Stay Focused, Sun Devil Fans, Stay Focused

Don't throw in the towel, change the channel and chant FI-RE KOETTER! (Sorry, just a knee-jerk reaction…). Let's take a step back, take a sip of mouthwash for the sour taste we all woke up with on Sunday and reanalyze the situation. With three games left we're 8-1, ranked ninth in the nation and face a series of challenging, but far from impossible contests. Things could be much worse.

It's gut-check time for the maroon and gold, it's time to see how Coach Erickson's squad responds to its first loss. Sure, there were problematic situations in ASU's defeat to Oregon on Saturday, however observers and critics are lost in exaggeration to think that the Devils were "exposed" or are "overrated".

Facts are facts, Oregon is a tremendously solid team, led by an experienced, athletic quarterback who figures to dance his way to the Pac-10 Conference Offensive Player of the Year and remains a top Heisman Trophy contender. Disappointing to lose the game, yet far from a shameful defeat, there were plusses and minuses that will surface in any loss.

ASU played tough and had spurts of impressive play, led by an effective offense which, despite allowing the Ducks to frequent the Sun Devil backfield, was able to move the ball very routinely, out-gaining the nation's top offense by nearly 100 yards.

The problems that have been a thorn in the side of Sun Devil fans all season continued, including starting the game slowly (especially on defense) and allowing the opposing defense to pressure quarterback Rudy Carpenter frequently and forcefully.

Saturday's over, time to turn the page. We took our lumps and the unblemished record is no more. At this point, we each have an angel and a devil on either shoulder, disputing reasons why ASU will bounce back and finish strong and reason why the Sun Devils will stumble even further.

Tell me, though, do you honestly think that this coaching staff and these players can't or won't learn from this loss and come back next week with a vengeance?

There's still a great deal of potential magic left in the season, and let's just admit how much Dennis Erickson has spoiled us in his first season. We're on the outside looking in regarding National Championship possibilities, but still remain in the top-10 in the BCS rankings and have a fighting chance at a Pac-10 Conference Championship.

If that's not good enough for you, well, go back to Notre Dame, Alabama or whatever head-in-the-clouds, let's-pretend-it's-1970 school with unrealistic expectations and an a lack of appreciation for otherwise excellent achievements.

Putting Oregon aside, UCLA is next on the agenda and is a team on the ropes, not dissimilar to the situation California was in when the Bears and the Sun Devils met.

With injuries to quarterbacks Ben Olson and Patrick Cowan, third stringer Osaar Rasshan is likely to make his first career start when the Devils head to Pasadena this weekend. Rasshan replaced Cowan during the Bruins' 34-27 loss to Arizona Saturday, completing just 3-10 passes for 78 yards. A third-year sophomore, Rasshan did not see any game action as a redshirt freshman last season and has appeared in only three games this year, splitting time between wide receiver and quarterback.

Also, leading rusher Kahlil Bell suffered a season-ending injury a few weeks back, further limiting the Bruin offense. Add in a dash of a coach on the hot seat, and the Devils appear to be facing the Bruins at a very opportune time. UCLA is a desperate team right now and look for the Devils to come out with a chip on their collective shoulder, aiming to prove that they're deserving of a top-10 national ranking.

Pasadena has been unkind to the Sun Devils in the past decade, as the last time ASU won in the Rose Bowl was in 1996, by way of the Devils' historic come-from-behind victory led by the legendary J.R. Redmond halfback pass to Jake Plummer, who snaked his way through defenders into the end zone.

How long will the Oregon hangover last? Will it be a week-long, post-spring break headache or will the Devils take a collective dose of the "hair of the dog" that bit ‘em and push the pedal to the metal and close the 2007 regular season out in style?

Perhaps the most gut-wrenching issue that now comes to the surface is do we Sun Devils do the inhumane, the unthinkable and the uncivilized and cheer for the University of Arizona when they face Oregon on Nov. 15? To suggest such a travesty admittedly should result in deportation, excommunication and a tar-and-feathering, however let's not forget that an outright Pac-10 Championship and automatic BCS appearance is still attainable if ASU is able to sweep its final three games and Oregon slips up in either of its final contests which are at Arizona and at UCLA, before the Ducks host rival Oregon State in the 2007 installment of the "Civil War".

It is a notion that makes a Sun Devil feel unclean, it is textbook treason, but perhaps at this point, selling our collective souls for a shot at a Pac-10 Championship and letting our enemy do us a favor is an offer we can't refuse.

Of course, there are other teams that will have a say in the final Pac-10 standings, including USC and perhaps UCLA, however ASU will have the opportunity to eliminate both teams from championship contention in upcoming weeks.

This has undoubtedly been the craziest college football season in several years; things have deviated from the script at nearly every opportunity. Stay the course, Sun Devil fans -- do you really think that it will end predictably?

All we can ask is that Erickson and company go out and continue to make us proud.

Give ‘em Hell, Devils!

Joe Healey is a 2006 graduate of Arizona State University and will be a guest contributor to Devils Digest during the 2007 football season. He currently writes for ASU's Maroon and Gold Illustrated and his work has also been featured in Sun Devil football media guides and other official team publications.

Sun Devil Source Top Stories