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November 9, 2011Perhaps overlooked due to the outcome, and in particularly the way in which the game, end was Arizona State's offensive stellar offensive line play in Saturday's 29-28 loss to UCLA.
With sophomore left tackle Evan Finkenberg back in the starting lineup after a month on the shelf with a knee injury, the group had what some believe was its best performance of the season.
"They gave us exactly what we prepared for and we love that," senior left guard Mike Marcisz said. "Our coaching staff does a great job preparing us as an o-line and an offense and even as a defense. They ran exactly what we thought they were going to run and we blocked it well and weren't surprised out there. They ran a few different blitzes but nothing we haven't seen before. We played really well and our proud of ourselves but we still lost so we have to get better."
With room to roam all night, junior running back Cameron Marshall finished with a career-best 168 rushing yards on 27 carries.
"That's as good as our offensive line has played run blocking," coach Dennis Erickson said. "Cameron (Marshall) had some great runs but he had a lot of holes to run into, too. If we can continue to do that in the next three football games, it can continue to help us. Having him healthy really makes a difference."
Junior quarterback Brock Osweiler, sacked just once in the game, was also extremely pleased with the effort from the group.
"I was very proud with how the guys played, especially the offensive line," Osweiler said. "I think that might have been their best game all year. From the running game to the passing game - I wasn't even touched. I didn't really feel people most of the night. So, I thought the offensive line played tremendously."
The key now, Marcisz said, is to forget about the painful result and maintain a sharp focus on the task ahead.
"It's never one person's fault," Marcisz said. "We're going to forget it. Even if we just won we're going to forget it. A loss, we're going to forget we just lost. A 1-0 mentality, that's our theme here. Just like a playoff. We have to win this game and go on the next week and the next week. Win this week, get the ball going and good things are going to happen for us."
The offensive line wasn't the only position that had a solid effort. On defense, ASU's safety group disrupted a touchdown pass and played assignment sound football for the majority of the game, junior Keelan Johnson said.
"Defensively I think we did an outstanding job for the most part later in the game, there were just a couple assignment errors by us, nothing really that they did," Johnson said. "That was about it. Overall our safety play was good. We were on the quarterback every play we needed to be on, we set the edge, made turnovers, as far as assignment-wise, we did what we needed to it."
In the second half, the defense held UCLA scoreless for 28 minutes bookended by two big plays by the Bruins that each led to touchdowns. On the second play from scrimmage after intermission, a double play action fake led junior cornerback Deveron Carr and senior safety Clint Floyd to crash down hard to defend a potential swing pass, but instead UCLA Nelson Rosario slipped behind them for a 78-yard touchdown reception. Ultimately, it may have been more of a case of bad luck than a clear-cut mistake.
"We looked at it on film and actually by our rules, both of our guys were right," Johnson said. "It was the way they did it that screwed with our reads and the way we do our technique. It was a lazy route by the No. 2 receiver. By rule, the corner is supposed to jump it but the way he ran it, he was supposed to be a safety on the rob but we kind of just stick with our eyes."
On the third-and-29 that has been much discussed, Johnson said they were in press coverage in an effort to re-route the receivers thereby delaying the play from unfolding and allowing the defense to stay in front. But that didn't work on Rosario and UCLA's route combination led to the safety on his side of the field being occupied by a tight end, which caused sophomore cornerback Alden Darby to be isolated on the play.
Erickson said Monday, if they had to do it over again, they probably would have been in a different coverage shell on the play.
"Emotionally that was a tough loss to take for what we're striving for," Johnson said. "I saw a lot of guys frustrated, throwing helmets around, thinking they could have done better in the game. But I don't really think that will affect how we play now. We've got to just learn from our mistakes, put that game behind us, focus on Washington State and do what we've got to do."