U-G-L-Y spells Win

Okay, I'll be the first to admit it: Arizona State's victory over Colorado on Saturday night was ugly. Not mildly ugly, we're talking scare small children ugly. But it was a win nonetheless, and for a team that has developed a culture of packing it in when the chips are down, this game was a step in the right direction. Quarterback Rudy Carpenter admitted as such after the game.

"I think in years past, guys would have folded," he said. "They would have started yelling at each other."

So you have to give the team credit for coming back from a 14-0 deficit to beat Colorado 33-14. In years past, this game might have been an embarrassing loss.

And of course, you have the penalties, 136 penalty yards and five personal fouls. With each personal foul committed, I cringed as I could hear the Dennis Erickson critics in the back of my head blasting ASU's thug mentality.

"See I told you so," the voices said. "Erickson runs a dirty program with thugs and cheap shot artists."

But let's get something out the way. First, Erickson did not commit the personal fouls, nor does he condone them. Certainly not the bone-headed penalties. Young players have to learn the difference between playing aggressive and playing stupid. Most of the penalties on ASU Saturday night fell into the latter category. Second, Erickson was peeved, and said that Sun Devils infractions/cheap shots were "embarrassing" and "ridiculous." I couldn't agree more.

"There's no excuse for that," Erickson said after the game. "It's not going to happen ever again or they're not going to play. The discipline part of the penalties really bothers me. That's the most disappointing thing of the game."

Which brings us to another point. Erickson inherited a team that was undisciplined. ASU was the most penalized team in the Pac-10 for the past two seasons. I blame the prior coaching staff on that malady and the lack of discipline can't be fixed over night. Even the best drill sergeants need time to instill discipline and mold their troops. It looks like Erickson will need more than two games to get his troops playing smart (yes, that's right aggressive AND smart).

And speaking of aggressive, the defense played well again with players flying around to the football. But breakdowns in the secondary were routine and if not for several dropped passes by Colorado receivers, this game would have been a lot closer in the fourth quarter.

The bottom line is ASU is 2-0, which is exactly where we expected them to be at this point in the season. There have been some positives, and plenty of negatives. Give the Sun Devils some credit for their resiliency.

With San Diego State on the schedule next, Erickson and the Sun Devils still have another game to smooth out the wrinkles before Pac-10 play starts. This is when we can really judge the character of this team … because playing smart and mistake-free football will be preached all week by the ASU coaching staff. So all you Erickson critics … just back off for the moment and give him time to fix what was broken Saturday.

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