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WATCH: ASU Coach Kenny Dillingham Recaps 42-28 Loss to No. 5 USC

The Arizona State Sun Devils played their best game of the season against the No. 5 USC Trojans, but ended up falling 34-28. Coach Kenny Dillingham offered his thoughts on the loss, which featured a sell-out and very loud crowd.

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Arizona State (1-3) plays its first road game of the season against the California Golden Bears (2-2) next Saturday at 12:00 p.m. MST.

The full transcript (via) ASU Athletics:

Opening Statement:
“We’re trying to attack bottom line, trying to attack and you have to play this game attacking if you want to beat teams like that, if you want to beat offensive coaches like Lincoln Riley and offensive quarterbacks like Caleb Williams, you have to attack, you can’t play the game scared. So we said we wanted to call every shot that we had in the game and I probably called about three too many there in the second half on first down when it’s a six point game that I’d like to have back.”

On the biggest difference in this loss
“I would say the turnovers offensively and struggling protecting the quarterback. And that starts with me understanding, being more timely with some calls in order to protect our line. I mean, those are, that D-line is a really, really, really, really good D-line. Coach Grinch has a lot of really good things schematically moving them and making those guys pass, protect even in seven man pro, you know, we’re not there yet and I got to do a better job of protecting our guys on those early downs so we don’t get behind the chains. That was the tale of the two halves. First half, we were ahead of the chains. Second half, first downs were aggressive calls that we were getting sacked on. We got to throw the ball away or not call those calls so we can stay ahead of the chains and stay in a rhythm.”

On instilling a program like USC:
“Winning. We’re going to run our program. Every job is different. Every place is different. We’re going to run this program. I’m from here. I’ll say this on that topic. This was activating the valley… like this environment is activating the valley, the sold out crowd loud, 3rd and 20 the first drive with two penalties, like that was just as much that was just important to winning this game than anything I’ve done. I’ve done in my meeting rooms and my players because they go out there and no one cares and they feed off the energy and there’s actually a competitive advantage when we have everybody in the stands, it’s an advantage. So To see all the fans in the stands like that, to see the Valley like that, that’s what we need every game. And if we get that every game, you’re going to get the play that you guys want every game earliest.”

On the positives drawn from the game:
“I think our guys realize we have the ability. So the belief factor that they know that we can go out there and win football games, you know, it doesn’t matter how we start. Like, what’s the record matter this year anyways, it doesn’t matter. It is getting better and we go on the road next week at and let’s do everything we can to win a football game. Let’s prepare more than we’ve ever prepared. So the positives I would say, I think our brotherhood is growing. I think players are feeding off each other more. I think the belief in the vision is still rising, the belief in the process is still rising and those are the things that excite me.”  

On the adjustments made on the offense but from a sideline view:
“To be honest, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, you know, coach Ballwin did a phenomenal job communicating. Our entire staff did a phenomenal job communicating throughout the game. What we were seeing, I’d say the hardest thing is more seeing like the line twists and the stunts internally in terms of how they’re trying to stop the run game with ET games or nut games, what they call them and I’m getting too detailed. We’re good.”

On when he noticed the team’s energy change this week:
“The locker room after Fresno State, our guys are going to compete. Like if they’re going to compete, they’re going to compete, they’re going to compete and they’re going to go to work to get better every single day. I can’t always guarantee you the perfect call. I can’t always guarantee you a lot of things. I can guarantee you that our guys are going to go to work and our guys are going to play with passion.”

On what physical detail gave it away:
“The eyes when you look at people’s eyes and they don’t like that feeling. You can feel that they want to do something about it and create change and then you show up on Monday and you have the entire offense in the team meeting room 10 minutes early. You’re like, okay, well, something changed offensively. So now he’s going to play a complete game and if we play a complete football game, we’re going to be a pretty good football team.”

On whether being aggressive but maybe not going too aggressive:
“Yeah, you just got to get a feel for your guys. I would say that’s the balance is the more aggressive you can be the better, but you have to get a feel for how are your guys holding up? And I should have known with our depth at the old line that throughout the game, right, that there’s going to be a little bit more rush as the game progresses because they’re rolling, you know, 10 deep on the D line and we got seven guys, eight guys rolling right now in the old lines. So it was one of those scenarios where I should have known and had a better feel for kind of where our guys were and not put them in those situations.”

On the thought of containing USC QB Caleb Williams:
“Yeah, I thought our defense did a solid job, but I think there’s a lot of things that they did. I mean, they have a great offensive scheme. They have a great quarterback that’s really hard and they check almost every play at the line of scrimmage. They do it really quickly and they’re all on the same page. So it’s really, really hard to stop what they do when you combine the talent with good scheme. I think our guys, there are some things that we can do better. You know, it was our worst Wednesday practice on defense and that showed up Wednesday’s third down day and it was our worst Wednesday and then all of a sudden it shows up at a 3rd and 20 and they convert, why? We get out of our wrestling. We bring a twist game and we don’t loop. Ok. So there’s a lot of things that we have to watch the tape and can’t just say, oh, that’s Caleb Williams. We have to say, ok, what can we do better to grow?” What can we do better? And that’s a sign of a good football team is you go back to work on Monday and you don’t look at your good place, you look at the place that you can improve upon and that’s including myself as the coaches, as the play callers. That’s everybody involved has to go back and look at themselves and say, “What can I do better?”

On what did you learn about your guys’ ability to play in intense moments?
“It’s not too big for them. They want these moments. You come to ASU to play in these moments and every kid goes to a college and a lot of their decision is the environment. To be honest, the environment we create is going to not only affect wins, it’s going to affect recruiting and that environment today. That environment today, I challenge people to bring that because that was an environment that was an environment you can win at a high level in. That was an environment that our kids deserve. That was an environment our fans deserve because it’s fun. It’s fun to be in that environment and we’re going to keep getting better as a football team and let’s keep getting that turnout because that was a really good environment and credit to the fans, man. I couldn’t be out here with the turnout and thank you.”

On the brotherhood of the team:
“No, I think it’s just time, you know, adversity, either tears you apart or brings you together
So I think those are the two choices you have. Adversity makes you quit or makes you work harder. So I think our guys right now are treating this adversity and coming together and treating this adversity and working harder. And that’s the sign of the direction that we want to go as a program. And I say this a lot. I sat in this exact same seat four years ago just calling the plays. Not as the head coach. I’ve seen this process, I’ve seen it and we’re on the same trajectory. We’re working on our brotherhood, the way our kids talk about each other, the way our kids work.  We’re working to get there.” 

On preparation for other elite quarterbacks in the Pac-12:
“Yeah, this league is on to the next elite quarterback in this league. I mean, you Penix, right, kid down south is good, right? I mean, there’s a lot of good quarterbacks right now in this league. This is arguably the best league in college football right now. So we’ve got our work cut out for us. We got to go back to work on Monday. We got to do, like I tell the kids every week, what are you doing more than you did last week? So we got to do more this week than we did last week. We got to go back to work and we got to come out against Cal on the road and put our best effort out there.”

On whether the loss was a moral victory:
“No, I told the team losing… it does never feel good. If you walk into this room now and you have an ounce of feel good, that’s not what we’re about at all in any way shape or form and it will never be what we’re about, but we got better. So the win and loss put aside, look at our own game. Did we improve? Yes, we improved in some areas. Did we not improve in other areas? Yes, we got to get better in those. So you should never get comfortable or never be happy with losing a football game. But what can you grow from? What can you learn from? And what can you take away from it is a completely separate conversation. And we played one of the best coaches in college football, one of the best quarterbacks in college football and we were in it and I really think I could have done a few things better for our players, helped our players a little bit more to give them a better chance and I’m going to do everything I can moving forward to try to put our players in a better situation next week than I did this week because that’s my job.”

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Brendan Mau is a Phoenix Suns insider and college sports reporter for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on X via @Brendan_Mau

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