Chiccoa: A Bang or a Whimper?

Our football columnist, Charles Chiccoa, brings up some very salient points about the ASU loss, and contemplates how the dreadfully disappointing 2007 football season could end...

It can't be news to anyone around here that talking or writing about these games is no fun any more… that even the implied hope in the phrase, "let the season play out," begins to sound as hollow as the worst kind of Hallmark uplift. Which isn't to say the upcoming Oregon game is without interest.  

Barring a miracle, we're witnessing the last gasp of the Karl Dorrell era, and damn if it doesn't feel like the butt end of the previous regime. In Arizona and ASU, KD had two reasonable chances at a life line, but that ship has sailed. This team looks dead in the water, with sharks, in the form of Oregon and SC, circling for the kill, not to mention thousands of piranhas, in the form of a huge, enraged fan base, also wanting a bite.

Today there are basically two kinds of Bruin football fans: those who are dry washing their hands in anticipation of the coming spectacle, and those who are merely waiting for the wretched thing to run its course and be finished. Only the most childlike among us still clings to the hope that this thing will finally "get fixed"… or even have a dignified ending, something which seemed to be much on the players' minds after the latest unsurprising loss.

"I think what we have to do as football players… is to show character and continue to fight when there isn't a tangible thing to grasp," is how Christian Taylor put it. Alluding to KD's future, he was quite matter of fact: "Football is a business; it's not the YMCA. If we don't play well, we sit on the bench," leaving the unmistakable inference hanging in the air.

Trey Brown echoed Taylor: "We say that every week. There has got to be a time when we go out there and fix it." 

Bruce Davis was steaming as usual: "We cannot go out on a losing streak like this. I don't want to look back twenty years from now and see we lost all these games and think, 'We could have done this, we could have done that.'"

                                              *****

Sorry, but except for the injuries I can't work up a lot of sympathy for this team, or figuratively pat Osaar Rashaan on the head and give him a "nice try, son." Sure, Osaar needs to be on the field in some capacity, but who is really prepared to turn the offense over to him? Yes, he made some promising plays here and there, even a couple of startlingly nice throws, but he could not drive the team, and he could not convert third downs (and, please, can we stop with the Dennis Dixon and Vince Young talk). ASU has never been known for defense, yet they had little trouble keeping Osaar contained, holding the offense to a meager 300 yards and forcing nine Bruin punts. Osaar, for all his athleticism, is not really a burner, and if he's ever to become an effective quarterback, he'll have to start completing passes downfield. On the other hand, that's not something his three predecessors this year were able to do successfully either. So I guess Osaar gets to keep that "intriguing" label for at least another game. 

The fact that the Bruins were even in this game was due, of course, to the two great kick returns by Terrence Austin and Matthew Slater. Take away those plays, along with the ASU fumble at the Bruin five, and the fans are streaming for the exits and an early dinner after the third quarter.

Slater is amazing in that he continues to hit those kickoff returns straight on, like diving head first into a wave. He doesn't make a cut until he sees that first crack of daylight, and he never takes a diagonal route, which, come to think of it, might make for an effective change up. He's a fifth year senior and, of course, he could've been returning kickoffs last year, and the year before that, and… oh well. He almost never gets on the field as a defensive back, so the question naturally arises… why not return him to wide receiver? I mean, he's practiced there before, and he's a legit sprinter, having clocked 10.62 and 21.39 at Servite High School (and aren't we always crying about lack of speed in the wide receivers?). Why does this sound vaguely familiar?   

What to say about the continuing bonehead errors such as Bruce Davis's personal foul that cost three points and valuable momentum going into the half (Will the Bruins ever not give up the last score of the half?). Then there was Taylor's personal foul to keep a Sun Devil drive alive, and Alterraun Verner's fumbled punt, and Austin fair-catching inside the five-yard line, and a couple of more third-and-long completions resulting from inadequate three- and four-man pass rushes (To be fair, this is endemic throughout most of college football.) Obviously the players are frustrated, but it might be helpful if they became a bit more aware, played smarter, since their margin for error has become wafer thin, and since they also seem to be on thin ice with the zebras. Then again, "bad teams find ways to lose" and right now this is… uh… not a good team.

Failure to wrap up ASU's Keegan Herring, when he should have been held for no gain, resulted in the 71-yard touchdown run, which was preceded, a couple of minutes earlier, by more poor tackling on an 11-yard scoring run by their other tailback, which, if the Bruins had held, might have resulted in a field goal try instead of a touchdown. In a closely contested game, that's an 11-point differential right there. Otherwise, DeWayne Walker's defense played inspired ball. I doubt anyone else, including SC, will force ten ASU punts. As suspected, Walker came with more safety and corner blitzes, which enabled the Bruins to hold ASU to a respectable 350 yards, and kept Rudy Carpenter - seemingly much improved under Dennis Erickson - from carving up the Bruin secondary.                

Finally there was the celebrated Brandon Breazell/Chris Meadows brouhaha. After the game, Breazell sounded even angrier and more fed up than Davis, Taylor and Trey Brown combined. So what if Meadows is a walk-on who rarely ever sees the field? He's also a junior, not a wide-eyed freshman and, like Craig Sheppard, not an altogether untalented football player. So, in the heat of a bitter loss, Breazell says, "That was Meadows' play. All week he says 'I got your back, I got your back'… and then when game time comes, well…"

This sort of thing is meat and drink to T.J. Simers, who then devoted his Tuesday column to wagging his finger at Brandon by comparing his remarks to some imaginary remarks T.J. might've made to his, apparently, white trash in-laws. Brandon, after saying he never said "those things," then attempted to clean it up, but only succeeded in digging himself deeper. "I said it," he admitted, "but I didn't say it to dog him out… I was joking." Whatever… But remember Taylor's dictum: This is not the YMCA, and I'm sure Meadows will shake it off quicker than the suddenly sensitive T.J. I mean, it's not as if T.J. ever dogged anyone out, right?   
           

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