Don’t overlook the Buffs!
I don’t think there’s much doubt that ASU didn’t have the fire completely lit to start Thursday night’s game at Colorado. I don’t see how anyone that’s human could be completely ready to light the fire against Buffaloes.
You can say all you want that a coach should have his kids ready to play, but how hard do you work the day before vacation? Are you focused on giving every ounce you have or are you focused on the travel plans? The impressive part of Arizona State’s 34-point win over Colorado, was how the Devils came out after halftime. Obviously Rashad Ross’ kick return for a touchdown was huge. However, sometimes those work against you (just ask Ohio State fans about the Ted Ginn Jr. touchdown return to start the BCS Championship in Glendale).
After the kickoff return, the defense hit the ground and started winning more one-on-one battles. Taylor Kelly got into a much better rhythm. Pass protection improved. Wide receivers were actually getting open. What could have been a disastrous loss turned into a blowout win. That shows two things: coaching and character.
Four different times Mike Norvell’s offense hit a Colorado blitz with a screen over-the-top. I don’t think that’s coincidence. Taylor Kelly had just three more incompletions (8) than TD passes (5). Two incompletions were intentionally thrown away to avoid a sack. Marion Grice not only had three touchdown catches, but told me after the game he was more proud of the block he threw in pass protection against a blitzing linebacker that gave Taylor Kelly the time to throw a deep ball to D.J. Foster.
ASU has everything rolling. They get an A- for their mid-terms. Now the preseason is officially over. Beating the No. 2 ranked team in the country is not going to be easy, but it’s more than just the Ducks. It’s USC, Oregon State and Arizona on the road. Even if you lose to Oregon and USC, as long as they win the rest of their games there is still a realistic shot at the Pac-12 Championship Game. The second half of the season is four times harder than the first, so the ride could get rocky.
The Oregon game is monumental but not for the reasons you might think. The outcome isn’t nearly as important as the ramifications. Right now the game isn’t sold out. So on national television you’ll have the ESPN broadcasters wondering why ASU fans are so pathetic they don’t sell out a game with a 5-1 home team and the No. 2 team in the country. Recruits will be on the sideline judging everything. A packed house and a close loss would tell any perspective recruit that he’d be the difference in overcoming Oregon. The passion of the fans would show him this is where he belongs. The flip side is an impressionable 17-year-old thinking “…if fans and media can’t get up for this game, I’m going somewhere that will.”
You have the chance to close the deal for a future recruit by your show of passion. Todd Graham has the opportunity to completely remake his national image. The players have the chance of a lifetime because this game will feel like a major bowl game. Our region has the chance to — once again — remind the country that Phoenix/Tempe/Scottsdale/Glendale (my apologies to Goodyear) is the home of major sporting events and we deserve any major event.
For my part, the Doug & Wolf show will cover this game next week like we’ve never covered ASU football before. For the coaches’ part, prepare every single kid to not get down with one big play from Oregon, because that’s when they’ll strike for the next big play. For the players, trust your coaches and the discipline you’ve learned. Don’t get caught up in the moment, just focus and play. For you, go to the game or buy a ticket for someone else to go if you can’t make it.
The world is watching.