Devils edged in error-filled game

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. It's no secret that ASU's win last week versus Missouri was not only full of miscues, but also evoked many unpleasant memories of close losses from the 2010 season. On Saturday night, the Sun Devils were once again their own worst enemy losing 17-14 to Illinois.

Where did Arizona State (2-1) shoot themselves in their foot? Sadly, there are many factors to choose from.

Quarterback Brock Osweiler threw for two interceptions, one of them in the red zone and lost a fumble in the fourth quarter that led to Illinois' (3-0) winning touchdown.

Kicker Alex Garoutte missed a 32-yard field goal which was the difference in the final score.

The offense gave up six sacks in the game and the team as a whole committed eight penalties for 91 yards.

"They did some different things," said ASU head coach Dennis Erickson regarding the Fighting Ilini team. "We didn't protect very well. It wasn't anything that we didn't know was coming. A lot of it was that there were times when we held the football when we needed to get it out of our hands. It's a combination of things."

The game could not have started in worst fashion for the Sun Devils. The offense went three and out, and on the ensuing Illinois series, defensive end Nduka Onyeali injured his knee and was out for the rest of the game (Erickson said that initial diagnosis wasn't a torn ACL and that further tests will be conducted on Monday). A 25-yard punt by Josh Hubner gave the hosts favorable field position as they scored on a one-yard run by Jason Ford.

ASU did answer with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Brock Osweiler to Gerell Robinson, but those were the only points the visitors would score until the 4th quarter. The Fighting Illini added a 20-yard field goal, but the ASU defense was able to pitch a shutout of their own until the fourth quarter. Yet, the aforementioned offensive miscues prevented ASU from tying the contest, let alone taking the lead.

In the third quarter a consecutive trio of three and outs by the ASU defense aren't capitalized by the offense, which finally scores on a 14-yard Osweiler run six seconds into the final period. Not only does another defensive three and out by the Sun Devil defense doesn't result in a score, but a crucial turnover, Osweiler's fumble, is committed which led to a 16-yard touchdown reception by A.J. Jenkins, and ultimately the final score of the game.

Osweiler completed 25 of 45 passes for 256 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Cameron Marshall, who missed large portions of the game due to an ankle injury, rushed for 69 yards on 13 carries. Robinson paced all receivers with 88 yards on eight catches and a touchdown. ASU safety Eddie Elder, who left the game late in the fourth quarter with an apparent concussion, had 10 total tackles.

The Sun Devils outgained the Fighting Ilini in offensive yards 362 to 240, but converted just one of three red zone opportunities.

True, this loss has no bearing on the Pac-12 standings, but next week's conference opener versus USC will naturally mark the beginning of the race for the Sun Devils in their quest for a Pac-12 South championship. However, there is no doubt that tonight's performance by the maroon and gold will not lead to an overload of optimism or confidence against a very formidable opponent, albeit being a home game.

Once again, ASU finds itself needing to bounce back from adversity and a frustrating defeat. Next week's contest could very well define the rest of the 2011 campaign and the immediate future of this program. Old habits are often hard to get rid off but for the Sun Devils there is no other option but make a performance such as tonight an aberration rather than a destructive trend.

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