The Arizona State Sun Devils were trying to put back-to-back quality wins together and really announce their arrival as a serious team to consider on the national landscape. They took on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Dallas with a great opportunity to put them over the top and catapult them into the conversation as a team with a shot at punching their ticket to Pasadena at the end of the season. ASU fell short at the end of the game, however, as turnovers ruined any shot the Devils had at taking care of business.
On Saturday, Notre Dame benefited from three ASU turnovers to take control of the game in the second half and ultimately hold off a late rally. Taylor Kelly threw two interceptions and Arizona State fumbled once which set up the Irish for scoring opportunities early and iced the game late. Those turnovers erased a very solid effort from Kelly, who threw for 362 yards and three touchdowns on 33 of 47 passing, and wide receiver Jaelen Strong who caught eight passes in the game for 136 yards with a touchdown as he continues to emerge as one of the strongest pass catchers in the Pac 12.
But ultimately, Arizona State was undone by their own mistakes. It’s the same story that has hurt this team for over a season now in the Todd Graham era in Tempe. When ASU turns the ball over, they lose the game. In the 2012 season, Arizona State didn’t win a single game that Kelly threw an interception in while winning every game where his stat sheet was clean. That’s a pretty striking split that underlines the utter importance of ball control for this team.
Graham knows that his team has to be better at protecting the football. The turnover battle is the game within the game that ASU can’t afford to lose if they hope to get wins and move closer to where they want to be as a team in contending for a Pac 12 title. Can they get the ship righted now that they enter the meat of their conference schedule?