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ASU at crossroads following blowout loss to Oregon

Imagine watching golf on a Thursday. Phil Mickelson is at the tee preparing his shot, and the crowd is silent. Lefty winds up and lines the ball down the fairway, receiving a soft applause from the crowd for his efforts.

That was the atmosphere in Sun Devil Stadium for the final three quarters of Oregon’s rout of ASU on national television Thursday night.

The Sun Devils were down 22-7 after the first frame, and 43-7 at half, and the fans made it seem so much worse.

Frank Kush Field was silent during the final three quarters, and fans gave a mere golf-clap of appreciation if ASU made a positive play. The 71,004 strong that originally made up the blackout turned into a sporadic 20,000 (maybe less) by the start of the fourth quarter.

The national media will make this out to be a statement game for Oregon, but Arizona State made a few statements of their own.

Todd Graham’s high-octane offense is a Honda Civic compared to the Ferrari that is Chip Kelly’s attack. The Ducks — prior to Kelly calling off the dogs in the second half — outgained the Devils 377-139 through the first half. Oregon runs the same style of offense that ASU runs, but does so much more effectively.

As my grandfather used to tell me, speed kills. And it sure did kill the Sun Devils against the Ducks.

Arizona State’s defense is nothing without Will Sutton. Coach Todd Graham said it himself; the players and coaches were “discombobulated” without the nation’s leader in sacks.

“So much of our game plan is around him.” Graham said of his star defensive lineman. “We were scrambling, and they did a great job capitalizing off that.”

Taylor Kelly has a long way to go to be the kind of starting quarterback many have touted him to be. He was flustered way too easily in this game and seemed unable to throw the ball down the field. Kelly threw for 54 yards on 4-11 passing with two interceptions in the first half.

On that note, the offensive line made a case for the worst O-line in the state, and that’s saying something with the Cardinals in town.

“Their defense was very physical, they controlled the line of scrimmage, and they’re the real deal,” said Graham following the game.

Coach was putting it lightly.

Oregon’s defensive line manhandled the Sun Devils’ big men, forcing Kelly out of the pocket on what seemed like every passing play.

In summation, ASU got beaten soundly, but that’s not the big story that comes out of this game. The loss leaves the Sun Devils at a crossroads in their season. One road leads to a bounce back game against UCLA next week, and perhaps a trip to the Pac-12 Championship game. The other leads down the familiar road from last season, a solid start and a terrible collapse.

Arizona State’s future remains uncertain, but in the coming weeks the team will reveal its true colors, and make a whole new statement in doing so.

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