Of course, not much can be determined from a win over a Division 1-AA/Championship Subdivision team like Portland State, but fans in the valley have to be pleased with the performance the maroon and gold displayed Saturday night.
Then again, Arizona State did exactly what a good team is supposed to do: blowout an inferior opponent, and look good doing it.
For example, Ole Miss had no business losing to Jacksonville State on Saturday, albeit in double overtime, but still a good team should crush poor competition. Memories of Michigan versus Appalachian State arise. But I digress, as a fan, Saturday night’s display was exactly what you would have wanted to see out of ASU.
Zero complaints, right?
Unfortunately that was not the case a year ago.
In past off-seasons, changes seemed evident and down right necessary, but in the end, Dennis Erickson stuck to his guns, and tried to right the ship. As two dismal bowl-less seasons came and went, that strategy proved ineffective.
The changes that Erickson made since the final whistle last Fall at Sun Devil Stadium versus Arizona, have truly made all the difference so far. A team like Portland State will not give too many BCS Conference teams a run for their money, but a win like that has never been seen in the Erickson era at ASU.
Even just last season, Arizona State did not look too sharp in their opener versus Idaho State, yet the score line did not do justice, (50-3 ASU win). This season ASU dismantled the Vikings in the 2010 opener, and did in convincing style.
Nonetheless, Noel Mazzone taking over ASU’s offense has brought a sense of life into a program that has been trying to knock on the door of the conference elite for years.
A new attitude, commitment to crisp execution, and hard-nosed football has only added fuel to the fire of the poor preseason prognostications. That Arizona State team Saturday night certainly did not scream Pac-10 "cellar dweller," like a Washington State, but then again, they are the experts for a reason.
Certainly recruits have both bought into where the Sun Devil program is headed and thought highly enough of quarterback gurus, Erickson and Mazzone running ASU’s offense, to take a shot at dawning the maroon and gold.
Almost instantly, Erickson’s recruiting efforts have proven to be worthwhile. True freshman Deantre Lewis seemed to make a big play every time he touched the ball, as he scored three touchdowns in his debut.
That No. 25 jersey looks flashy on him, and Lewis happens to play a similar role as New Orlean Saints tailback Reggie Bush, who sports the same number.
Also, you have to give credit to Erickson not only in recruiting, but also in his ability to persuade two front-line college football performers in Steven Threet and Aaron Pflugrad to come play for his program. Both Threet and Pflugrad were starters at their respective schools, but in the end, for one reason or another, both players were tossed aside and left in the dark.
However, the transfer duo gave the desert a shot, and it looks to be paying off ten fold for all involved.
Accepting transfers from BCS schools has not been the norm with coach Erickson. In the past, his ace in the hole always seemed to be the fertile recruiting grounds of California community colleges.
Once again, an instant turn around was built piece by piece with talent, size and toughness on the offensive line, speed and big play ability at the skill positions, and a ball hawking safety that could be the difference between a really good defense in 2009, and an absolutely dominating defense this Fall. Erickson has gone this route before, most notably at Oregon State when the Beavers claimed the Fiesta Bowl trophy and an 11-1 record in 2000.
Many pundits believed that ASU had a defense last year that was good enough to win a conference championship. Heck, the numbers and statistics backed that up. The only thing that stood in the way of a conference championship and a subsequent 4-8 season, was an underwhelming offense that couldn’t get out of their own way.
Well, the changes have been made over the past nine months, and so far everything seems to be running smoothly. However, don’t kid yourself, if the wheels are not rolling to Erickson’s liking, a decision will be made for improvement instantly.
Right now, the valley of the sun is all smiles in regards to Sun Devil football. ASU earned a big win in the season opener and a similar script should be in the works for Saturday’s contest with the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. Sure, two crushing victories against Big Sky competition will not earn you a spot in the top 25, but dominating inferior opponents in that fashion will instill a belief, a sense of confidence and heightened expectations within the locker room.
Who knows, maybe two straight big victories at home, might just add up to a huge victory on the road in Madison, Wi., against the Big Ten’s elite?
But for now, we will focus on the NAU Lumberjacks.