Can Arizona State Continue to Overlook Bad Offense for Great Defense?
Most of the Sun Devil fanbase during the spring and summer months was growing incredibly anxious for the season to start, and rightfully so.
Now that the season is approaching the halfway point, the message boards, radio stations, and local media are all placing blame for the Sun Devils' 3-2 record, but for what reason?
Going into the season, the Sun Devils felt that the first two games of the season were winnable, and ASU's defense shut down opponents. While riding high on two dominating performances against lower-level teams, the Sun Devils looked to prove their worth in Athens, GA against the Bulldogs.
Many around the program felt that this ASU team could compete with Georgia, and they did. The Sun Devils could have and should have won that game. However, if games were won on "could haves" and "would haves," everyone in the country would think their school should be 12-0 at season's end.
With that being said, the Sun Devils left it all out on the field, in the pouring rain, and boarded the charter flight back to Tempe with a 17-20 loss to then No. 21-ranked Georgia.
Was momentum lost following a heartbreaking loss "Between the Hedges?" No, but momentum and team continuity was lost at Sun Devil Stadium versus the Oregon State Beavers.
From the fans' point of view, nothing went right against the Beavers, and the 45,000 fans at Frank Kush Field let the players and coaches know.
Dennis Erickson's offense started slow, as the trend has been in his three seasons, and the feeling of the game all changed when Trevor Hankins dropped the snap on ASU's first punt. The score was quickly 7-0 in favor of the Beavers.
The defense has been called upon countless times this season, and against Oregon State, Craig Bray's defense was not in top form for whatever reason. When ASU needed a stop, the defense gave up a touchdown. Nothing went right for Arizona State on that Saturday afternoon.
Oh, and did I mention that Oregon State had not won in Tempe since 1969? Yes, it was that bad for Arizona State.
Although to look back, fans were predicting a 3-1 record or at worst 2-2 following the first four games. However, I felt that no matter what the outcome of the Georgia game was, the Sun Devils had to have the Oregon State game; it was a must win.
Unfortunately for ASU, no facet of the game was clicking, and the Sun Devils lost a second straight game and fell to 0-1 in the conference.
From that point on, Danny Sullivan received a downpour of boos and chants calling for the back up, Brock Osweiler. When you look at the numbers, though, Sullivan has not "wowed" anyone, certainly, but on the other hand, he has not lost a game for ASU either. All of these questions at quarterback came following Sullivan's 338-yard performance while trying to formulate a comeback.
However, Erickson stuck with the senior Sullivan to manage the ASU offense in Pullman, WA. The game was not pretty as everyone found out, although the final result was a win.
The offense posted 410 total yards on one of the worst defenses in the country while turning the ball over a grand total of six times. Yes, six turnovers! Erickson said that the turnovers were "inexcusable."
Unlike most fans calling into the local radio stations, I will take the optimistic point of view. The Sun Devils recorded 12 sacks against Washington State. The defense played lights out if you take out the 99-yard touchdown reception early in the fourth quarter. The defense only gave up 181 yards.
Now, cynics will say, "ASU played Washington State—the Sun Devils should have blown the Cougars out!" Yes, ASU should have put more points on the board, but the bottom line following the game was that Erickson's squad improved to 1-1 in the Pacific Ten.
Sure, fans can hope for a more high-powered offense to light up the scoreboard like in years past. However, the offense is playing not to lose the game. Everyone knows that the ASU defense is great, but the offense should take more chances downfield to put more points on the board to help out their defense, regardless of who the quarterback is.
Now to look forward to the Sun Devils' remaining seven games, ASU has to defend their home turf. Frank Kush Field will host Washington this Saturday night, followed by California on Halloween night, USC in November, and in-state rival Arizona in their final game of the season.
Are those four home games winnable? Yes, of course they are, especially this year in the Pac-10. With Arizona State's daunting defense, if the offense somehow, some way gets back on track, ASU should win three of their four remaining home games. But that is an optimist writing.
The focus right now has to be for ASU to beat Washington at home this Saturday. If the offense is still stuck in neutral, then this could be a long season. Whether there is a change at quarterback or not, ASU needs to find life on offense to regain the momentum that Erickson's squad had rolling into the Georgia game.
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