Pardon me for paying little to no attention to he who steers the ship entitled ASU. Certainly everyone's "boy" Dennis deserves respect, and without question he adds a pinch of spice to a game and an event the magnitude of today's contest, but a resume' only tells a small part of a story whose outcome will be decided by an interview. An interview consisting of questions whose answers will be given by two teams on the field…and almost certainly not by an elderly gentleman in a headset, pacing the sideline of Rich Brooks Field, salivating at the thought of a post-game celebration consisting of one, two, or ten adult beverages. Assuming he drinks, of course?
Oregon's opponent today is not Dennis Erickson, its Rudy Carpenter, Keegan Herring, and eleven defensemen who've been infused with the type of aggression and attitude Coach Erickson has always preached, the same attitude which breeds personal fouls, questionable tactics, and sportsmanship deemed by many to be sub par at best. Of course, none of the aforementioned are direct results of the esteemed and honorable coach, but merely byproducts of a system designed to create a competitive and winning mind-set, which trumps any collateral damage that may ensue.
Erickson's teams have always played with a deliberate swagger (a term I despise, but am forced to use at this time.). A style which emits confidence and arrogance, while simultaneously belittling the opponent and diminishing the good in the game, components such as graciousness, humility, and simple respect. Respect for the game. Respect for the opponent. And respect for your teammates role in any success that "you" may have during a game.
But that's all beside the point.
Let's focus on the Sun Devils personnel. After-all, Dennis is irrelevant in regards to the talent on the field. Players play and coaches coach, right? Any success the Dust Devils have at Autzen tomorrow will be a direct result of a newfound dedication to the game on the part of Arizona State's players, right? And, while talented in years past, the boys from Scottsdale have merely come into their own this season, maturing both physically and mentally through an inevitable process that all collegiate teams and players experience during their tenure on campus, right? This never happened at Washington State, Miami, or Oregon State. Erickson's never seen this type of turnaround at any of his previous stops. They performed accordingly in Pullman during Dennis' tenure with the Cougs. He never won anything meaningful while leading the Hurricanes in South Beach. And the Beavers were perennial BCS contenders prior to Erickson's arrival in Corvallis.
Nearly, if not for the complete turnaround at Washington State, two national titles at Miami, and resurrection of an Oregon State program mired in a 29-year losing streak.
Dennis is the difference. There's a reason he's won nearly three quarters of his games at the Division One level. As much as I've tried to trivialize his contribution to this Sun Devil team, it's pointless to deny the fact that Coach Erickson and his system, like it or not, are winners.
Do you think Dirk Koetter would have ASU in this position, 8-0, fourth-ranked in the BCS, and playing for a spot in a national title game?
The Sun Devils are a nice team, with nice players, who Dennis Erickson has turned into a heck of a nice story. They play fast, hard, and with a panache found in every team you, I, and everyone else outside of the Phoenix area love to hate…but they win.
So, who's Arizona State and what do they bring to the table? Dennis Erickson. Sure, they have some talent, some experience, and most likely a will to win, but don't kid yourself; if the Sun Devils win this game today, it will have a little to do with Rudy Carpenter, a little to do with a swarming defense, and a whole heck of a lot to do with a man from Everett, Washington whose style and tactics have been questioned, but whose record and history of winning leaves no doubt…
…but for the record, I don't think he'll be enough.
Game Day: Dennis Who?
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