Costly penalties hurt ASU in loss to USC

Arizona State was penalized five times Saturday night against USC, but all five penalties cost ASU 15 yards.

Under Todd Graham's direction, Arizona State has routinely finished as one of the nation's least penalized teams. 

The Sun Devils have been on par with some of the nation's most disciplined programs in recent years, namely military academies like Navy and Army. However, on Saturday against USC, the Sun Devils committed five separate 15-yard penalties that cost ASU 75 yards in total penalties.

When asked about the penalties on Tuesday, Graham indicated he thought some of the penalties were questionable judgement calls, but did say a late hit out of bounds by ASU senior cornerback De'Chavon Hayes was a frustrating error.

"I'm not one to ever do that but some of that was pretty tough," Graham said. "I think one of them was very undisciplined, and it wasn't even a hit out of bounds, it was just a little extra shove at the end that just, that might be the only one we've had in five years like that, so that's a lack of discipline. Our standard is pretty high I guess."

Four of ASU's five penalties against the Trojans were called against the Sun Devils' defense, which committed three pass interference penalties. Two of the pass interference flags were thrown when sophomore cornerback Kareem Orr was in coverage against USC receivers, and Graham said the Sun Devils need to do a better job with their discipline in the defensive backfield.

"Defensively, we've had a facemask one week but the PIs (pass interferences) have been the issue," Graham said. "Obviously those are subjective but we've got to be more disciplined there, we've had too many PIs, that's something we're working hard on. Do I think we're playing undisciplined? No. When it comes to penalties, no, I don't."

ASU's lone offensive penalty came in the second quarter when the game began to slip away from the Sun Devils. With USC pulling away and ASU needing points, junior running back Demario Richard was called for a chop block in the backfield as he was racing over to protect against a blitzing linebacker.

Richard hit the Trojans' linebacker low, while sophomore left guard Sam Jones started to engage in an above-the-waist block. Immediately after Richard and Jones executed their block, a flag for a high-low, chop block penalty came flying in.

"The illegal chop block, it was one of those deals where our running back was actually protecting the other side, was trying to come back to the other side, they kind of got there simultaneously and you've got to stay up high on our grass," Graham said. "That was a really costly penalty so that one was tough. We only had one penalty on offense so we played, offensively, penalty-wise, we've been really good, probably the best year we've had. To be in that environment too and have no procedure penalties is really good."

Graham acknowledged penalties hurt the Sun Devils against the Trojans, who committed seven penalties for 68 yards against ASU. 

Before the season, Graham said youth and inexperience at certain position groups may cost the Sun Devils a few more penalties than they have been accustomed to during his tenure as head coach, so overall, he's pleased with the discipline ASU has demonstrated through its first five contests.

"From an assignment standpoint, we're a young team in places, in critical places. Obviously we have a new quarterback, we could have a new quarterback this week, that's always a challenge, young offensive line, and a young secondary. And in those areas where we're young, we're making too many mistakes."

News and notes 

  • Sophomore quarterback Manny Wilkins jogged lightly through warmups Tuesday and participated in individual drills with the quarterbacks. Wilkins jogged with a noticeable limp, but looked much further along than expected for a player who needed crutches on Saturday night. Graham said after practice Wilkins is "questionable to doubtful" for Saturday's game.
  • Junior linebacker Christian Sam was lightly jogging through the warmup line and then went over to Muscle Beach during position drills. Sam has not played since ASU's season opener against Northern Arizona.
  • Richard went through all drills normally Tuesday. Richard sat out during the second half of Saturday's contest against USC.
  • Senior defensive tackle Viliami Latu participated in all drills normally after missing Saturday's game against USC with a knee injury. Latu wore a brace on his left knee at practice last week.
  • Sophomore tight end Thomas Hudson practiced with the defensive ends and pass rushers in a gold scout team jersey. Hudson has played tight end through his first season-plus with ASU's program.
  • Sophomore defensive back Tyler Whiley wore a club-like cast on his right arm that also covered his thumb at practice Tuesday, but Whiley participated normally in all drills. 

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