"I just think it was a lack of focus," said cornerback Deveron Carr after practice on Tuesday. "We're a great defense. We have great athletes and most of the time we do have great focus, but once again I feel like we lacked energy and that championship attitude Saturday and it took a turn for the worst for us."
The Sun Devil defense went into the game as the conference's best in third downs defended, allowing their opponents to convert only 29% of the time. However, the Bruins were able to convert on 5 of their 12 attempts, none bigger than late in the 4th quarter when UCLA was backed up into a 3rd & 29 predicament.
"Honestly, I just feel like those guys out-efforted us," admitted Carr. "I mean, it was 3rd and 29...there's nobody to blame, we just got out-efforted, flat out. We didn't play like we were supposed to. We weren't aggressive enough, we weren't ourselves. On that particular play, we should have been more aggressive, but we weren't, and it led to a touchdown."
That touchdown, which later occurred on a Derrick Coleman one yard run with just 49 seconds left in the game proved to be the difference after Sun Devil kicker Alex Garoutte's last second field goal attempt fell short.
Head coach Dennis Erickson called the loss "gut-wrenching." Sun Devil fans no doubt felt that same pain. It was an opportunity squandered, but with three games left on the schedule, the team still has a very realistic chance at accomplishing many of its goals for the season if the team can learn from its mistakes.
"Yeah, we're upset," lamented Carr. "But at the same time, we embrace that loss with a championship attitude and I feel like today we came out and practiced hard. I don't feel like we left the game with our heads down. We left the game just knowing that when you come in and underestimate someone and you lack energy as a whole football team, you can be beat, even if you're better.
"So, I feel like we know what we did wrong and this week in practice, we're (going) to capitalize off it."
Carr insisted the Sun Devils' performance last Saturday wasn't a result of the team's practice habits.
"I wouldn't say that necessarily affected us, because I feel like we practiced hard last week," Carr stated. "I just feel like the way we traveled was a little standoffish for a championship caliber team. You know, we were telling jokes instead of treating it like a business trip, we were more-so treating it like we were on vacation.
"I feel like we were focused and gave the effort in practice last week, but when it was time to travel, we just lost it. It wasn't the way we practiced or our focus out here Tuesday through Thursday, I feel like it was Friday and Saturday that killed us. And it was living proof Saturday night that something went wrong and it cost us. Everybody on the defense and everybody on the offense knows what happened, now it's on us to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Carr remarked that he felt that the players, rather than the coaches, are responsible for the mindset they had over the weekend.
"The coaches can't really tell us anything, we're grown men," Carr said. "We're here to be taught, but the coaches can't teach us how to act on a business trip. You know? Or how to treat the game. We've got to have that within ourselves. We've got to have it instilled in ourselves to play like champions and travel like champions.
"If you don't travel like champions, or play like champions, then you're going to take a loss. And that's what happened to us."
For the cornerback and his teammates, the first step to getting past last weekend's debacle is approaching the new week with a refreshed mentality and a better focus on what's still at stake. Though disappointment may still linger, the opportunity to prosper awaits the team if they can find their resolve.
"Like I said, that loss left a bad taste in our mouth and I don't think anybody liked the way that tasted," Carr confessed, "so I feel like this week we've come in with a whole different attitude and mindset. All it takes is film study, which is focus, and when you come to practice, effort. 100 percent effort and focus out here, that's what it takes."
With a chance to start another winning streak this weekend, the Sun Devils have started their preparation for Washington State. While the Cougars may be on a current five- game losing streak, Carr is well aware of their talent and the challenge the Sun Devils face.
"So far on tape, I feel like they're just as good as anybody else in the Pac-12," he shared. "They don't look like they lack focus or effort. Technique-wise, they look like the best set of receivers we've faced all year. From what I see from their offense, they're just as good as anyone else in this conference. If you come out their lacking the right attitude, underestimating those guys, you might go home with a sour face."
ASU is only 1-3 on the road this year, but has won their last three meetings in Pullman, Wash. However, that task won't be easy this time, as the two teams will square off for the first time together under the lights, with an 8:30 kickoff time (AZ time). Adding to the task could be some inclement weather conditions, something the desert climate Sun Devils aren't accustomed to playing in.
"It'll be cold, but I believe if you play fast and don't think about it being cold and try to warm your body up, you'll be alright," Carr explained. "Look, just make big plays, play fast and swarm to the ball, and you'll forget about it being cold."