Iowa Loss Paints a Less Than Colorful Picture

Many Sun Devil fans spent the week leading up to Saturday's contest at Iowa debating over the team's new all-white road jerseys. Ironically, it might have been the color pink that did the team in. Pink, as in the color Iowa has its visitors locker room painted in order to make its opponents more docile leading up to game-time.

Disclaimer: The following editorial does not necessarily reflect the view of DevilsDigest.com and its publisher.

If you believe that the Devils lost because of white pants or pink bathrooms, perhaps you can also be convinced that this team actually did "compete with passion and character" on Saturday in front of a national television audience and thousands of ASU fans who made the trip to Iowa.

Perhaps you'll believe anything, or at least begin to believe it, if you hear it enough. Remember, USC, Washington and Arizona State are the first-tier football teams in the conference this year. Andrew Walter is a Heisman trophy candidate. Tom Osborne is one of the best special teams' coaches in the country. Dirk Koetter is an offensive genius. Please snap your fingers repeat three times and make it so. Right?

You see, I too am left scratching my head over some of this stuff. After all, does Oregon look pretty darn good to anyone else or is that just me? Don't Heisman trophy candidates pick up their teams by the bootstraps and get the job done no matter what. You know, Jake Plummer. What's so special about punting into your opponent's end zone twice from inside their territory or catching punts inside your own 5-yard line? Do offensive gurus usually get this out-planned, out-worked and out-maneuvered?

With the game still entirely in doubt it appeared that coach Dirk Koetter essentially abandoned the running game and the final stats show 14 rushing attempts against 44 passing attempts. Hakim Hill garnered 17 yards in only two carries and if you subtract Walter's rushing total, the Devils had 42 yards on 17 carries. Is that a running game worth abandoning?

Arizona State tried to go to the tight end in the flat on one occasion, but other than that, I don't recall another passing attempt to anyone at the position. Sure, Mike Karney got some looks out of the backfield, but Iowa's two-deep zone defense was seemingly leaving an opening in the middle of the field – a void that was never filled.

Andrew Walter, on at least four occasions, threw to underneath receivers in traffic on third and long with almost no possibility of garnering a first down as a result of a completion. He also had at least two balls that were seemingly thrown in timing routes to players that ran a different pattern. These types of things are almost dumbfounding.

Special Teams play left a lot to be desired as well. In the first half alone the Devils punted twice from inside the 45-yard line of their opponent only to put the ball deep into the end zone on both occasions. The team also had a player field a punt from its own 5-yard line.

Perhaps most disturbing of all however, was the lack of any emotion from the team in the second half. It looked as though the team was almost resigned to losing from the start of the third quarter onward. Even Koetter himself appeared strangely calm and uncharacteristically docile on the repeated sideline television close-ups.

At the game's conclusion, Koetter altruistically and rightfully accepted blame for the poor showing, saying, "Our offense stunk." That starts with me." It's something we've grown accustomed to from Koetter and it pares down his arrogance somewhat, though heuristically it does very little either for the team's win column or fan psyche. And that's the problem.

It matters not how many catchy phrases you banner as team mottos or how many segments you break the season's schedule into and label. Being obscenely meticulous only pays off if it results in fewer mistakes on the field. Arizona State has racked up more penalty yards than its opponents in each of its first three games.

And while Koetter was quick to accept responsibility for the pasting his team took, unfortunately it was something else he said after the debacle that carried the most resonance. "We played right into their hands for most of the game," Koetter said.

That isn't exactly a statement that would promote confidence, especially considering the in-game changes to the play calling seemed to be almost negligible. If Koetter felt he was playing into Iowa's hands, why were the no noticeable adjustments made on the offensive side of the ball?

Perhaps we found out why there were few noticeable adjustments at a press conference where Koetter said, "The problem is that I don't know what's wrong with [our consistency]. It's not that I can just pull something out of my hat, and say this is it and fix it. It's a combination of a bunch of things, and I know a couple of the factors, and unfortunately those aren't factors that you snap your fingers at and make it all better."

Perhaps, but it better get at least a little better and sooner rather than later. Sun Devils fans have turned their attention away from white pants and pink walls. Now they're seeing red.

The author can be contacted at socaldevil1998@yahoo.com

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