One Down, Eleven to Go

After several months of anxious anticipation, we finally got as a taste of Sun Devil football in the Dennis Erickson era.

There was much to be cautious about in the season opener. The last time we saw the Sun Devils play football, Colt Brennan and the Warriors of Hawaii humiliated the Sun Devils on national TV. Both offense and defense were sluggish in pre-season scrimmages and practices. We weren't sure which Rudy Carpenter was going to show up: the sleek 2005 version or the inconsistent 2006 version. And the opposition was San Jose State, a pretty good football team coming off a 9-win season and a bowl berth in 2006.

The pundits were out in full force stating that the Spartans could upset the Sun Devils. Under Dirk Koetter, and perhaps a few seasons under Bruce Snyder, the Sun Devils seemed to play to the level of their competition (NAU last season being a good example). Were the Sun Devils ripe for an upset, despite being 15-point favorites?

Upset? It was not going to happen on a sweltering September evening at Sun Devil Stadium. The Sun Devils played inspired football on both sides of the football en route to a 45-3 victory of SJSU. Even the most optimistic of Sun Devil fans couldn't have predicted the ease with which ASU dominated this contest. But that's the way you take care of weaker non-conference opponents: give them their paycheck, kick some dirt in their face, and send them home with a crushing loss. That's what real football programs do. That's the way Erickson rolls. Finally, after a six-year absence, the Sun Devils have a real head coach again.

There was plenty of reason to be excited after the home-opening victory. Tailback Ryan Torain looked like a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate and one of the nation's best running backs. Rudy Carpenter looked sharp and poised in the pocket. Linebacker Robert James was a demon on the field, making tackles from sideline to sideline. Freshman receiver Kerry Taylor looks like the real deal and suddenly the ASU receivers are starting to impress.

But most important was the enthusiasm the team displayed. Erickon's Sun Devils are lively and spirited, and that's going to play large once the contests start getting tougher and the stakes higher. Hopefully, flat uninspired football is a thing of the past.

Oh yea, I'm starting to like this Erickson guy. The recruiting is on the upswing, the Sun Devils are smashing weaker opponents, and the team is displaying a little swagger.

Colorado visits Tempe next. The Buffaloes figure to be a tougher opponent than San Jose State. But I'm looking for another fired-up team to come out of the tunnel and give fans another reason to cheer on Saturday nights.

We've started a new chapter in Sun Devil football. But this time, we have a Pulitzer-prize winning coach with the pen.

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