Robinson confident Devils can bounce back

Last Saturday the Sun Devils were humbled on the road, losing their first game of the season to the Illini 17-14 in a contest full of mental mistakes. Despite coming up short and losing if very disappointing fashion, senior Gerell Robinson remains optimistic about what lies ahead and the potential for this Sun Devil team.

Robinson was one of the few bright spots for the Sun Devils offensively last Saturday, hauling in eight catches for 88 yards, one of which was a 21-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter, as he continues to be one of the primary receivers for quarterback Brock Osweiler.

"Last week I had a decent game, but also had a couple drops that I need to hold onto," Robinson admitted after practice on Tuesday. "I think as the season goes on I can be the go-to guy that Brock needs and these fans are looking for. When it comes to third and long, I'll be that guy."

Despite his efforts though, the Sun Devil offense sputtered and stalled for most of the evening, including late in the game when the team turned the ball over on downs with under two minutes left in regulation, erasing any chance of a dramatic comeback win.

"Well, we had our ups and downs," he said about the team's offensive execution. "We did some solid things but we shot ourselves in the foot with some turnovers and not completing everything; we just didn't play very well.

"Honestly, we know if we had played better, we would have smashed that team. But we're going to move on from there and get that ‘W' this week."

The Sun Devils arguably caused more harm to themselves than their opposition did, committing a number of senseless penalties, along with drive-ending turnovers and dropped catches.

"There were a lot of penalties, especially in crucial situations, and we had some drops and some turnovers," reflected Robinson. "You can't really expect to win when you've got those three things going on. We were just lucky to be down three with a chance to win at that point."

For the Sun Devils, their matchup with Illinois represented the classic "trap game" scenario - coming off a dramatic win over a nationally ranked Missouri team while also having a showdown with conference nemesis USC the following week - where often times a less focused team can overlook an opponent.

Robinson though insists that wasn't the case with this team and assures Sun Devil fans that won't be the case going forward.

"No one overlooked them, they just played a solid game," he said. "We didn't play very well, to be honest with you. That's a team where if we lined up, nine times out of ten , and we do what we're supposed to do, we win nine times.

"They just caught us on that one time. It's not about false confidence; we just didn't execute."

One thing that can't be disputed though is some of the re-occurring issues that continue to plague this team on a weekly basis, namely penalties, turnovers and special teams. Robinson remains steadfast in his belief that these are areas that he and his teammates can improve upon, but ultimately it's up to them to make it happen.

"In that past two to three years, we've beat ourselves more times than the opposition has beaten us," Robinson recalled. "More times than not, when we haven't won, if you look at the film, it's because we beat ourselves. So until this team decides if it really wants to be great and win games and do the things we're supposed to, we're going to keep struggling."

For the Sun Devils, a chance at redemption for last week's blunder presents itself this weekend as the USC Trojans visit Tempe. Not only will the Sun Devils have another opportunity at taking down a nationally ranked team at home, they'll also be getting their first shot at a division foe.

"This is our statement game," emphasized Robinson. "Last week was a statement game for Illinois but this will definitely tell us how our season will be. Despite what anybody says, the importance of this game outweighs all the others for us this year."

On Saturday, the Sun Devils will be in the unique position of trying to knock off a team that not one player on the current roster has defeated in their college careers. In fact, there's a whole legion of young Sun Devil fans across the Valley who will be hoping to see their beloved Devils finally break through against the Trojans, especially after having a near victory stolen from them last season in heartbreaking fashion.

"Last year we did a great job on offense against them," remarked Robinson. "We made a few mental miscues and it came down to being disciplined and doing what you're supposed to do. They did it and won by a point off something that hardly ever happens, but it did.

"But we've learned from it, and we're just going to keep doing what we're supposed to do. We'll be ready."

While you don't ever want to brush off a loss, last week's game statistically has very little effect on the ultimate team goal of becoming Pac-12 South champions this season. However, a second consecutive loss would be very deflating for this much-hyped team and its fan base, who's thirsting for a breakthrough after a tumultuous last three seasons. With stakes being higher than they've been in years for ASU, Robinson insists he's focused on the task at hand.

"I feel like this week is a must win," he said. "I'm not sure how everybody else feels about it, but to me, we absolutely have to win this game. We've got to gain some momentum going into the next couple games.

"We know what we did wrong last week, and it was more or less a fluke. We've already let that one go, so now it's time to focus on the one that really matters."

In order for the Sun Devils to take that next step, it's vital that they put all the pieces together. The talent is there for them to compete on the field, but Robinson says it's about being in sync.

"We've got to feed off each other," Robinson explained." We've had games where the offense is on and the defense is off and vice versa, but we still haven't had one where they're both on. When that happens, you'll see a top-tier team in the nation."

Unfortunately for the Sun Devils though, it looks as though they'll be without the services of sophomore defensive end Junior Onyeali, who suffered a tear to his meniscus in last week's game and will likely be out six weeks, if not longer. Robinson was defiant though as he pledged that his team has the fortitude to move on, even despite the mounting list of injured players for the Sun Devils.

"This team has a lot of perseverance and we've definitely had our fair share of injuries," Robinson said. "I'm not sure if we've had more than anybody else, but it sure seems like it, especially with a lot of our top players being down. It is what it is, but we're a band of brothers. At the end of the day, this is college football and everybody's got to step up. That's why you're on scholarship.

"If you're ready to play, then step in and play. If not, then get out of the way."

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