All of the momentum and the emotional wave that Arizona State was riding came crashing down in Berkeley Saturday afternoon. For Dennis Erickson, the wave felt like a tsunami.
The 50-17 final score was not the worst part either. Injuries have not hindered the Sun Devils success so far, but the California Golden Bears made sure ASU felt this loss.
Unfortunately, Erickson’s squad played the second half already knowing the outcome. A 26-3 halftime score was not the worst scenario heading into the break, but uncovering that the maroon and gold’s starting quarterback suffered a concussion would considerably decrease any shot of fighting back into the contest.
To throw third-string quarterback Samson Szakacsy into the fire was a difficult decision, but the only option for Erickson. With Brock Osweiler limited with a back injury, Erickson had no other passer to turn to.
To watch the second half felt “somewhat” similar to driving the knife further into the abdomen. The first half was the flesh wound.
Once again, the Sun Devils walked a fine line in Berkeley. The turnovers and penalties were a major factor, and of course the score got out of hand. ASU turned the ball over three times and committed nine penalties.
I compared the Golden Bears to “bullies” in the preview of this game. If Cal has an early lead, they will pile it on and keep pounding the opponent. That was the exact scenario that unfolded Saturday.
If there is anyone on the ASU team who noticed this tendency, it was Omar Bolden. The cornerback gave up big play after big play, and three touchdowns.
Instead of fighting back, or punching back, ASU let Cal beat the Sun Devils down.
After ASU’s first two possessions, which were successful (three points, 111 yards of offense), the display on the field was uninspired.
In a game where every inch counts and bowl hopes are on the line, a much better fight was expected.
Everything that Cal experienced against USC the prior week in Los Angeles, the Bears let ASU endure that same punishment. Oh, and just like ASU was riding high with confidence heading into this game, California was in the same position heading to the Coliseum.
There is not much that the ASU coaching staff can take away from this game. Not only is Steven Threet suffering from a concussion, but two of their top four linebackers are hurt as well.
Both Oliver Aaron and Shelly Lyons picked up injuries Saturday. Lyons’ injury seems to be more severe, as Erickson believes the Corona Centennial product broke his foot.
Oliver Aaron is in the same position as Threet, sidelined with a concussion. Aaron recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown in the third quarter for one of the few highlights the entire game.
The numbers looked as bad as the injuries felt. Arizona State could not run, pass, punt or kick. Yes, even the nation’s best punter, in terms of net punting average, had brutal outing.
If the punter is having a bad day, especially when everything else was miserably wrong, it’s time to pack it up and call it a day. Unfortunately, that is exactly what ASU did.
The final score looks like it was a game that matched men versus boys, and the box score only reassured any naysayers.
On the bright side, Washington State is the next opponent. However, as each week passes, the Cougars look more and more like a competitive football team. Heck, Stanford fought toe-to-toe to earn a 38-28 home victory.
Early in the season, ASU was fighting to get rid of the moral victories and finally win a game. That task was accomplished two weeks ago in Seattle, but all momentum has been lost.
Washington State is fighting through moral victory after moral victory each week. Eventually Paul Wulff’s team will catch someone sleeping.