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Doug: Pain is a four-letter word

The pain on this team is so palpable.

I felt it walking up the tunnel with the players after the USC game. I felt it entering the locker room with the video staff. I saw it on Dennis Erickson’s face as he stared blankly at a poorly painted wall in a small storage room where his post-game radio interview was held. I felt it walking up the ramp to the team busses with ASU staff.

The loss to Wisconsin brought hope. The loss to Oregon brought optimism. The loss to Oregon State brought frustration. The loss to Cal brought embarrassment. This loss only brought pain.

It doesn’t matter that USC isn’t what it once was. It’s the symbolism. It’s the losing streak. It’s the missed opportunity. It’s the continual close losses. It’s the feeling “we’re getting closer.” It’s the wonder, “Are we spinning our wheels?”

I don’t get into this play or that play in a game like this. No matter who lost, the losing team was going to look at about 5 plays that could have gone the other way. The teams lost a total of 10 points in the kicking game. Each team had a pick 6. Devils got a kick return TD but USC could have easily had a punt return fumble. See what I mean? Any play you try to change the outcome in ASU’s favor, you could do the same for USC.

This loss just creates an empty feeling but that emptiness should not be filled with hopelessness. Capitulation to the pain is not an option. It will be tough on the kids. Stanford’s not going to feel sorry for ASU. That is a physical team. Any lingering affects from the USC loss will be difficult to overcome.

Stanford will expose any flaw in ASU preparation this week. If the players or coaches spend any time in self-pity, the Stanford game could get ugly. In the four years I’ve lived here, I can see this is the toughest week to be a Devil. There will be fans that quit on the team. There will be questions about all the tough losses.

It will be interesting to see who will be the toughest Devil this week. Will it be a fan who decides to buy a ticket to the Stanford game? Will it be an advertiser who agrees to back the Devils for 2011 based on hope? Will it be a punter who realizes his important place on the team and in society? Will it be a kicker who makes the 2010 season start right now and forgets the past? Will it be a middle linebacker who learns to be mentally stronger? It could be a quarterback who starts to trust his reads more than he hopes. It could be a head coach that stands firm with and against his players. Maybe it’s the athletic director who must endure another week of questions about the future.

Who will be the toughest Devil?