I attended the Holiday Bowl after attaining tickets last minute. Some observations after attending the game.
1) ASU came out of the locker room to start this game with absolutely no energy. It reminded me of the 2004 game at USC when we were undefeated going in. It was a game to prove ourselves and we we're out of the game from the get-go. This game was much the same. I was sitting over on the Texas side during the first half, and their whole team was hooting and hollering the entire first half, while I looked over to the Sun Devil sidelines where the players had their arms crossed and were just standing around listless. It seemed like some of our players just wanted to get home and play Wii Tennis.
2) Carpenter took a lot of flak from the fans even though this was a team loss. Colt McCoy obviously outplayed him, but the offensive line gave another performance reminiscent of the 2002 Houston Texans. His thumb is obviously not healed, so a lot of the fans who are calling for Sullivan to replace him need to wait and see what happens in Spring ball.
Needless to say though, after severely missing receivers on key plays (Brent Miller on 4th down, the underthrown interception to McGaha late that sealed the Texas victory), Sullivan needs to be given a fair look in the offseason. With how talented our receivers are, the Sun Devils need a quarterback who can throw the ball deep with some zip. Some of those balls Carpenter threw looked like they were filled with helium, taking way too long to get to their target. Hopefully, with a successful recovery to his throwing hand, Carpenter can regain the pass efficiency we saw earlier in the season.
3) Chris McGaha is a great possession receiver. He was covered pretty well on that 4th down touchdown catch, and if he doesn't come up with that I might have been tempted to catch the trolley back to the Santa Fe Depot a little earlier than I did.
4) I'm interested to see how Kyle Williams will play in his final two seasons. With Rudy Burgess graduating, Williams needs to step up and be a team leader next season. After botching that punt return late and subsequently throwing a tantrum when he got back to the sideline, his character comes into question a little bit. If I had a helmet on in the stands, I probably would have thrown it down in disgust too after the way our team had been playing, but with Williams becoming a junior next season some of the younger guys are going to start looking to him for leadership. Just hope he can keep a cool head in the future, because everyone makes mistakes and it wont be his last one.
5) Our line backers and corners need to learn how to defend the screen pass a little better. The first screen of the game was covered well by Justin Tryon, but they killed us with the screen the rest of the game. USC found this out, and used it against us, and Texas used it as well. Georgia is usually deep at tight end and running back, and if we're going to have a chance at beating them next year we have to figure out how to defend those short passes. Our corners just flat out need to learn how to tackle better.
6) I think we'll be good next season at stopping the run. Even though we're losing Robert James and Michael Marquardt, I think we'll be just as good at stopping the run with David Smith, Jon Hargis and Tank English plugging up the middle. Our linebacker core will miss James, but Nixon, Goethel, Munns are all coming back and shouldn't miss a beat. Best of luck to James and Marquardt at the next level.
7) Texas running back Jamaal Charles will probably skip his senior season and go right to the pros. His agent just needs to show scouting directors game tape from the Holiday Bowl. He played his way into the first day of the draft most likely.
8) Getting to the quarterback. Colt McCoy had all day to find the open man. Dexter Davis was completely shut down, and Luis Vasquez was the only D-Lineman to come away with a sack. They combined their efforts for 16 sacks this season, but the Vasquez sack in the Holiday Bowl was the only one the duo came away with in our 3 losing efforts this season.
Any observations you guys have, please post them into the comments section.