Saturday’s loss to USC was one that saw the defense bounce back after a demoralizing first quarter.
The Sun Devils (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) gave up 28 first quarter points to the Trojans. After the explosive first quarter, they were held to three points for the rest of the game.
Defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales knows the two plays that ended up being the difference in the game
“Two plays, the 58-yard touchdown with a blown assignment in the flat, and the 95-yard touchdown in cover 2 should be impossible,” Gonzales said. “That’s the difference in the game.”
Gonzales broken down the two sequences where the Trojans exploited ASU.
“The 95-yard play, the first down and second down was great. On third down, we are in perfect position,” Gonzales said. “The Tillman should be running to make that ball thrown high, and we have two deep safeties that are ought to either knock that ball down or intercept it.”
In the drive before that, freshman running back Kenan Christon was all alone on the left side of the field. Freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis found him, and the rest speaks for itself as the freshman running back broke tackles and scored the 58-yard touchdown.
“We got them covered underneath and they dump it out to the back,” said Gonzales recalling the play. “We should have a-flat defender out there to cover him. We were playing some matchup zone.”
The two key plays, share one thing in common: third down. Since Pac-12 play began against Colorado, the Sun Devils have given up key third down plays that have kept drives alive and it has given opposing offense’s points on the scoreboard
“Last year was the third quarter,” Gonzales said. “This year, it wasn’t an issue in the first three games, and then Colorado we give up the third and fourteen where we are missing an assignment coverage on the back which allowed the drive to continue.”
Gonzales also added that head coach Herm Edwards’ message in the locker room at halftime was a challenge. He asked if his guys were excited to play this game. He reiterated that when they play four a full quarters of strong football, they are a good football team.
Edwards mentioned that the players didn't have their heads down after being down 28-13. The offense moved the ball after the slow start in the first quarter, and Edwards knew that the defense needed to step up if his team wanted a comeback.
“Defensively, now we got to play a lot better, and I thought they played pretty good in the second half. They got the one field goal,” Edwards said of his team’s improved effort in the second half.
Although the defense might have held USC to three points, Gonzales wants to get his group off on a hot start in the future. It’s been a recurring issue for the past two games, dating back to ASU’s slow first half against UCLA, too.
“We got to start better so that we can get a three and out to start the game and give the offense the ball,” Gonzales said. “We are differing so that we can go on defense. I want to go on defense first but the difference in the game is those two play scores. We got to eliminate those. That’s how teams like that beat you, that’s how they beat Utah.”
The team as a whole is young, and on the defensive side, Gonzales wants to make sure they fix their mistakes.
As for the growing frustration around the fan base, Gonzales hears the voices, and he is giving a promise. But first, the defense, and the Sun Devils are looking to get the train back on the tracks.
“I promise you, show up like you did today and we will build a special program here in Tempe, what we had back when Kush was here,” Gonzales said. “It's possible...And the guys in the locker room are the reason. Thats what we have got to continue to build on.”