Arizona State came close at times being the fourth FBS team on Saturday to fall to an FCS opponent at home.
"It's one of those games," Erickson commented. "Those games happen, there's no question about it. It happens all the time, you saw a couple today where you ended up losing, and I can give credit to NAU, they did a good job against us, but we didn't execute very well offensively, we played good defensively at times, but we gave up that big play so as good as well played I thought this week, we didn't play like that.
Coaches will generally tell you that the biggest improvement in a season usually occurs between game one and game two. Clearly the win over the Lumberjacks wasn't as satisfying as the 54-9 victory last week over Portland State – a game that already had its share of issues.
"I don't know if I ever believe that," Erickson said of that improvement theory, "but that's the old cliché I guess that's out there. There were some good efforts, I thought Michael Willie came to play and did some good things, and we had some good efforts on defense. I'll have to look at the tape to see, but I've been in those games too many times in my 200 years I've been coaching and they just become annoying.
"You play someone you're supposed to beat and you just let them hang in there, and give credit to them it's kind of a messy game is the best way to put it."
Quarterback Steven Threet established career high in attempts, completions, passing yards and touchdowns. The junior completed 33 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns, but also had to throw 49 times to get that total, and made two bad throws staring down receivers for two interceptions.
These inflated passing stats have much to do with the teams' inability to run the ball as they ran for just 56 yards on 29 carries.
"His (Threet) arm must be sore," Erickson noted. "We wanted to run the football. We didn't run it really well, but didn't run it very often to establish it, so I'll have to look at the tape on that but sometimes we're calling runs and we end up, because we're keying things depending on guys in the box and all that stuff, there might be a run called and we end up throwing it outside on a bubble or something like that.
"But if we threw 50 times that's too many as far as I'm concerned. We've got to be able to run it, we've got to run it, and as we get into the year and this part of our schedule that's coming up there's no mercy. None what so ever, unless I can call somebody and ask for it."
While the mistakes in run blocking, or throwing the ball can be pinned on the players, Erickson takes full blame for the 13 penalties for 131 yards, which are the most in his four-year tenure in Tempe. The Sun Devil skipper was visibly upset that the problem is becoming a reoccurrence.
"It's ridiculous," Erickson admitted. "I'm beside myself on this. I'm really upset about it. We talked afterwards, and that's all I talked about in the team meeting or when we got done. We've addressed them. Obviously, the bottom line is that it's on me. They're not listening or whatever the case may be, some are gonna happen, there are a couple three that were pretty questionable with late hits or roughing the passers, but then there were some that weren't so it's gonna cost us a game is what it's gonna do.
"It's going to end up costing us a football game and when it costs us a football game, is that what it takes for us to learn? That we can't have dumb penalties like that? I certainly hope not, so we addressed that in that tone and in that way and you're gonna have penalties and I don't know how many we had, but it makes no difference to me, I'm always upset that we have the penalties and again it's on me. Heck, I'm the head coach; we need to get that thing straight. Nobody else to blame; thank god we won."
Whether the slow start for the Sun Devil offense was caused by lack of execution of poor effort, the mistakes need to be fixed moving forward at whatever the cost. All-American linebacker Vontaze Burfict was even pulled at the end of the game for a roughing the passer penalty, and as hard as it is to sit a player of his caliber, that's what needs to be done for this team to succeed.
"I don't know if it was even a lack of energy," Erickson mentioned. "We just didn't execute I guess is the best way to put it. We won 41-20 and this game is going to be behind us tomorrow and we got to go get ready for Wisconsin."