SALT LAKE CITY — It was a cold and rainy night in Salt Lake City on Saturday. Maybe not for the locals, but for the Arizona State Sun Devils faithful and the Sun Devil offense, it was a frigid atmosphere with little movement to keep themselves warm.
The Sun Devils' special teams performance and the defense's ability to limit Utah running back Devontae Booker for a majority of the game kept ASU in the game against the No. 4 Utah Utes until the fourth quarter. However, a few bad punts, some breakout plays from Booker, and a costly fumble later, the game slipped away from Arizona State.
The Sun Devils ultimately lost 34-18.
"The difference in the game, I think, was that set of downs where we fielded the ball inside our five and had the short punt out of bounds," Arizona State coach Todd Graham said. "That hurt us and then they scored on the third down play and then the turnover on the read zone, that was the difference in the game. You look at the game, we couldn't run the ball and they couldn't either."
Through the first two quarters, Arizona State's offense netted 91 total yards and were only 3-of-8 on their third down conversions. Even with little firepower from the offense, the score was a manageable 14-10 Utah lead at the half.
"It's frustrating and I think [Mike Norvell] did a good job making halftime adjustments because we came out and were able to move the ball and we did some good things," Graham said. "You're not going to consistently score points if you can't run the football and we had it there, we missed quite a few and had some misreads and some things like that."
Even though Arizona State's passing offense and Mike Bercovici moved the ball better in the second half throwing for 191 yards. The running game, however, faltered with -25 yards and finished the game with just 15 yards. The lack of a rushing attack, costly turnovers, and troubling field position was too much for the Devils to overcome in the fourth quarter.
ASU now gets a much needed bye week before hosting Oregon.
For Norvell and the offense, it's a time to get back to the drawing board and a chance to heal up.
"It's all about fundamentals," Bercovici said. "It's the little things: exchanges, lining up properly, not having penalties. It's little things like that we can focus on and evaluate from the last games that we've been playing. We're trying to get better every single week and obviously, we're going to learn from these things and collectively, as a team, we'll get better."
"It's about going back to work...Obviously, anytime we are midway through the season there's going to be times when we have to make sure we get everybody healthy, get everybody back from the little bumps and bruises that they have," Norvell said. "We just have to go to work and everyday continue to get better.
"We've got to figure out ways to make sure we are owning the football and not turning the ball over," Norvell added. "Then obviously making the most out of our opportunities."
Arizona State will now need to win out and for the Utes to lose for any chance at getting to the Pac 12 Championship Game, as it no longer controls its destiny.
The Devils' next game against the Oregon Ducks is on October 29, a Thursday night game slated for a 7:30 kickoff on ESPN.
That gives Norvell, Bercovici and the Arizona State offense 11 days to solve their offensive woes.