With the offense struggling to find a rhythm in the passing game, the defense needed to step up big and sure enough they did. Stanford came into tonight's game averaging over 42 points a game, led by redshirt sophomore Andrew Luck, and aside from a few amazing plays both with his arm and his legs, the Sun Devil defense did what they needed to do, holding the potential number one pick in next years' NFL draft without a touchdown pass.
"I thought defensively we played extremely well against an awfully good offensive football team and stopped the running game and put a lot of pressure on Luck," Erickson pointed out. "It boils down to things that have hurt us all year: turnovers, missing a kick, a penalty. Those are the things that jump out.
"That's what [Luck] is all about. He's a big time quarterback and big time quarterbacks make plays at the end of games to win it, and that's what he did. He made a lot of great throws, probably that run that he made there at the end where he got 10 or 15 yards or whatever it was, it shows you what kind of a player he is."
The Sun Devils had seven drives ending in punts, five of which were three-and-outs with the other two lasting a whopping four plays apiece. Throw in the fumble at the goal line by quarterback Steven Threet, and the interception, and the Sun Devil offense didn't do much to spell the defense.
"Offensively we didn't play very well," Erickson stated bluntly. "We weren't very consistent. You have a chance to go ahead and get in the end zone there in the second quarter and we end up fumbling on the one-foot line. It's kind of how it's been all the time when we lose these close games and make a mistake like that. It was a new one, missing an extra point as opposed to the other aspect of it."
Flagged for a phantom facemask at the most inopportune time and a dead-ball foul to follow, sophomore middle-linebacker Vontaze Burfict once again (while warranted or not) came up with key personal foul penalties at a time when ASU needed to get stops.
Coach Erickson said it felt like "déjà vu" after the game, and even in disagreement on the calls was not going to point the finger at the refs as there were still "opportunities," that weren't taken advantage of.
To the credit of the team and players, this team has not quit all season when it would be so easy to hang their heads. Countless times this season the pride of this team has been tested, and while the mental mistakes have proven costly on the field, enough can't be said about their ability to fight hard every week as it seems nothing has or will go right.
Even with the mistakes, the demeanor on the sideline was never one of defeat.
"I didn't feel that," Erickson said adamantly. "I didn't at all. I felt like to the end we thought we were going to win that game and that's how we played. We just didn't take advantage of things we needed to take advantage of. I don't think it's a feeling at all, I think it's a here you are and you get to a point and have a chance to win it."