"It just got to the end where we couldn't make a play and they made a play," said Head Coach Dennis Erickson. "This is a tough loss, one of the harder ones I have been around. We felt that we could win this football game and we came in with that attitude and to lose it at the end is very difficult."
Following what seems to be a season long trend; the Sun Devils got off to a sluggish start on both sides of the ball and found themselves down 14-0 in the first quarter. Nonetheless, the ASU defense held the visitors to just three field goals the rest of the way, with the last one unfortunately being the deciding score.
Cal's heralded rushing attack was held to just 57 yards net rushing, with their star Jahvid Best gaining just 63 yards on the day.
"(The defense) made a lot of plays that we didn't take advantage of offensively," Erickson noted. "I thought our defense played well up until the end. You have to give (Cal) credit also. They made plays when they had to."
ASU tied up the score at 14 apiece in the second quarter, with two passing touchdowns. One from Samson Szakacsy to Jovon Williams (career firsts for both players) and one from Danny Sullivan to Kyle Williams for 80 yards (career bests for both players).
Conversely, The Devils' rushing attack struggled in the first half and collected just 16 yards. Starter Dimitri Nance played just one series due to a shoulder injury from last week, and after Ryan Bass fumbled at the 2-yard line the sophomore was benched for the duration of the game after gaining just nine yards.
True freshman Cameron Marshall paced his teammates with 71 yards on 16 carries and scored his team's last touchdown of the game early in the fourth quarter.
"I thought he played very well for a young kid," Erickson stated. "He's a tough runner and he's gonna get better and better all the time."
As injuries mounted at wide receiver, ASU went under center in two-tight end sets for long stretches in the second half. Consequently, they more than quadrupled their first half output on the ground, thanks to Marshall, and rushed for 66 yards.
"We didn't have any receivers," Erickson explained. "It (the alignment) worked good, but we lose T.J. (Simpson) early. Kyle (Williams) was hurt off and on. Kerry (Taylor) didn't play and Gerell (Robinson) was hurt.
"I thought we ran the ball well extremely with it. We moved the ball pretty well with (alignment) in the end."
Not only was Erickson upset with his squad's three turnovers today, but also with the fact that his offense isn't capitalizing on its opponents' mistakes. "We have become more accountable offensively," Erickson said. "We have to get something when we get turnovers like that," he said. "They turned it over two, three times and we have to get points. We haven't been able to do that."
Once again several penalties, 11 for 123 yards to be exact, hurt the maroon and gold all through the contest.
An offensive pass inference by Kyle Williams negated a first down.
"There are some we just had in the game itself," Erickson remarked. "Like a holding call…we can deal with those. The first one (Guy's penalty) that's ridiculous. It's stupid. Pretty soon it's going to boil down to if you do it you won't play, if it's dumb type thing like that. Those are the ones that make me furious."
Sullivan ended the day 16 of 29 for 244 yards with one touchdown, and two interceptions. With just a handful of seconds left in the game the senior tried to throw a ‘Hail Mary' pass and not only was he unable to evade the defense's pressure to throw the ball, but he was called for intentional grounding and the offensive line was called for holding.
"It's close, we talked about that," Erickson said of the last play. "We would have to throw the ball 15, 20 yards to get in position for (Thomas Weber) to kick a field goal. We just didn't feel that he could get back, get the ball off and have any time left to kick it."
The Sun devil skipper admitted that naturally his team's emotional state is not a good one, and that they have no choice but to try and bounce back from this game.
"We got to take a day, think about it and when we come back to work on Tuesday we have to get ready for USC," Erickson said. "That's all there is to it. Mentally, we are all drained. When we lose a game like that, you just have to let it settle in, sit back and fight through it next week, and we'll do that."