As more and more unfulfilled Sun Devil football seasons go by, I feel more and more like Bill Murray's character in the 1993 movie Groundhog Day.
Murray plays a local weatherman who has been 'assigned' (for the fourth year in a row) to cover Punxsutawney Phil's annual Feb. 2nd appearance in rural Pennsylvania. None too happy to be 'covering' the event again, his only saving grace is that he's accompanied by a beautiful producer played by Andie McDowell. They end up stuck for the night because of a snowstorm and Murray wakes up and realizes he's stuck replaying the same day over and over again. Although Murray tries and tries again, each 'new' day brings more disappointment and frustration as it relates to pursuing Ms. McDowell's fancy. Finally, he changes tactics and starts believing in people, in life and in love. The day finally changes and Murray wakes up a new man, embracing success and living life to it's fullest.
Each season, we wake up with hopes and dreams that this year will be better than last. That this season will be different, that this season ASU will break through, that this season will be 'Our Time'. And yet so often ASU football has woken up in the same day, hoping and wishing that the outcome would change.
This Saturday's game against USC will determine whether the Devils calendar will change or stay stuck in Punxsutawney.
How to Change the Calendar
1. Stop making so many mental mistakes that extend opponents drives or stall our own. In the Dennis Erickson era (2008-present), ASU has been ranked each year in the Top 15 for most penalties, finishing as 'high' (low?) as No. 2 in 2009. From 2008 through last week's game, ASU has averaged over eight penalties per game.
2. Run the ball more effectively. There are 120 schools that play D1 college football. In the Erickson era, ASU's current ranking of No. 63 in rushing yards is the highest they've achieved, but the season's young. They finished No. 114 in 2008, No. 97 in 2009 and No. 84 last year, averaging just 3.6 yards per rushing attempt.
3. Get the ball to play-makers in space. It's no secret that JJ Holliday and Jamaal Miles, along with the hopeful-to-return-this-week RB Deantre Lewis are ASU's best big-play threats in space. But space is only created by an effective run game combined with a willingness to get the ball vertical enough at times to keep LB's and DB's honest.
Many Sun Devil fans sit where I'm sitting right now: thinking that Sunday morning we'll awake and have to relive another 'Groundhog Day' season. ASU is 1-11 in the last twelve against USC. They've beaten just two ranked teams in four years. The game is on ESPN. Somehow, ASU is favored by 2.5 points. There's probably a full moon, too. For ASU finally to punch that alarm clock and wake up a new team they'll need to follow the keys above.
If not, I'll see you down at the Punxsutawney coffee shop Sunday morning...like always.