out of the fronts.
"That’s just guys that haven’t played, and it was very disruptive, but that’s what we wanted to go to in the second half. We were able to contain them run wise. It’s our job as coaches to get them to do what they’re supposed to do”
Coach Graham knows that even after such a tough loss, the Sun Devils must move on and focus on playing at Oregon State next week.
“We have to go to Corvallis and we have to win," Graham said. "We are going into the meat of our schedule, all of these teams are very good and we know most games will now come down to the last play. I believe in this team, I believe in these guys, and I believe in how they’re going to finish and what they’re going to do. We’re facing a lot of adversity, and some of it defensively has a lot to do with injuries.
"But that’s what’s great about the game of football. It’s not about one player, it’s not about one guy; it’s about a team. I am proud of how our guys battled back to try and win this game.”