Monday, October 27, 2008

A New Low

You know what the funniest (or saddest) thing about Saturday's 54-20 loss to Oregon?

It was the fact that even when ASU was down 20-0 midway through the 2nd quarter, I actually couldn't kick the thought that the Sun Devils were still in the game.

You heard me.

Remember a few weeks ago when we discussed the Sun Devils' lack of opportunism? It was just after the Georgia loss when I brought up the fact that the Bulldogs trend of taking penalties and such let ASU hang around for much longer than they should have, yet the Devils couldn't capitalize.

For a while, the Ducks were matching Arizona State mistake for mistake...and there are a multitude of examples to prove this:

-Jarius Byrd picks off a Rudy Carpenter pass inside the five, then follows it up with a Jeremiah Johnson lost fumble. Down still only 7-0, any competent offense would have punched it in and tied it. Instead, the Devils moved back three yards in two plays and then RC threw another pick.

-On the ensuing drive, the Ducks drove from their own 2 all the way down to the ASU 16, then missed a field goal. Upon getting the ball, the Sun Devils went three and out, gained only one yard and Trevor Hankins kicked such a poor ball that I was convinced it had been blocked. It took Oregon only 1:40 after that punt to score another touchdown. Even after THAT, a botched snap resulted in a botched extra point!

-Then the unforced errors started. After a good return and the most sustained drive of the game so far, the Devils decided to go for it on 4th and 1. The box score on that play will always say that RC was sacked for -8 yards for a turnover, but we all know that we saw him trip over the 48 yard line and go down. At that point, I called ballgame.

-One minute later, it was 20-0. Next drive: ASU is forced to punt, Jarius Byrd muffs it and the Devils jump on it. ANOTHER chance for the Devils to seize some momentum...any momentum...midway through the 2nd quarter. Negative-16 yards later, the Ducks had forced another punt.

It was off and rolling from there. Oregon kept giving the Sun Devils chances to get back into the football game and ASU, as we've become accustomed to, made it a habit to shoot themselves directly in the foot.

That's a lot to digest, but I've got plenty more.

This group of receivers simply cannot catch the ball anymore. I don't know what happened to Mike Jones, Chris McGaha and the rest of these guys, but they all caught a serious case of the dropsies just before the UNLV game and apparently haven't gone to see the doctor that, you know, cures dropsies. They were once again bumbling all over themselves and dropped passes on several of those drives mentioned earlier.

It was great to see Keegan Herring back on the field, obviously, but watching him play behind that offensive line just proves that even the most elusive of ASU's running backs need some sort of minimal protection to move the ball. Herring, easily the most dynamic of any RB on this roster, gained a measly 15 yards on 8 carries...1.9 YPC. Welcome back, Keegan. Sorry there aren't any holes for you.

I could keep harping, but it's honestly not even worth any of our breath anymore. It's just time to realize the grand scope of what we're seeing at Sun Devil Stadium right now.

The 2008 Sun Devils are beyond underachieving. I'm now willing to say that this is simply just a bad football team. Through this five-game losing streak, I've seen no sign of an offensive rhythm, tangible regression on the offensive line and baffling inefficiency by wide receivers. The defense, who we gave so much praise to by forcing five turnovers against Southern California, apparently can't carry momentum from week to week, because the unit that performed admirably by "facing USC" standards left SDS last night with egg all over their face.

The fun keeps going, folks. This is always the time that Oregon State starts to kick it into high gear, and now the Devils get the Beavers in Corvallis next Saturday night. The Sun Devils have now been burned by Joe McKnight and Blount/Johnson in consecutive games, and it gets no easier in containing Jacquizz Rodgers.

I'm really trying to stay positive, despite what you may read from me day in and day out. What I saw on Saturday night, however, should suck the wind out of even the most ardent of ASU supporters, of which I am one. I wouldn't write blog after blog here on PFN if I didn't care about our Sun Devils. The two things I pride myself most about here on Pitchfork Nation are my undying love of ASU athletics and the objectivity that I bring from years of journalistic training.

It's the objectivity that has to overwhelmingly be exposed this season, and what they say is true: the truth hurts.

I guess this is where we start the countdown: 19 days until Mississippi Valley State visits Wells Fargo Arena and I can start building my optimism back. Welcome back, TJ.

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