The Arizona State Sun Devils circled their showdown with the Georgia Bulldogs since last seasons disappointing showing in Tempe. Dennis Erickson had his squad prepared for battle, and the outcome wowed spectators inside Sanford Stadium and back home in Arizona.
Dennis Erickson's Maroon and Gold squad, was questioned as to how good their two wins were entering Saturday's contest "Between the Hedges." Many media outlets ruled out the Sun Devils from contention, before the game even started.
With the Sun Devils making their first nonconference road trip since ASU's 2006 victory in Boulder, CO, the conditions were not in the favor of Erickson's Devils.
With a steady rain falling for nearly two hours before kickoff, a lightning warning delayed warmups for both teams for nearly thirty minutes.
As if the signs were not already written on the wall for ASU, the rain and the 92,746 fans cheering for their hometown Dawgs stood in front of them. Sun Devil Senior quarterback, Danny Sullivan and the Sun Devils awaited a herculean task of beating Georgia Saturday night.
But don't tell the Sun Devils they can't accomplish their goals. With the rain pouring down from the Georgia sky, the Sun Devil defense shined through the clouds in primetime. Although the 334 yards Craig Bray's defense gave up last night, does not tell the complete story, the Sun Devils made a statement. That statement was, there are other teams in the Pacific Ten conference that can play some football.
The linebackers for Arizona State have made tremendous plays all season, however, on this particular night, Jarrell Holman a safety from "Sin City", made plays far from sinful. With two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, and one fumble recovery, the Senior from Las Vegas added another name for opposing coaches to fear on ASU's dominant defense.
Holman and the rest of the speedy Sun Devil defense, were forced to play above and beyond expectations against a powerhouse offense "Between the Hedges."
Although the Georgia Bulldogs have punished scoreboards in their last two games, 98 points in previous two games, the Sun Devils limited 'Dawgs quarterback Joe Cox and Mark Richt's offense to only 20 points.
Although while holding the Bulldogs to only 20 points, the Sun Devil offense was unable to muster any sustained success against the Georgia defense.
Senior quarterback Danny Sullivan made his first career start on the road last night, and although his numbers do not reflect his performance, the result should have been far superior than his final stats. The 6'5 gunslinger completed 10 of 32 passes for 116 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
Once again, as the story was for the Sun Devils against Idaho State in the season opener, the ASU receivers dropped numerous passes in crucial situations. Countless third down conversions went by the waist side, when players such as Kyle Williams, Kerry Taylor, and tight ends Jovan Williams and Dan Knapp dropped passes throughout the contest.
Yes, you might be able to blame the weather, or the fans, but the bottomline, is that the receiver's job is to make the catch. Period end of story.
The offensive line held their own, keeping Sullivan clean, and gave him time. The big guys up front, through injury and pain, allowed for running back Dimitri Nance to gain 92 yards on the ground and 47 yards receiving.
Nance also propelled the Sun Devils back into the contest late in the third quarter with a touchdown reception from six yards out.
Some media members in Arizona, have questioned Sullivan's efficiency and performance. I for one am not one of them. The Senior gave his blood, sweat, and tears for the Maroon and Gold Saturday night.
Sure, everyone wanted to beat Georgia, but Sullivan wanted to prove himself to the Sun Devil community. It was unfortunate that his "playmakers" at receiver did not hold up their end of the bargain, especially when their defensive teammates were playing a lights out performance.
Accountability is a word that Head Coach Dennis Erickson uses a lot in post practice talks with his team, and he has even posted that word in the Tillman Tunnel at Sun Devil Stadium. Defensively, the Sun Devils were accountable.
Offensively, ASU was not accountable. Key penalties stalled drives deep in Georgia territory, and forced the Sun Devils into poor field position in a defensive tug of war game with the Bulldogs.
In terms of Special Teams, many might point the finger at walk on kicker Bobby Wenzig. Once again, I for one, will not do that. The drops leading up to the late field goal attempt were far more crucial then a the field goal attempt.
If the drops were not committed, who knows what could have happened. Sullivan might have been crowned the hero of a potential Sun Devil win, if one of his passes to Taylor or Williams were caught, the Sun Devils might still be celebrating.
However, when the game was on the line, the Sun Devils unfortunately ran out of gas on Georgia's last drive. Georgia's A.J. Green was the star for the Bulldogs. Green made big play, after big play, after big play.
Heck, he even blocked Wenzig's fourth quarter field goal attempt. The game was won on his 36 yard reception in the final moments to put the 'Dawgs in position to hit the game winning field goal by Blair Walsh.
The 92,000 plus fans at Sanford Stadium, rejoiced as Walsh split the uprights with no time left on the clock. With that kick, the Sun Devils fell to the ground "Between the Hedges" in agony and defeat.
My only hope is that the Sun Devil nation in Arizona, shows their appreciation of the effort that Erickson's squad showed last night, even though the result was not what fans would have hoped for.
Arizona State has in my mind, their biggest game of the season this Saturday night, against the Oregon State Beavers. The team feels that even with the loss last night, they earned respect, and should be regarded as a competitor for the Pac-10 crown this season.
However, another setback against the Beavers, at home, could spell "doom" for the Maroon and Gold. A 3-1 record looks much more appetizing than a 2-2 record and 0-1 in the Pac-10.
With that being said, Sun Devil fans must show their gratitude and come out and support their Sun Devils and pack Sun Devil Stadium. Another 42,000 fan showing will be nothing short of embarrassing.