Arizona State’s offensive coordinator, Noel Mazzone, was on Bickley & MJ on Extra Sports 910. When he was asked about the Devils’ two deflating losses four games into this young season, he responded:
“It's kind of like I went to the prom and had a really good-looking date and I went home alone."
On the surface, it is a glib metaphor that sums up the confusion/pain/anger that Sun Devil fans are experiencing. After closer inspection though, the parallels between this year’s Sun Devils and a hot prom date that doesn’t put out are abundant.
Last year Sun Devil fans got stuck taking their best friend to the dance. Danny Sullivan had a great personality and he was a true Sun Devil, but he was as likely to deliver a happy ending as your second cousin you took baths with when you were two. And Nance? He had heart and nice feet, but a breakaway run for him was seven yards.
ASU had a hard enough time getting first downs last year let alone scoring. Four games into the 2009 season, Sun Devil fans knew they would be going home early when everybody else went bowling. It sucked, but at least they were ready for the disappointment.
But this year the Devils are young, sexy, full of great energy and potential. The quarterback is accurate, big plays are everywhere, and the defense might be the best in the league.
ASU stacked up more than favorably against two top-10 teams and they seemed down to uncross their legs and go all the way, but they haven’t yet. This team has the pieces to be an elite team, and because of that it will be more painful if Devil fans are alone again at the end of the dance.
As Mazzone said, it’s not enough to have a hot date for the dance—you have to close the deal.
Three Signs That They’ll Leave You Blue
1. Against the Badgers and Ducks, the Devils had the ball in the opponents’ territory 16 times and they scored only four touchdowns in those trips. In those two games, they had 977 yards of offense and only five offensive touchdowns. That is the equivalent of having a great date with a girl, getting her back to your place, getting all of her clothes off, and then she comes down with food poisoning and locks herself in your bathroom, leaving you to piss in the kitchen sink and fall asleep alone watching SportsCenter. Major tease!
2. They’re young (only two senior starters). Their youthful energy and promise has lured Devil fans in, but young players/teams need to get reps in big games before they start winning big games (at least that is what I’m telling myself).
3. Third date…it’s time to get lucky! Arizona State can’t handle another “moral” victory. A team, especially a young one, can only be denied so many times before some of the players check out. After ASU lost back-to-back games against UNLV and Georgia in 2008, part of that team quit on the year and they went into a tailspin. This team appears to be of stronger character than that one, but if they lose to Oregon State, there is no telling when or if the bleeding will stop.
After two competitive games against two quality opponents, the Sun Devils have people saying, “They could easily be 4-0…They’re loaded with talent and just need to learn to finish…They’re on the verge.”
The things people have been saying this year after the two defeats are eerily similar to a phrase that people have used in reference to the Arizona State football program for years: “Arizona State football is a SLEEPING GIANT!”
But even a “sleeping” giant has to beat a ranked opponent on occasion, and since I became a passionate Sun Devil fan in the fall of 2005, Arizona State has a record of 1-16 against ranked opponents (the one victory was against a Cal Bears team that finished 7-6).
It seems obvious that the Arizona State should have a powerhouse football program. It’s sunny year round, it has a great athletic academic support team, and bikinis in Tempe are like antelope in Wyoming—there are more of them than there are people—but if ASU keeps losing big games on big stages they will no longer be considered sleeping giants. Instead, the Sun Devils will just be known as perennial teases.