Familiar faults haunt Sun Devils in loss

EUGENE, Ore. - In the press box at Autzen Stadium there was a demonstration of an ESPN 3D broadcast since the ASU-Oregon on Saturday night was televised using that medium. Yet, the manner in which the Sun Devils fell to Oregon 41-27, was vivid enough for its fans that it didn't require any special optical devices to conclude that once again ASU its own worst enemy in defeat.

Penalties, especially the personal foul variety, and mental mistakes were all the rage for Arizona State in 2010 and the biggest factor in their disappointing 6-6 record then. Up until the Oregon contest, the Sun Devils have generally kept those transgressions to a minimum or at very least didn't allow penalties to sabotage what has been a successful 2011 campaign so far.

That trend came to a screeching and unfortunate halt in the loss to the Ducks:

- Following a hit out of bounds penalty on ASU linebacker Vontaze Burfict the ball was placed on his team's 16-yard line and the ensuing play resulted in a 16-yard rushing touchdown by Oregon's running back DeAnthony Thomas.

- On a 3rd and 12 situation, Oregon signal caller Darron Thomas misfires his pass but a roughing the passer penalty on Sun Devil defensive lineman Bo Moos keeps the hosts drive alive and two plays later Darron Thomas connects with Lavasier Tuinei for a 28-yard score.

- Leading 17-14 late in the first half and marching deep into Oregon territory Osweiler completes a 12 yard pass to Gerell Robinson. Alas, the wide receiver was called after the catch for a personal foul apparently keening the Oregon defensive back covering him moving the ball back 15-yards. The next play results in an Osweiler interception which was returned for 50 yards no less and led to, you guessed, another Ducks score with 27 seconds left in the half.

Needless to say that the last play swung the momentum in Oregon's way going into the second half. While ASU's penalties in that period didn't necessarily result in points for the Ducks they did prevent the visitors from closing the gap.

A holding call on wide receiver Kevin Ozier nullified a Jamal Miles touchdown not allowing the Sun Devils to cut down the lead and it was probably only fitting that Osweiler's last interception of the game, with 42 seconds left in the contest, was a result of pass that should have been corralled in the end zone in the arms of Miles. That score would have at least have ASU lose by single digits qualifying the final score as a close loss.

Eight penalties for 95 yards was the final tally for ASU. Were some of them questionable? Sure they were. Yet, it's nonetheless these infractions are becoming all too common with the Sun Devils in recent years.

"We just have to watch the film and see where we can improve," said linebacker Shelly Lyons who was tied for the team-high of seven total tackles. "We saw everything we expected and saw on film. When you play Oregon you have to be good tacklers and disciplined in your gaps.

"The score doesn't mean anything. People will look at and think we got beat badly. Penalties are very frustrating. A few tempers were flaring out there on both sides. We had a few (penalties) and they had a few. We have to control those, especially when we play a team like Oregon."

Lyons' last sentence certainly rings true for the rest of ASU's season. On paper, the Sun Devils' next five games (three of them in Tempe) are contests they are more than likely to be favored in and are expected to come away victorious from. Easier said than done of course, but if achieved it secures ASU as the Pac-12 South champions.

The loss to Oregon may have only affected ASU's chances of hosting a Pac-12 championship game, but did it do something else?

Did it reveal the true identity of this Sun Devil squad? From here on out, will every victory be expected to be tainted with dreaded mental mistakes? Worse than that, does those shortcomings eventually catch up with ASU and lead to a costly loss that can affect the Pac-12 South race?

The Bye week is perfectly timed for the maroon and gold to not only help heal the wounded and take a much needed break after concluding the brutal part of its schedule. But it is also time for reflection on the good and the bad that the 2011 season has revealed to date.

The only positive thing about a mistake is that it gives you an opportunity to learn from it and better yourself.

ASU's 5-2 record thus far is no fluke. However, what we saw in Eugene has to be proven as an anomaly. That much has to manifest itself clear as day so the Sun Devil nation can ultimately wear its rose colored glasses radiating optimism after what should be a successful 2011 season.


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