Individual Accomplishments Mean Little to Shivers

Junior safety Jason Shivers has been one the season's lone bright spots on a much maligned ASU defense. However, he told DevilsDigest that leading the team in tackles and being a standout special teams player dwarfs in its importance compared to the overall team struggles.

"As far as my season stats, I really haven't been following it too much," exclaimed Shivers. "I rather win than lose and get great stats. When you lose, you start having questions like ‘Am I doing everything right? Am I doing enough?' Sometimes it gets to a point where a player can try to do too much just to help his team."

And help is much needed these days when it comes to the Sun Devil defense. Why is this unit greatly struggling for the last few weeks? One the defense's prominent leaders offers his view. "People not making plays when they need to," said the safety "And that speaks for our whole team. As long as you're not making plays, nothing will really go right. It's not really the call, it's on the player and he will make the play….I think we're having mental breakdowns. Things aren't going your way, calls aren't going your way, stuff like that happens."

With the team's confidence in shambles, more and more ASU followers are raising the issue of members of the squad quitting on their comrades and the season. The safety doesn't believe this is the case. "I'm not the coach so I really can't say," claimed Shivers. "As far as myself, I'm fired up to come out here. I'm still trying to win these last couple of games. That's all I can really speak on."

"Some of the players are coming to practice like everything is OK," continued Shivers. "They want to win against Washington State and they haven't thrown in the towel. It's really hard to know really what each payer is thinking, without talking to each player individually… I look at everyone in the eye before the play comes in. I talk to them, and they say it's all good. They're ready to go and they're fired up. We just have to come back this week and practice. That's all we can do."

Shivers feels that lack of execution, and the pace of the game that follows a slow start, are more to blame for the defensive woes rather than lack of passion. "On defense we talk about making big plays," Shivers stated. "Last couple of weeks we weren't able to make big plays. It comes back to when a team is up 14, 21 points on you – they want to run the ball at you and run the clock. It's almost like a boxing match. One boxer will wear the other one with their jab."

Through conversations with his players, Coach Koetter has learned that a more vocal leadership is needed and wanted on the team. The free safety feels that he has been and continues to play that role. Nevertheless, the timing of being vociferous is just as important as the act itself. "I feel like I'm one of the vocal players in the game," exclaimed Shivers. "I feel there's no need for being vocal before a game or when you're not in battle. All that doesn't matter until you really get into the game. In the game, that's when I feel that you need to speak and I've been doing that week in and week out."

This week ASU will face arguably the second best team in the conference – Washington State. Shivers expects to face an explosive and balanced offense on Saturday in Pullman. "Draws, deep passes…they use a lot of trick plays," said Shivers. "They like to go on top a lot and stretch the field. You have to take away the deep threat, which we have done well in the past. After we do that, we have to handle the run when they try to run against us. That has been our flaw."

All year long, Shivers has been the proverbial iron man for this Sun Devil squad. However, even by his high standards he did reach a plateau of sorts last week against Stanford. He played 86 defensive snaps, and along with being on three out of the four special team units – he exceeded the century mark for reps last Saturday, which he admitted had to be a personal high. How does he handle this bear of a task emotionally and physically?

"I just laid in the locker room because I was all tired (smile). Just to have enough stamina to compete, run, and keep the energy flowing, making plays all across the field – it gets kinda tiring. But my mentality is to ‘keep going…keep going.' It does catch up for you after a while, but I try to keep focused saying I'm not tired."

It goes without saying that in a wearisome 2003 campaign, a 100 snaps may easily feel like a 1,000. Shivers acknowledged the fact that it's tough to keep that iron man mentality during a season such as this. Nonetheless, his approach to this is quite practical. "You need to check yourself and do your role, and everybody else will do their role." That just may be the formula for the success that has eluded the boys in the maroon and gold thus far.

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