A season filled with so many ups and downs it's really something difficult to try and put a finger on it as of right now. So, I am gonna do this one a little bit different. I am not gonna grade out individual position groups cause right now they are pretty much all at the same level... failing.
A season once so promising and a road that favored the Sun Devils now seems like a trip down the yellow brick road only now we are truly lost in the forest. The good part about this forest? The Emerald City is still out there somewhere within ASU's grasps.
In other words, with two victories and some help from UCLA the Devils can still win the South and make the Conference Championship Game. As a fan of football and someone who knows the game do they truly deserve that title shot based on the way they have played the last couple of weeks? I have to say no to that, but luckily you will not find many of us arguing that scenario and welcoming it with open arms.
ASU is a team this year that couldn't be any harder to read. We have seen a team that comes out of the gate strong in games against elite teams and completely dominates and yet a week later completely flops against teams they should over match. So what does that mean? Well, in my personal opinion and some one that has studied sports psychology it truly boils down to the mental status of the team.
Do they prepare too much?
Does ASU play up and down based on the level of opponent?
Are they out of shape or know how to mentally dial it up when the game is on the line and fatigue is a factor?
All questions that come down to mental preparation and sacrifice which create the character make up of a football team. So what kind of character does the 2011 Arizona State Sun Devils have?
A team that can match up against a USC squad with all kinds of firepower and dismantle them on both sides of the ball has now show us it can lose to the Washington State Cougars and UCLA Bruins in that same season. Where is the character in that?
What kind of personality lets inferior teams knock them around like they were the better team from seasons start? It is a team that is under prepared and a team that doesn't truly know who it is or what its goals are. If the goals were to makes us all have doubt in a staff that has done a great job bringing in talent and coaches, and create a scenario where fans are angry and want more... they have sure done a great job of that.
The question still is though, what is next? What do ASU and Dennis Erickson bring to the table this week against UofA? The biggest game of the season is this week and with a win Saturday and another next Friday against Cal is ASU back on track?
Is 8-4 and a potential shot at the CCG enough to fill all our hearts after some of the performances this season? The feeling I gather from the fan base is No.
Not going into coaching topics and still having support for this staff and team I personally think a shot at winning the conference says a lot, shady south division or not. If this team can in fact win the next two games with the season they have had and with the losses of certain key players I think they deserve all the praise they will have then earned.
An 8-4 record and the Devils are bowling for the first time in three years. There is a recruiting class that at this point is still very intact and could be on the rise with several key commitments. If this all unfolds down that yellow brick road the way we want it too and with ASU getting into the CCG and possibly winning.. would you all then be back on the wagon?
Because I am still sitting right here on my bale of hay and would be more than willing to reach out and help you back on if you are interested. My points spread wide and could range for days on end.. yet they are this... There is still so much potential, so much pride and so much left to witness.
The Sun Devils two chances left to leave it all out there. If things don't get fixed and in a hurry then of course things need to be changed. But if ASU can mentally fix the things they can control and if the leaders on this team can take matters into their own hands then the season can be salvaged and the Sun Devils can boast shouts of pride again.
Until then, well... we will have to wait and see the way it all unfolds. I hope and have the faith that it can still be done by this staff and team. We as a community of Sun Devil loyal followers must show our community we still support this team until it is not deserving which I promise you is not quite yet!
How do we do that?
We show up in full force to this week's game against the Wildcats. We cheer as loud as we can and we get after it as fans in the stands! If they ask us to wear Sun Devil Black then we wear it with pride! We act respectful and prideful to those who visit Sun Devil Stadium. We support until there is nothing left to support!
That is my two cents so take it or leave it but I hope you take it! I will always be a proud Sun Devil and a supporter of this team until we hit the absolute bottom... That has not happened yet!
Time to talk some offense:
This week I am not going to go into great detail about position grades or how certain guys played cause really nearly every group would get a failing grade. At this point it is more about talking about the team so let's grade it more as a whole and look at the bigger picture of things.
Offensive Grade: C-
Washington State had statistically one of the worst defenses in the conference going into Saturday night's game. They couldn't stop the run and their secondary was one that had given up all kinds of yards. So what happened in cold Pullman on Saturday that changed their fate and had their defense playing with more fire than the Sun Devils?
Did they want it more or were the elements just too much for the Devils to handle?
ASU lost the third down battle, it lost in total yards gained and once again in time of possession. If you ask me one of the biggest keys to the game was not being able to convert anything on third down going 5-16 and letting the Cougars dial up pressure all over us.
Not only though could ASU not sustain drives but it was out gained in rushing yards by Washington State!!! The ASU Offense had finally started to get the running game going over the last couple of weeks and on Saturday night it basically laid an egg with only 60 yards gained (25 attempts for a 2.4 yard average). The Washington State Defensive box was getting all kinds of push up front and basically stoning the entire ASU offensive line.
Personally, I don't know how many of the Washington State players ever had scholarship offers from ASU or too many other Pac-12 schools but to get out played like that on the line should never happen in a match up like this.
It really just looked like Washington State really wanted it more. They played with more fire under them and took over the game with their effort.
Brock Osweiler was the highlight of the offense and yet he looked lost many times out there during the game. His throws were often very hesitated and the reads were taking way too long to develop.
Not sure what happened Saturday night or really if Washington State did in fact want the victory more than ASU but guess what. It happened.
Let's talk some defense:
Defensive Grade: F
I could think of about a thousand adjectives to sum up the play of the Sun Devil Defense and its overall performance but let's just give one... HORRIBLE.
ASU and the once "feared" opportunistic defense allowed a player who had only thrown 19 passes in a game prior to the meeting throw for a Pac record; 494 yards with four scores. When watching the film it was very evident the lack of communication in the secondary. Really the communication overall on the defense was just absent.
The players were never on the same page with each other, and with nearly every big play the Cougars had, someone on the defense was completely busting the assignment. The play of the safeties and the function of the zone pass defense was some of the worst I have ever seen from ASU. Guys were passing off threats to areas that had no one within 15 yards.
So tell me please, with ASU more than likely having more skillful athletes than Washington State are they getting so out performed? Are they mentally preparing in practice during the week to the level they should be? Do they take plays off during practice because there sure was a lot of that on Saturday night.
The third down battle was supposed to be something we were nationally ranked at and we allowed Washington State to go 8-17 and 1-1 on fourth down!
The defense allowed 590 yards of total Offense.. that is 1,962 yards over the last four games. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!? Where is the pride this unit once had?
Over the last couple years this staff has done a great job creating an attitude and a defense that was nationally ranked and one of the top in the Pac-12. Where did that all go?
Where is Vontaze Burfict?
Where is the pass rush?
I am lost and I know many fans feel the same way. But guess what Defense... you have two more opportunities to fix it!
Guess what again... Nick Foles is not Connor Halliday. Time to gut up or get knocked out this week because it is for EVERYTHING! The pass rush needs to find a way to get to its targets and the secondary better get ready for a good passing attack. The Wildcats are coming to town and I promise you they are drooling right now at the chance to play us.
So get that pride back and get after it this week in practice. Focus up and be coachable. This week is for it all! Let's Go Defense!
Special Teams Grades:
Coverage Teams: B
Return Teams: A
I am sure I have said enough with this week's column but I hope I brought to light a little bit of what it takes to be great. This team has all the potential to be that and more, it's just very obvious they lack the mental fortitude to accomplish many of the tasks at hand.
The Sun Devils have two more chances this season to make things right and finish out with a season on a high note. This is of course the biggest week of the season and with the Wildcats having the season they are of course ASU is going to be favorites just as they have been the last two weeks.
I have all the confidence in this team and hopefully this column of mine has brought to light some things that need to be addressed. Here is to stomping the Arizona Wildcats!
Defensive end Kyle Caldwell played for the Sun Devils from 2003-2006 and finished with Sun Devil career with 90 tackles and 10.5 sacks. He earned Pac-10 All-Freshman honors in 2003 and Honorable Mention All-Pac-10 recognition in 2006. A graduate of Scottsdale Saguaro High School, Caldwell was a member of the Sabercats' coaching staff who won the 2010 Class 4A Division I state championship.