The stage was set for another potential Arizona State upset. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the USC Trojans were the Sun Devils’ nemesis.
Dennis Erickson’s Arizona State squad needed this win in the worst way.
This year’s Sun Devil team was attempting to avoid a bowl-less drought rapidly approaching three seasons. The team played with intensity, determination and a will to win.
However, at the end of the night, ASU dropped their heads to the ground and watched their postseason fate miss wide left.
The 2010 season is not over, but the gut-wrenching, nauseous feeling following Thomas Weber’s missed field goal late in the contest, virtually ended the Sun Devil’s hopes for a bowl game.
One play, or player normally does not decide a game. However, it was evident in ASU’s contest against the USC Trojans that the weight of the world was on Weber’s shoulders.
As the 2007 Lou Groza Award winner lined up for the potential game winning kick, the pressure was too much to handle.
Prior to the game, Erickson announced that the nation’s best punter in net yardage was suspended for one game. Weber would anchor down the kicking and punting game.
For the first time since 2008, Weber took over all the kicking duties. Was that a burden too heavy for one man?
In the past that was not the case, but on a brisk night in Downtown Los Angeles, Weber was unable to respond when it mattered most.
Weber returning to his childhood home of Los Angeles had to feel the pressure to perform.
This is certainly not the first time Weber has missed a crucial kick in a game, or had chip shots blocked back in his face. Saturday night just continued to be a nightmare in the kicking game for Weber and the ASU Sun Devils.
Erickson and Sun Devil fans across the country have to be sick at this point.
Weber made a statement to the Arizona Republic on October 13, and said, “My life right now is 18 feet wide (referring to the field goal uprights). I just got to put them through.”
Erickson felt the same way about Weber. “Normally he was automatic. Maybe our expectations were extremely high, but he knows he has to kick better.”
Weber has kicked great in the past, but lately his struggles have come when the bright lights are shining.
Back in 2003, Weber drilled a 48-yard field goal in overtime to lift his Loyola high school team to an important victory over league and archrival Mater Dei.
Later that season in the semi-final contest versus Los Alamitos, Weber missed two extra points, which forced his nearby Downtown Los Angeles school to convert a two-point conversion to win the game and lead his school to the Division 1 Championship.
From that point on, Weber has been consistent in the kicking game. Automatic is a term reserved for a handful of kickers all time, and even then, no one is a sure bet.
Then the struggles this season began, and especially the adventure Saturday night that ASU called “special teams.”
Not only was Weber’s missed kick in the final moments the show stopper, but a blocked punt and a blocked extra point returned for a 2-point conversion were game changing plays that resulted in a 34-33 USC victory.
It was a rough night to say the least.
In a game that had so many twists and turns, and highlight reel plays that normally are limited to PlayStation or Xbox, the (6-3, 3-3) USC Trojans once again came out on top against the Sun Devils.
This is yet another game at the Coliseum that the Sun Devils muffed. Then again, the 2010 season has been filled with games against top-tier programs, and the Sun Devils fighting until the final gun only to fumble away the contest in the dying moments.
Saturday night at the Coliseum, the fans in attendance felt their hometown Trojans took ASU for granted, but that was not the case.
The box score looked eerily similar on both sides. USC and ASU combined for 800 yards of offense and 67 points. The Trojans had a two-yard advantage in the box score, and a one-point victory on the scoreboard.
Same old story, right?
Once again ASU received an “A” for effort against another elite program only to fumble a victory away in the most crucial of moments.
The Sun Devils rallied from a 22-7 third quarter deficit, to take a 33-29 lead with under seven minutes to play.
Media members across the valley have named ASU’s scapegoats and culprits each week, and normally that burden has been placed on Erickson, Steven Threet, and Vontaze Burfict’s shoulders.
However, from the opening play from scrimmage, (a 54-yard double pass by Jamal Myles to T.J. Simpson) ASU wanted to steal this victory and rip it away from the Trojan’s grasp.
The Sun Devils knew exactly how important earning a win at the Coliseum was.
Threet led the Sun Devil offense with 3 touchdowns through the air and utilized his feet very well on running plays. Add that to a defense that made USC punt six times and looked out of rhythm the entire evening.
Even when ASU’s special teams’ flaws were exposed, the strength of the unit brought the Sun Devils back to life.
LeQuan Lewis made a crucial play for the second consecutive week. However, not many plays can top his 100-yard kickoff return. No less than 14 seconds after the Trojans took a 15-point lead late in the third quarter; Lewis and the ASU return team responded in necessary fashion.
However, it was never going to be enough.
Weber kicked the Sun Devils to victory more times than not in his career, but at the Coliseum, it was Weber’s right foot that kicked the bucket on ASU’s 2010 bowl hopes.