Devils cannot overcome first half mishaps

STANFORD, Calif. – a multitude of errors as well as extremely poor play had Arizona State trailing 29-0 after the first half. The second stanza saw the Sun Devils outscore Stanford 28-13. But this isn't a case of the glass half empty or half full, but rather ASU overall failing to show up on their biggest stage thus far in 2013 as they were dominated by the Cardinal 42-28.

"I told our players of how proud I was," said Arizona State head coach Todd Graham, "how they battled and how they played and I apologized to them for how we got our team ready to play. We were obviously not ready to play today."

"Our first half was embarrassing. I apologized to our players. We (the coaching staff) let them down."

The first quarter could not have started worse for ASU (2-1, 0-1 Pac-12). Stanford (3-0, 1-0) missed a 51-yard field goal, but on the ensuing possession Taylor Kelly throws an ill-advised interception while seemingly trying to avoid a sack and the hosts don't squander their next opportunity to go up 7-0, an advantage they didn't relinquish the rest of the way.

The Cardinal went on to score on three of their next four possessions, and added two more points when a blocked Matt Haack punt went for a safety. The visitors went down to the locker room down 29-0, naturally dejected but ultimately resolved as well.

Marion Grice scored on a direct snap on ASU's first possession of the third quarter, and Sun Devil cornerback Robert Nelson intercepted Stanford's quarterback Kevin Hogan on the hosts' first drive of the second half. Yet, ASU turns the ball over on downs and later has a punt by Kelly blocked which Stanford capitalized for 10 more points.

Three touchdown passes from Kelly in the fourth quarter made the margin of loss a bit more respectable but not much more than that. Aside from miscues on both sides of the ball, special teams were a blatant Achilles heel for the Sun Devils today.

"Our special teams – unbelievable amount of mistakes," Graham commented. "We have 12 men on the field on a fourth down at the end. Inexcusable and it's my responsibility.

"We have a punt blocked, a New York punt blocked with our quarterback, we got 12 men on the field, two kickoffs ran back to midfield…you will have a hard time winning any games like that."

Kelly finished with 30-55 completions for 367 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Grice had 62 yards on 17 carries and a score. Jaelen Strong had a career games hauling in 12 receptions for 168 yards and a score. On defense, linebacker Chris Young led ASU with ten tackles.

If there is any silver lining to this loss, it is that this was arguably the toughest opponent ASU will face all season, and while it's a conference foe it isn't a Pac-12 South rival. If the Sun Devils don't let this loss, as disappointing it is, linger in the upcoming weeks, they still have a shot at achieving some of their 2013 goals.

"We have USC next week," Graham said, and to win the South you have to beat USC. We have to regroup; we have to get these mistakes corrected, because you will have a hard time winning any gams playing like that."

Jaelen Strong echoed the same sentiments.

"We're already off this game," Strong remarked. "We're already on USC right now. Like I said, we'll see them again, so it's not really this is upsetting, but at the same time we're already on to the next week and game planning for USC. That is the south game, and that's more important. You can't win the Pac 12 South without beating USC, so we have to beat USC."

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