Losing experience can serve team well

Whether you call the Illinois contest a ‘trap game' or attach a similar adjective to it, suffice to say that the Sun Devils didn't prepare as well as they could, let alone perform at an adequate level on that day. Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone is cognizant of his group's shortcomings in that game but feels that the 17-14 loss can benefit the team starting this week versus USC.

"I don't care who you are playing," Mazzone said. "If you are going to have penalties, turn the ball over in the red zone and do those types of things – you will a hard time winning especially on the road. We didn't play very well but the good thing is that this was part of the learning experiences of any football team.

"I probably should have run the ball more and I didn't. We got a little inpatient offensively because we think we should score 20 points a quarter and that's probably why we were pressing a little more at the end. I don't think there is any issue here other than if you make mistakes it's hard to come out a winner."

In the first two games of the season, both wins, quarterback Brock Osweiler preformed like a well-oiled machine. Last Saturday was a performance the junior would rather soon forget as he threw for two interceptions, held on the ball longer than needed leading to some of the six sacks he suffered and overall didn't display the poise and decision making that seemed to be a staple of his play.

Having said all that, Mazzone see the signal caller's showing as a valuable learning experience for Osweiler particularly in a road environment.

"We can send the scout team at him, watch film but there is no better coach in the world than experience," Mazzone explained. "Sometime we forget that this was his fifth start. Like we all do, he's going through some growing pains and that was a great experience for him, if he learns from it. He's a very sharp kid so I think he did learn from it."

ASU's offensive coordinator added that it wasn't only Osweiler who stands to benefit for their struggles against Illinois.

"Sometimes you have to go through a little valley every now and then to if you want to get to the peak," Mazzone declared. "Brock learned lot in the game. I learned a lot in that game. Our receivers were thinking that they were pretty good and now they understand that every week is a new game and you can't just show up, turn it over, have penalties and think that you will win football games.

"That is a positive that in a long run will make us a better football team."

The mental preparation in the days leading to a game is just as important as the physical planning and Mazzone confessed that this is another area where last week's loss was an invaluable education for the Sun Devils.

"Last week it did take us a few days to get down from the high from the Missouri game," Mazzone admitted, "because that was a great game and then we have to go on the road. I'm not making excuses because we played bad, but I think this game was a wakeup call that we can't just show up, put your pads on and expect to beat somebody. Especially when you go on the road and play a pretty good team in Illinois.

"Would I play them ten times in a row? I would start playing them now and beat them ten times in a row. But we don't get that opportunity so we take what we learned and move on to the next game."

The schedule certainly doesn't get easier for the maroon and gold as they open Pac-12 play hosting USC. From his perspective, Mazzone expects to see a Trojan defense that this season is as formidable as ever.

"Very talented group, fast, big and runs to the football," Mazzone described. "It's going to be a hell of a challenge for us. After last week our kids are focused and know how hard they have to work for us to be successful this week.

"If you don't being the same amount of intensity to the game as the other (team) does it's a hard game to win."

Losses can usually cause knee jerk reactions for a coaching staff and force them to dramatically revamp their approach and schemes. However, Mazzone knows what has brought his offense this far and doesn't plan to implement wholesale changes by any means.

"We are going to play at the same pace we play, run the same plays we do," Mazzone said, "we are not going to reinvent the wheel. Every now and then you get kicked in the shin, but those kids were good enough the week before to score enough points to win and have had success doing what we're doing."

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