Well, last night was obviously disappointing. The offense didn't play well. The defense didn't play well. Even the special teams didn't play well except for the 53-yard field goal by Ka'imi Fairbairn to end the first half.
Let's take a look at what the coaches and players had to say after last night's loss.
One thing the team did do well was fighting until the end. On the team's effort, Coach Mora said.
One thing I do appreciate about our team is they have tremendous heart and tremendous fight, but that wasn't enough tonight. We fell short.
Well, yeah. That entire statement is kind of obvious. The team certainly never quit, but, at the same time, ASU pretty much had their way with us. When ASU was on defense, they controlled the line of scrimmage and shut down Paul Perkins. When they were on offense, their rushing game looked amazing.
Talking about the defense, Mora seemed to think the defense played well when he said:
Our defense actually played well for most of the game. I think that as the game went on, we had some struggles.
Personally, I find this statement by Coach Mora somewhat peculiar and I think that, after he watches the game film, he may change his mind.
What I saw from our defense was the same thing we saw last week against Arizona.
There were a lot of missed tackles. And, in fact, I also think there was a lack of effort in tackling at times. For some reason, Randall Goforth, in particular, seemed to unable to tackle ASU's players. It looked like he would just try to hit them hard hoping they would go down. At times, it appeared like he was even trying to wrap his arms around ASU ball carriers.
On the topic of injuries, Mora admitted that the team has been affected by the injury bug. He said:
You don't like to blame injuries for performance, but the fact that you've lost three quality starters and some of the best players in the country, that's going to affect you. Myles' backup Jayon Brown didn't play tonight. Marcus Rios spent three nights in the hospital and met us at the hotel last night and tried to give it a go tonight. So, we're a few men down, but we're not going to ever try to allow that to enter into the equation as an excuse. You just gotta find a way to get it done. And, that's going to be our attitude moving forward. There's no doubt that when your starting corner doesn't practice all week because he's in the hospital getting an IV drip for three nights, it's going to have its consequences. And, unfortunately, those things have added up on us, but we've got to find a way to move through it. And, we will. These are high character, tough, competitive young men and they'll keep fighting.
So, that explains why Rios was missing. That brings the total number of missing starters on defense to four. You just cannot expect to win football games when four of your eleven starters cannot play and one of those guys backups doesn't play either. It isn't a realistic expectation and, at this point, I expect to see us struggle on defense for the remainder of the season.
Next, there is Noel Mazzone whose playcalling was downright awful again last night. Mazzone said:
When you go three and fourteen on third downs, it's tough to win football games.
If it sounds like he is disappointed with the offense's execution, he should probably look in the mirror to find out how the team ended up in that position.
This is why his playcalling is suspect. By his own admission in the past, he continually calls the same 4 or 5 plays. And it was visible last night because the offense didn't work. Sure, Rosen needs to complete some of the passes his missed, but, ultimately, it's Mazzone's responsibility for effective play calling.
Against BYU, at halftime, he made the necessary adjustments to allow Rosen to manage the game. Last night, he didn't.
Discussing what ASU was doing on defense, Mazzone added:
They took the run out of the game for us....That's kind of our comfort zone and Paul's kind of our comfort zone and being able to run the football and they weren't going to let us do that.
But, yet, Mazzone kept calling runs up the middle despite the fact that the O line was being manhandled by the ASU defense.
When the offense finally started moving the ball on the ground late in the game, it was because Perkins was getting to the outside and making the most of it. So, the onus is on Mazzone to make better adjustments and call plays which will be more effective.
He also needs to tell Rosen that he needs to keep the ball and run a little more. That will keep the defense from keying on Perkins all the time. Rosen didn't keep it once all night last night.
In discussing his play selection, Mazzone admitted:
I've got to do a better job of maybe protecting our running game a little bit more than I did tonight and not be so stubborn and keep trying to force the issue on the run game sometimes.
That would be the understatement of the year. Mazzone showed again last night that he doesn't have a creative bone in his body. His play selection was horrible. Period. End of story.
Meanwhile, Tom Bradley refused to blame injuries for the performance of the defense. He said:
Excuses are for losers. So, we're just going to keep fighting and get better. We've got guys in there that are capable of playing better. We will get better. So, I don't use [injuries] as an excuse. It's part of the game. Everybody goes through that. We have to learn to battle through it and do a better job.
You have to love Bradley's optimism here. It is certainly accurate that the loss of more than a third of your defensive starters is going to have an effect, but Bradley refuses to blame that or use it as an excuse. Well, now, he's got a few extra days before Stanford to continue getting the team back to basics.
One of Bradley's tendencies that I like a lot about him is that he looks at what he's doing first in order to help the team get better. Bradley said:
I've always looked in the mirror first, not out the window. So, I look at myself and then go from there and see what we can do better to help these guys be in a better position to win.
At this particular point, I think the only thing which may help our defense get better is time. In the short-term, time is needed to help the entire defense get better at tackling. In the long-term, Eddie Vanderdoes, Myles Jack and Fabian Moreau will heal and become stronger than before.
Bradley acknowledged that the defense had issues last night when he admitted:
We had too many missed tackles and fundamental things we've got to do a better job on.
I'm glad to hear Bradley say this because it's true. I hope they take plenty of time to work on this in practice this week because, if they don't, Stanford will beat us. Again.
Josh Rosen, Jake Brendel, Jordan Payton, Isaako Saviinaea and Kenny Young all spoke with the media too. Here's what they had to say.