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Excessive Penalties Return for Sun Devils

The Sun Devils loss to BYU Saturday night was marked by a staggering 16 penalties assessed.

For those whose favorite color is yellow, Saturday night's game between the Arizona State Sun Devils (2-1) and BYU Cougars (3-0) was pure joy.

Both teams caused 19 bright yellow flags to fly onto the grass for penalties that racked up 146 yards. Unfortunately for ASU, they were responsible for 16 penalty flags, eventually losing the Sun Devils 121 yards in the 27-17 loss to BYU.

“We can’t continue to function this way if we’re going to be a good football team,” Edwards said. “We have the makings of a good football team, but when you do this it’s not a good football team.”

It was a sloppy display in Provo, Utah. Ten different players were called for penalties ranging from intentional grounding to facemasks. But the majority of the penalty issues stemmed from an offense stifled by its first hostile crowd of the season.

“The crowd noise got to us a little bit," offensive coordinator Zak Hill said. "They weren’t able to hear Jayden’s clap and so we had to transition into a different form of snapping the football. They got to us a bit, rattled us a bit, and then it just compounded."

Cougars fans engorged LaVell Edwards Stadium with noise, leading to five false-start penalties for ASU. Of the 13 offensive penalties, five were false starts and they came at the worst times.

Following a defensive stop and down only four points early in the fourth quarter, ASU was shifting momentum. Although they were on their own 5-yard line, the Sun Devils offense appeared poised to strike. But the yellow flags came flying. On third-and-6, offensive lineman Henry Hattis was called for a facemask and on the next play, wide receiver Andre Johnson was called for a facemask. A third-and-6 turned into third-and-12, but quarterback Jayden Daniels managed to convert a first down.

Momentum shifted to the Sun Devils, but shifted back to BYU due to penalties. In the same drive, ASU committed two back-to-back false starts that stalled out the possession. In total, ASU committed two sets of back-to-back penalties and wasted nearly five minutes of clock. BYU answered back with a touchdown drive to seal the game.

“You can say it was loud, but we practiced in the bubble all week, made it loud,” Edwards said. “ We did everything we could do to make it loud but it didn't help. There was just way too many penalties."

The loss wasn't due only to the amount of yellow flags adorning a field, but when they were tossed. The Sun Devils offense had seven penalties called on second or third down. They saw second-and-6 turn into second-and-11 or third-and-6 turn into third-and-11.

With BYU leading 21-14, Arizona State had a successful drive that netted them three points with kicker Cristian Zendejas' 40-yard field goal. But there might have been a game-tying touchdown if not for the first of three back-to-back penalties. The offensive holding and false-start call pushed the offense to first-and-25. Unable to convert, ASU settled for the field goal.

“The discipline of our team is not very good and it starts with me. I’ve got to fix it. It’s my responsibility,” Edwards said.

In their three games, there have been 35 penalties assessed. Despite averaging nearly 12 penalties a game, ASU has found a way to manage the errors. In the season opener against Southern Utah, ASU committed 13 penalties for 135 yards. But they weren’t punished with a loss, instead winning 41-14.

“We’ve seen that for three weeks in a row now, so there have to be consequences. It has to be a reaction for these actions that’s happening on the field,” defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce said.

As Arizona State heads into conference play, the games will become harder and the penalties will be more impactful. ASU will return to the safety of its home field next week against the Colorado Buffaloes (1-2) who are coming off a 30-0 loss. The matchup may give Edwards the time needed to fix the influx of yellow flags.