ASU Football: A Third Straight Loss Leaves The Sun Devils Questioning

Kristian SiutaCorrespondent IIOctober 3, 2010

TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 28:  Head coach Dennis Erickson of the Arizona State Sun Devils reacts to a call during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Sun Devil Stadium on November 28, 2009 in Tempe, Arizona. The Wildcats defeated the Sun Devils 20-17.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Arizona State walked into Reser Stadium on the beautiful campus of Oregon State and needed to do anything possible to notch an elusive first conference win.

The game matched up two teams that have had two tough losses against top ten opponents. Both teams knew it was going to be a street fight, especially in front of a rowdy Homecoming environment.

Once again, the road environment proved to be unforgiving for Dennis Erickson’s squad. 

As the third quarter wound down to a close, ASU was in the midst of a 19-play drive in hopes to even the score at 24. However, a pivotal 3rd and goal snap from just outside the end zone was bobbled, dropped, and recovered by Steven Threet.

A 25-yard Thomas Weber field goal was the Sun Devils consolation prize.

The result at the end of the contest was another nailbitting three-point loss, a third consecutive loss in similar fashion. How are your stress levels right about now?

“It’s getting old,” Erickson said following the 31-28 loss. “It really is.”

Coach, take a number.

This is the third straight loss in consecutive weeks for the maroon and gold and the point differential over that stretch is a meager 15 points. That is the numerical difference between ASU being at the top of the conference and keeping the Washington State Cougars company.

Doesn’t that sound like 2009? ASU lost four games by a combined 13 points. Interesting.

Right now, ASU is exactly where the media poll predicted the Sun Devils would be. Wazzou is at the bottom, again, and the pesky Sun Devils have unfortunately nestled in at the ninth spot. Interesting, just like 2009.

The season is nearly at the halfway mark, and moral victories, close losses, turnovers, mental mistakes, missed opportunities, and a 2-3 record is all Erickson and ASU have to show for their efforts. 

Arizona State has a lot of work to do if a bowl berth is in reach, but expectations might dwindle. In a season where wins are at a premium, ASU must win seven games, the Sun Devils seem like they enjoy throwing games away.

Obviously that is not the case, but fans continually see the same results, with the same formula in place, why should anything different be expected?   

In fact, there were changes made Saturday, and none of them worked out in ASU’s favor.

Throughout the better part of four games, the Sun Devil offensive line was much improved, and showed physicality and a tenacious spirit every snap. On Saturday afternoon, that attitude and aggressive style was nowhere to be found.

Two changes were made to ASU’s offensive line, and neither of them should have been made.

Starting left tackle, Dan Knapp, was injured against the Oregon Ducks just seven days ago, but was cleared to play, however, number 69 never took a snap.  Probably precautionary, but when a team needs to win, they win at all costs.

Knapp missed the game and Brice Schwab, starting right tackle in the previous four games was demoted in favor of fellow Junior College transfer, Aderious Simmons. 

By the way Simmons has little to no experience in high school football, or college for that matter, but his 6’7 310 pound frame is appealing, anything further is an allusion. More time, more practice, more reps are all needed before he starts again.

However, that is just an opinion of a writer.Erickson and offensive line coach Gregg Smith used their opinions and began to shuffle the pieces up front.

Starting line up against Wisconsin and Oregon:

LT Knapp LG Marcisz C Gerhart RG Finkenburg RT Schwab

Starting line up against Oregon State:

LT Finkenburg LG Marcisz C Gerhart RG Andrew Sampson (2 career start) RT Simmons

Dennis Erickson has been talking up the performances and abilities of Aderious Simmons throughout camp and Fall practices, but in his first career start, horrendous was the only word that fits the description.

Not to mention the loud crowd noise at Reser Stadium, rookie offensive tackles are not exactly the perfect building blocks for success.

But what did fans expect? With the coaches opting for different bodies at the two tackle positions, growing pains would ensue. Unfortunately, Steven Threet had to sustain those heavy-hitting collisions. The six sacks and countless hits clearly took a toll on Threet.

The Sun Devils never looked comfortable, and that mentality started at the quarterback position. Threet had a good-looking opening drive that gave the Sun Devils an early 7-0 lead, but from that point on, ASU was stuck in first gear.

Threet’s numbers were not what fans in the valley expected, 14-29 203 yards passing and one touchdown. The stat that might be an issue for the remainder of the year is interceptions.

Steven Threet has now thrown seven interceptions in eight quarters against the two Oregon schools in back-to-back weeks. 

In a game where penalties (5-52 yards) were not an alarming number, the turnovers once again killed any hope for a conference victory. 

Although Arizona State did not gift wrap this game for the Beavers, Oregon State needed this game just as badly as the Sun Devils. However, the team left standing at the end of the night was the team that wanted it more, plain and simple.

Mike Riley’s Beavers made the Sun Devil defense look pedestrian at best. One week after ASU forced the Oregon Ducks to punt 11 times, Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz looked like the poised, calm, and confident signal caller that coaches envisioned.

Funny how that seems happen to ASU quite often.

The Beavers marched up and down the field to the tune of 416 yards (260 passing 156 rushing), and running back Jacquizz Rodgers had a very influential role.

If fans wearing maroon and gold were not tired of sitting back and watching Rodgers run rough shot on ASU the previous two seasons, yesterday was the icing on the cake.

Rodgers made by far the biggest play of the game in the early fourth quarter. As Dennis Erickson’s Sun Devils narrowed the score to 24-20, on Oregon State’s first play from scrimmage after the ASU score, Riley called “Quizz’s” number.

Rodgers wears number one on his back, and after his 74-yard touchdown, and his magician-like 4-yard touchdown scamper in the first quarter, he earned the right to wear number one.

With Katz looking like a totally different passer and Jacquizz Rodgers adding to his already impressive portfolio against the Sun Devils, Oregon State and Mike Riley beat ASU for a third consecutive season.

Last year, Oregon State’s win in Tempe was the catalyst to an 8-5 Las Vegas Bowl appearance. 

On Arizona State’s sideline, in 2009, the only respite in a season riddled with losses was the Washington schools.

That same story might be the case in 2010.

The only problem is, Washington looks pretty darn good this season. Husky quarterback, Jake Locker is not Superman, everyone has a garbage game, but he bounced back and beat USC for a second straight season.

Steve Sarkisian and the Huskies will be at home, at night, full of confidence, and ASU comes in licking their wounds following three straight gut-wrenching contests.  

ASU had trouble on the road Saturday in Corvallis and two weeks earlier in Madison, but Seattle is a different entity.

The Sun Devils have had success in their past two trips to Husky Stadium, but Washington was a different program then. 

And Arizona State is hurting right now, not only physically, but emotionally. The “hit ‘em in the mouth” aggressive attitude that was on display the first four weeks, diminished in the OSU game.

Following the Sun Devils 31-28 loss the words out of the locker room were not encouraging.

“Disappointment,” Threet said. “We feel like we’re a better team than our record shows.”

Well, Sun Devil fans have absolutely heard that quote once or twice before. By the end of the season, ASU’s record will define how their season weighs out. Opinions mean nothing, records do.

Three straight losses are tough to take, but four would be back-breaking. Something like: “turn out the lights the party’s over.”

A young team that is learning to play together, unfortunately are continuing to learn how to lose together. 

A losing environment is tough to break, just look at 2008 and 2009. Now it is nearly halfway through 2010, and here we are. A 2-3 record looks a lot better the next week if a win is the result. 

“We really got to go evaluate our team and figure out what we want to do for the season,” Cameron Marshall said. The ASU running back is correct; a deep, intense soul searching is necessary.

“If we want to go ahead and win, or if we just want to be like the past couple year and have talent and lose.”

Same old story, right? Then again, a win will kill a lot of demons in the Sun Devil's locker room.


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