Updated Nov 6, 2012 - 11:38 am
These days, who is ASU's real foe?
There's failure in the decision by Dennis Erickson to not recruit enough wide receivers that can play Pac-12 football.
Rashad Ross gives himself up if the original route doesn't lead to a pass play in his direction, and Taylor Kelly can't trust him to go make a play on the ball, because often Ross won't turn into a defensive back to protect his quarterback if the throw is off the mark.
Kelly scrambled out of fear with eyes on the rush, instead of being the quarterback he was the first two months of the season, when scrambling was a means to create time and space for the weak receiving core.
Despite Kelly's play, the decision to play Michael Eubank against Oregon State was a much poorer coaching decision than the pass play from the end zone against UCLA. Look, you must let the young quarterback learn to play through his fear to show him you're confident in his ability to improve through trial and error.
And, Eubank needs to start running someone over when he does get playing time. I don't care if he's a quarterback or not.
The defense can't put everything on Will Sutton's shoulders and simply wait for him to carry them.
I've got about seven more things I could write, but it wouldn't be the point of what I saw, what I heard and what I felt.
I have special access to the locker room on road games due to the post-game radio interview that takes place in the locker room. It would be unfair to Todd Graham and the players if I ever reported what I hear, because post-game speeches are between the young men and their coach. It would be unfair to the rest of the media if I reported what I saw, because I'd be taking advantage of my position to report stories they can't get and I didn't outwork them to earn. But, there is nothing wrong with me telling you how I feel.
I feel the passion from those kids playing through injuries as some sit in tears at the realization the Pac-12 South championship is still a possibility but not based on much reality. I feel the frustration in Todd Graham's words, despite his continued belief in the seniors. I sense the pain from the mounting losses. There's an amazing brotherhood of warriors -- said with due to respect to our military especially as we approach Veteran's Day -- that have forged a bond against a common foe.
There's a major problem developing -- or maybe I should say has developed over the years. It's the problem of foe recognition. Is the foe USC this weekend? Is the foe the errors and failures of the week before? Yes, and yes, but unfortunately there's another foe ASU is fighting: you and I. We think we're supporting them but are we?
I don't think me writing about the failures of ASU Saturday night makes me a hater. However, it begs the question: do I get to judge? If Rashad Ross reads what I said, does he respect the opinion and implement suggestions or does he thicken his skin just a little more, while classifying me as someone who roots for his failure? I'm not saying either decision he makes is right (although I, of course, root for his success). It's just as I stood on the inside for just a moment, I felt in that locker room, fans and media have become a part of the problem, instead of part of the solution.
Think of the comments from Brandon Magee from earlier in the week. He chastised the fans for their negative attitudes. He attacked anyone if they were jumping off the ASU bandwagon. He sounded bitter. I've talked to a lot of former players recently, and they sound a lot alike.
They arrive at ASU excited beyond words, but they leave with pent-up frustration - feeling attacked for four years by message boards, Facebook posts, newspaper articles and talk-show host blogs. I realize if they didn't want the pressure, they had every right to play Division III football. It truly is all relative. ASU gives you much more of an opportunity to prove yourself to the NFL. The scholarship covers so much more of their education than a small school opportunity. You're right, since they get so much more, so much more should be expected. It's just as I sat in that locker room, I could feel we're getting close to going too far.
Our players spent time preparing for the negative attacks, opinions and remarks they would see and hear for the next week. Let that sink in for a second. Instead of putting every ounce of focus they have towards USC, our players -- the ones we think we're supporting -- had to be reminded how to handle the tough questions from the media, harsh remarks from fans and comments from classmates.
This point was driven home for me on my flight home. A man saw my ASU hat and shirt and started a conversation.
"The Sun Devils were thinking they were special just a few weeks ago until we came to town."
I was in the Eugene airport. I wasn't happy with what he thought was just having fun with a stranger. I took my seat. A second man looked at my outfit.
"Did you lose a bet or are you wearing that by choice?"
We all know the feeling of ripping the unemployed, drunken uncle in a family setting and then the sudden fire that's lit when someone outside the family takes a shot. Since we're all ASU fans, I know we feel like we're keeping our comments inside the family so it's acceptable. Standing in that locker room, I realized all of us aren't in the family as much as we think we are.
It's America. I know we're not wrong for expressing our opinion. It's clear though sometimes we're not right either.