Arizona State Football Still Has a Chance
Rewind just for a moment back to September 1st. Dennis Erickson tabbed Michigan transfer Steven Threet as his starting quarterback and signal-caller of ASU’s new no-huddle offense.
The optimism for 2010 was sky high. An improved offense, coupled with an already great defense, sparked increased interest and expectations.
Everything was business as usual in Tempe, right?
With optimism sky high, the Sun Devils tossed aside two FCS subdivision teams in Portland State and Northern Arizona respectively, but fans were still unsure.
However, the buzz in the Valley of the Sun revolved around a prolific offense that was entertaining, full of fireworks, both on the scoreboard and lighting up the Tempe sky, while winning games in commanding fashion.
The defense was solid, but not dominant against the “preseason slate.” Most observers expected a much better performance in the big showdown in Madison, WI.
Arizona State was once again 2-0 heading into a major showcase game for their entire program. The Sun Devils once again let a big game slip away from their grasp in the most uncommon of ways.
If someone told you beforehand that ASU would have an opportunity late in the fourth quarter to win or send the game into overtime, but a blocked extra point ended any hope, what would your reaction be?
Well, I would say “you must have sold your soul to…the devil!”
ASU is nicknamed the Sun Devils, so it is not far off. However, a 2-1 record is not too shabby right?
Fans were intrigued by the youth and production of rising stars Deantre Lewis, Cameron Marshall, Mike Willie, and Eddie Elder. All hands were on deck ready for the Sun Devils to make a push towards the conference's elite.
But when everyone looked a little closer at the schedule; looks pretty scary after Wisconsin, right?
Top five-ranked Oregon rolls into town averaging more than a point a minute. ASU will be on the road for 34 days before returning home to play a Washington State squad for homecoming. Not exactly a recipe for success with a young team.
Oregon escaped Sun Devil Stadium with an 11-point victory after ASU, once again, “fumbled” away another near upset victory.
Oregon head coach Chip Kelly said, “we were lucky to get out of here alive.” A tribute to ASU’s performance in defeat.
Heading into the season, the ultimate gauge of how the season would unfold for Erickson and ASU, was the five-game stretch in the middle of the season versus Wisconsin, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, and California.
The Sun Devils dropped the first two games of that meat-grinder with valiant efforts against top-ranked opponents. Not many expected a win in either game and most were absolutely shocked that the Sun Devils hung with the Badgers, and nearly won.
The Oregon State game was long circled as the must have, must win game of the season. Corvallis proved to be unforgiving for the Sun Devils in a number of areas.
Not only did ASU arrive back at Sky Harbor Airport late Sunday morning with nothing more than a third-straight loss, but the questions began to surface regarding the quarterback play, the once-great defense, the personal fouls on Burfict, and the continual hot seat for the maroon and gold’s head coach.
A 2-3 record is not great, but entering the season, how many pundits expected ASU to earn a win against Oregon, Wisconsin, or Oregon State?
Probably less than five percent. In order to be an elite program, Arizona State will eventually have to win one of those games. A 1-2 record would have been nice, but now ASU is behind the 8-ball.
Now that we are back to the present, ASU is 2-3 on the season, and, no, the torrential downpour in Arizona the past 48 hours was not due to the Sun Devil’s lackluster showing recently. Rather, it was just Mother Nature taking its’ course.
ASU is not done. The Sun Devil’s season is not over. Each week is a new season and the objective is to be 1-0 at the end of every week.
The platform for this week’s game is Seattle. The Sun Devils flourish in Seattle, at least recently.
Believe it or not, Arizona State has not lost at Husky Stadium since 1997. That dates back to the Bruce Snyder era. Even Dirk Koetter, with all of his consistent struggles on the road as ASU head coach, beat the Huskies in his only trip to Seattle in 2006. Dennis Erickson, being the northwest guy that he is, has had great success against the Huskies.
Back in 2008, when ASU was in a similar situation (sitting on two wins, still hoping for a bowl), the Sun Devils managed to fight their way to a 39-19 win, and set up a showdown in Tucson three weeks later to go to a bowl game.
Granted, history plays a limited role on the football field, but on a team where the confidence is waning, a familiar setting like Seattle might just be what the Sun Devils need. Husky Stadium has been the stage where celebrations have ensued, offensive explosions have occurred, and late-game heroics have all swayed in the maroon and gold’s favor.
Keep in mind the Washington Huskies are not the same Tyrone Willingham-coached Huskies of seasons past. However, Jake Locker is still Jake Locker, as he proved last Saturday at the L.A. Coliseum. However, Locker has never had a good game against ASU. The Washington native is 0-2 with three interceptions and a 47% completion percentage.
Then again, heading into last week, OSU starting quarterback, Ryan Katz, could not hit the broadside of a barn, but looked like an All-Pac Ten passer against ASU.
Isn’t it funny how one week can change the perception of an entire team, a player, a coach, and a program? Following the Oregon “meltdown”, over 80% of readers on this page, voted that ASU would make it to a bowl game this season.
Now, the talk is swirling about Erickson’s future in Tempe, a potential quarterback change, a star linebacker being benched, etc.
Although losing a “season-changing” game against Oregon State is certainly nothing to laugh at, a win in Seattle will spring fans in the valley into celebration, laughter, and renewed hope.
That is why football is a sport filled with lessons. Right now ASU’s young team is learning their lessons. To throw in the towel on the season and fire Erickson would force ASU into the same scenario as December 2006.
Yes, the daunting task of winning five of the remaining seven games seems impossible, but anything can happen on the football field.
Maybe I am the only one, but I would rather have Dennis Erickson as the “captain of the ship”, if in fact the ship is going to capsize.
So don’t jump overboard yet. The season is not finished and there is tons of football left to be played.
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