Mental mistakes continue to hinder ASU

The game of football is much more cerebral in nature than some may give it credit for and ASU is a prime example of it. Throughout the Sun Devils' three-game losing streak head coach Dennis Erickson sees doesn't see his team's errors being physical in nature but rather mental missteps that are easily correctable.

"As far as we're concerned, we have to continue to improve and get better all the time," Erickson said during his weekly press conference. "Obviously, there is frustration when you lose that many close games in a row. But, being close doesn't do it and we have to win football games. We do some good things in the football game, but our lack of consistency on both sides of the football is really hurting us.

"You have to focus every snap. A lot of times you go through a football game and instead of focusing on every single play you don't and that's where the mental mistakes come in."

As the case during the losses to Wisconsin and Oregon, the ASU defense dug itself a hole during the first half of the Oregon State contest but played much better in the second stanza.

"Defensively last week we gave up 290 yards on 12 plays and the rest of the plays we gave up around 100 yards," Erickson noted. "We gave up too many big plays and it's hurting us. We have come out in the second half and played well but the consistency is an area we are addressing and hopefully we can solve the problem. It's solvable, but a lot of it is mental mistakes we make it coverages and missed tackles."

With some members of the secondary struggling versus the Beavers, Erickson hinted that changes could be coming to this unit this week.

"Whoever plays can't continue to make the same mistakes," Erickson said. Max Tabach played pretty well last week, so he will play quite a bit more."

Ranked last in the country in turnovers is undoubtedly not helping ASU's cause as they try to snap this losing streak.

"That stat no matter the level of football has shown that if you're on the losing battle of turnovers then you're not going to overcome them and you're going to lose," Erickson acknowledged. "We turned it over 10 times in the last 2 games. You're taking possessions away and opportunities away.

"Our problem is not a physical problem but an execution problem. As you go through the red zone, you can't make mental mistakes like throwing it to the wrong place or having bad snaps. We're just not finishing the drives. There are things down there that we can do better and we are looking at that. We have to do the same things going in as we do coming out. That's our issue and that is why we have lost three games in a row."

Erickson doesn't see a running theme with the turnovers as a whole, but when it comes to the interceptions by quarterback Steven Threet the ASU head coach does notice a pattern.

"He (Threet) needs to stay within his reads and what we are teaching and if he does that then we will be fine," Erickson explained. "Sometimes quarterbacks, because they are so competitive, try to find another way in, as opposed to going through the progressions. His late interception he had a rush in his face and he threw it late. There are other issues too. We had the football on our own four or five-yard line the last possession of the game with a guy running down the middle all by himself, but we blew a blocking assignment and took a sack."

During the Oregon State game linebacker Vontaze Burfict was seen head butting Beavers' signal caller Ryan Katz, and was flagged for that infraction. Players and coaches were trying to calm Burfict down and get him off the field and the sophomore was very unruly throughout that process.

When asked if he thought his linebacker's behavior was out of control Erickson didn't agree with that assertion.

"His behavior is under control when he can control it," Erickson said. "He will go along for 58 minutes and somebody will shove him or hit him from behind and he reacts to it. He is reacting to things that are not important. So somebody blocks you or shoves you after the whistle – that's football.

"His personality is such that he reacts to things like that and he knows what he's got to do. He'll continue to get better at it. That's the only answer I have."

Erickson admitted that Burfict is being baited by opponents because of the ensuing reaction.

"I would bait him too," Erickson commented. "If you know a guy is going to react like that and you can get a 15-yard penalty or possibly get him out of the football game…he gets baited all the time. He gets baited more than any player I have ever been around.

"Like I said he has to pay attention to the things that are important. After he has done something it's total regret. He reacts to things for whatever reason, I'm not a psychologist, and as soon as he does he goes ‘man I shouldn't have done that.' So it's a reactionary thing more than anything."

Erickson added that he, as well as coaches Craig Bray and Trent Bray, had conversations with Burfict on this topic.

Up next for the maroon and gold is a road trip to Seattle where they will meet a Washington team that is coming off an emotional 32-31 win at USC scoring on a last second field goal.

Huskies' signal caller Jake Locker completed 24 of his 40 pass attempts for 310 yards and one touchdown versus the Trojans while rushing for 111 yards.

"He did what he does and he is one of the best in the country," Erickson remarked concerning Locker. "They ran the option a little bit more than they had earlier. They're getting the ball in his hands more as far as the run game is concerned. There is probably no better way to do that, since he is one of the best athletes around."

What makes Locker's performance even more remarkable is that it comes following a horrendous outing against Nebraska. In a 52-21 defeat the senior was just 4 of 20 for 71 yards one touchdown and two interceptions.

"That's not something I didn't expect after seeing the guy for four years," Erickson aid of Locker's resiliency. "He isn't what he is without being one of the biggest competitors around that I've ever seen. He finds ways to get things done. The difference between him and a lot of people is that he came back the next week and beat a great football team on the road. He took the game over himself. They have weapons on offense and he ran the ball more than he has been, which is a tremendous advantage for him.

"He is a warrior, like Tim Tebow was for Florida and that is the best comparison I can have for him. That's what he's all about."

On the injury front the Sun Devils could have up to four players who are unlikely to see action on Saturday. "Deveron Carr will be out for maybe three to four weeks with that shoulder that came out again," Erickson described. "They are looking at it and they are rehabbing it. He will probably need surgery, whether it is after the season or during. It is the same shoulder he hurt a year ago and it just kept coming out. Osahon Irabor will start and Alden Darby will move back to corner.

"Aaron Pflugrad has turf toe and I would be very surprised if he played this week. Not sure if Dan Knapp will be ready to go this week." Erickson added that running back Deantre Lewis is questionable with a shoulder strain injury suffered last Saturday.

Erickson doesn't think his squad has become demoralized, but rather disappointed after three consecutive losses.

"You get your head down a little bit when you lose three in a row like we did," Erickson commented. "The positive thing is that we are playing pretty well and we can see where we are at. Until we get that first win then the progress is just what it is. We are young, and if we were a senior group it would be a little more demoralizing. Being young, they can see the light at the end of the tunnel and they'll compete.

"We are playing better and faster but the bottom line is we have to win. We have seven football games left and we are capable of a good season. We have to keep improving and getting better and better."

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