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ASU defense making communication key after ‘catastrophic errors’ rear their ugly head again

by Mitchell Gladstone | September 21, 2022 at 7:16 a.m.
Footballs are shown before the start of a game in this Sept. 1, 2011, file photo. (AP/Andy King)

JONESBORO -- In a game with 10 combined touchdowns and no shortage of late-game drama, it's likely a relatively simple completion over the middle gets cut from the highlight packages.

But Memphis' fourth-down conversion with just under three minutes to play in Saturday's 44-32 victory over Arkansas State is a clip that is being closely examined in the Red Wolves' meetings this week.

"When you get a team in the deep end of the pool, you've got to finish it, and we weren't able to finish it," Coach Butch Jones said at his news conference Tuesday. "We had run that same call 17 other times, and I don't know if the moment was too big. That's all part of the learning curve."

Sandwiched between the high of running back Johnnie Lang's go-ahead touchdown and the low of the Red Wolves' disastrous fourth-down sequence, Tigers tight end Caden Prieskorn sprinted from behind the line of scrimmage, squatted down in the middle of the field, hauled in a pass from quarterback Seth Henigan and then picked up another 9 yards to complete the 17-yard, fourth-and 6 reception.

Three plays later, running back Jevyon Ducker went up the middle for a 39-yard touchdown to give Memphis a 37-32 lead.

Had Prieskorn not been so wide open, the Tigers might not have extended their drive. Instead, ASU could've been at the Memphis 29-yard-line with a 32-31 advantage, needing no more than a first down or two to put the game away.

The issue, Jones explained Saturday night and again Tuesday was communication.

"All the big plays that occurred were [because of] a lack of communication," Jones said. "A part of communication is the ability to process quickly. In the game of football, it's about processing information very, very quickly, and then being physical and violent."

On Prieskorn's reception, two Red Wolfes began the play in the area where Prieskorn finished. Middle linebacker Jordan Carmouche went to his right to pick up a crossing route and outside linebacker Melique Straker went left, looking to help out on a receiver that was already being picked up by a safety.

The vacated space made for a straightforward pitch-and-catch, and in the seconds after the play, Carmouche and Straker looked at one another as if to figure out how the error had happened.

Communication is a point Jones has always stressed, and its importance is magnified with a defensive group that is still attempting to jell. Although ASU's base defense has featured the same 11 players in each of its first three games, just five were starters in last season's finale.

"If we mess up and don't get a coverage communicated or don't get a game up front communicated ... we're not just accepting that as, 'Oh, he messed up," defensive tackle T.W. Ayers said. "We're holding each other to a standard that that's not alright and we have to get that sort of thing corrected."

After a defeat in which the so-termed "catastrophic errors" that incessantly plagued the 2021 Red Wolves reared their ugly head again, ASU knows it can't allow those mistakes to continue and ultimately derail another season.

"The closer to you get to really, truly learning how to win, the harder it becomes," Jones said on Monday's Sun Belt Conference teleconference. "Our will to win gave us an opportunity to win the football game. But at the end of the day, it was our fundamentals and details that really worked against us."

Print Headline: Miscommunication frustrating to ASU


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