ASU focused on eliminating mistakes vs. UCLA

TEMPE, Ariz. — Among the many things plaguing ASU football on its path to a 2-2 start, the self-made errors – most notably ball-control issues – are what’s stood out the most.

Through four games, the Sun Devils have lost seven fumbles, putting them at 125th in the FBS. Only Florida Atlantic has lost more, with nine. ASU coach Todd Graham has preached ball security, but he still can’t put a finger on why it’s been such an issue.

"The No. 1 thing we’ve got to do is come out of this game with 100 percent ball security," Graham said after practice Thursday. "We’ve got to take care of the football like we always have."

Graham’s not wrong in noticing this has been uncharacteristic of his teams at ASU. Last season, the Sun Devils only lost four fumbles all year. In 2013, the Sun Devils lost six. They’ve already exceeded both those numbers in just a third of the games.

RESPONSE TO BLOWOUT: Graham and quarterback Mike Bercovici stressed that the team’s focus in practice this week has been themselves.

"From the second we entered the building Tuesday morning, I think you can tell we have leaders and it’s showing," the redshirt senior quarterback said. "It’s been fun. That’s kind of been the motto this week – to have fun."

After a 42-14 whooping, it could have been difficult for ASU to stay positive, especially after Bercovici looked downtrodden at his Monday news conference. But the message has been to keep an upbeat attitude and that the season’s not over yet.

INJURY UPDATE: After playing in his first game of the season against USC, sophomore running back Kalen Ballage will continue to work his way back into the rotation Saturday against UCLA.

Returning from mononucleosis, Ballage played every special teams snap and carried the ball nine times for 33 yards.

"He had a hard time last week," Graham said. "Coming off that type of illness, that’s not easy – he wasn’t able to do anything for three weeks."

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Entering the season, the plan was for Ballage to provide pass-rush help at Devilbacker. However, he’s not yet at the point in his conditioning where he can play both ways. Any snaps Ballage gets against UCLA will come on offense and special teams.

While Ballage is not yet ready to take on a full workload, the emergence of redshirt freshman Ismael Murphy-Richardson has provided Graham with another option at Devilbacker.

"He’s very talented," Graham said. "We have to continue to polish the raw off him. The only thing keeping him off the field is him and his development. But he has developed, and that’s why you see him playing more.

"I think Ismael can handle the pass-rushing deal for us."

Murphy-Richardson didn’t play Week 1 against Texas A&M but has seen the field every game since. He’s recorded three total tackles this season, including one last week.

With Ballage continuing to work his way back, ASU should be at close to full strength on Saturday.

Cornerback Lloyd Carrington had been limited in practice all week, but Graham said he will play. Safety Armand Perry progressed off crutches and into a walking boot this week, but he will not play for the second straight week after he injured his left ankle against Cal Poly.