Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 11/6/11
PASADENA, Calif. -- Before the season started, Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson asked the media to stop reporting on kicker Alex Garoutte's daily practice performance. It was a kind gesture designed to protect a freshman with a fragile psyche. Erickson knew he would need Garoutte as the season progressed. But lost in that benevolent act was the obvious nature of Garoutte's job. If he can't handle the pressure of a few media reports, how was he supposed to handle the pressure-cooker of kicking in front of 60,000 fans? The sad answer came Saturday at the Rose Bowl when Garoutte missed all three of his attempts, including a sickly looking 46-yard attempt that was both short and wide as time expired in ASU's season-altering, 29-28 loss to UCLA. "It's like any kicker. They have their days," Erickson said. "He's just got to continue to work and continue to get better." ASU officials said Garoutte was long gone by the time the media arrived outside ASU's locker room for postgame interviews. You have to wonder if the same is true of his confidence. In tight ballgames, Garoutte has been a disaster this season, going 1 for 6 in games decided by seven points or less. On Saturday, he missed from 48, 36 and 46 yards. "The ones that are 48 and (46), those are hard kicks. He just kind of didn't hit either one of those," Erickson said. "The one that hurt us was the (36 yarder) when he pulled it. "That would have put us up by eight." To be fair, Garoutte wasn't the only culprit on Saturday. ASU continues to display that maddening personality trait that cost it dearly on so many occasions last season, and in a Week-3 loss at Illinois. The Sun Devils just can't handle prosperity. ASU came into the Rose Bowl with a chance to put the Pac-12 South Division on ice and punch its ticket to the inaugural conference title game. Despite a sluggish offensive performance and some big plays allowed by the defense, the Sun Devils were in great position after quarterback Brock Osweiler bulled in from the 1-yard line for a 28-23 lead with about eight minutes left. On the ensuing kickoff, Brandon Johnson recovered a fumble and ASU had a chance to turn the screws. But three straight running plays netted seven yards and with a chance to put his team up 31-23, Garoutte missed. Then with UCLA facing a third-and-29 at the Arizona State 39-yard line, ASU cornerback Alden Darby lost track of receiver Nelson Rosario who hauled in a 33-yard pass for a first down a blown coverage that Erickson said "dumbfounded us." Three plays later, Derrick Coleman scored on a 1-yard run for a 29-28 lead and ASU had become its own worst enemy. "It was something that we've been through before and everybody was hoping that we had learned from it," linebacker Colin Parker said. "It really just comes down to execution and we weren't able to execute the whole night." The fallout from that failure is that ASU has lost control of its own destiny in the Pac-12 South Division. UCLA and the Sun Devils are tied at 4-2 in the conference standings, but UCLA owns the tiebreaker with three games remaining. The Bruins must still win tough games at Utah and USC, sandwiched around a home game against woeful Colorado. ASU has home games against Arizona and Cal, but must first travel to Washington State next weekend for a late game in cold Pullman. If you think they can't lose that game, you haven't been paying attention. ASU is 1-3 on the road this season. If not for an avalanche of turnovers that turned the tide in the third quarter at Utah, they might be 0-4. Despite all the assurances that this team has learned its lesson and knows how to close the deal, ASU's actions belie those words. "I can't even describe the looks on everybody's faces how much this hurts us," said running back Cameron Marshall, who set a career-high with 168 rushing yards on Saturday. "We had a goal at the beginning of the season to go to the Rose Bowl and we've still got a chance to, but when you control your own destiny and you mess up, it's really, really frustrating."
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