Sometimes it’s easy to forget how much fun people are.
Other than Washington State last year, I’ve never experienced a Sun Devil victory on the road. Since that was such an easily expected win, Saturday was so much more exciting.
The coaches are nicer. The players are more fun. The people on the plane clap at anything.
You’ve always heard the phrase “it’s tough to win on the road.” After traveling with ASU for two years, I understand that phrase a little more. Everything’s different and you’re completely out of your element.
It was 85 degrees when we left Phoenix. I saw 2 clouds. It was 64 when we landed in Seattle. I saw no blue.
After lunch on Saturday I went back to my room and my key didn’t work. I went to the lobby and there were some players there. They were locked out of their rooms. The hotel had put the wrong check-out times on our room keys.
We leave the hotel for the game and it’s a downpour. The equipment guys spend every moment trying to keep things dry. Nothing seems normal. There’s a list of distractions.
Despite the distractions, ASU won on the road. Sure, they own UW at Husky Stadium but I think historical stats in college football can be over-rated unless it pertains directly to a certain head coach.
Since players and coaches change so much in college football, I don’t care how many times ASU has won in Seattle in a row. It’s a series of “one-game winning streaks” strung together and not consecutive wins because each one is different. Every two years the leadership is completely different as well as the young players who need to make the difference.
Give a lot of credit for ASU’s 24-14 win to Steven Threet. He dramatically lowered his interceptions (he threw one but it was tipped). He went through his progressions much faster against UW.
Jeff Van Raaphorst said in the pre-game show that Threet stopped moving his head quickly through his progressions and started locking on to receivers in the past few games. I didn’t see any of that in this game. His decision-making went much faster.
When you see UW offensive totals it will be hard for you to believe this but ASU’s defense had a great game. The penalties were considerably less. The pressure on Locker was intense but not reckless. There were a lot of missed tackles by individuals but the entire defense kept coming in waves to gang tackle so missed tackles at least slowed down the ball carrier for someone else to come in and clean it up.
There were two things that really jumped out at me in ASU’s win and they both point right at Dennis Erickson.
Trick plays are run for two reasons: a coach believes he lacks the talent to win straight-up or film study has revealed a flaw in your opponent. Erickson ran zero trick plays. Sarkisian ran two. The RB option pass was almost intercepted. UW’s fake field goal was stuffed nine yards shy of a first down.
Dennis Erickson believed his guys could get it done. The UW coaching staff felt like they had to do something special to win. If UW ran those trick plays because they believed they had found a flaw, the coaches for ASU cleared up those opportunities. That’s great coaching and great anticipation by the players.
The obvious take away from this game is Burfict. Benched for the whole first quarter and for a small time in the third, Vontaze didn’t sulk. From my sideline vantage point, it appeared he got the message.
He was always as close as he could get to the field while his defensive teammates were on the field. When LB’s came off the field, he stopped them and they talked about what each one saw. He applied that knowledge and had a solid game.
Burfict was targeted many times by UW on third downs. It was clearly in the Husky game plan to earn some first downs through penalty. Whenever a lineman or TE came near Burfict, they would go at his knees and then trash talk about it. Each time Burfict ran back to the huddle or came to the bench without engaging the instigator. Only a player who cares about his teammates and respects his coaches would get it that fast.
Dennis Erickson sent a clear message to Burfict. The message was received for this week.
There’s a lot of hard-working kids on this team. It was cool to walk under the stadium through the tunnel that connects the field to the basketball arena with the ASU players. It’s been awhile since I got to see them smile, dance, and simply enjoy the moment.
Cal represents a much different set of problems, but let’s worry about that next week. Enjoy the win over the bye weekend and get ready for the Bears later.