Stage fright suggests ASU football still adjusting to the spotlight

Sep 19, 2018, 4:46 PM

After going 2-0 against UTSA and Michigan State with a brief stint in the Top 25, ASU will look to ...

After going 2-0 against UTSA and Michigan State with a brief stint in the Top 25, ASU will look to get back to its winning ways against Washington on Sept. 22. (Photo by Eric Aldava/Cronkite News)

(Photo by Eric Aldava/Cronkite News)

TEMPE, Ariz. — The hiring of Herm Edwards was like a slingshot that catapulted Arizona State’s football program into the national spotlight.

After the Sun Devils won their first two games of the season, including an upset of then-No. 15 Michigan State, ASU and Edwards jumped into the Associated Press Top 25 at No. 23.

Suddenly a team that came into the season with little fanfare was a national story. It was a new experience for some of the team’s young players. They didn’t get to enjoy it for long.

In their first road game of the season, the Sun Devils fell at San Diego State, 28-21. Aztecs running backs Juwan Washington and Chase Jasmin delivered a harsh dose of reality to the nation’s then-No. 1-ranked run defense, combining to rush for 250 yards and two touchdowns.

The Sun Devils face 10th-ranked Washington in Seattle on Saturday. For young players like sophomore cornerback Chase Lucas, reaching the Top 25 was a milestone.

“Being in the Top 25, it’s a blessing,” Lucas said. “(I) always saw that number beside a college name when they’re playing a game. I always went like, ‘I wish there was like a 2 or a 1, or anything by our name.’ I’m glad that we finally got it, but there’s more games to come, more victories to win.”

Selected in the Pac-12 preseason poll to finish last in the conference’s South Division, ASU’s quick start was unexpected.

Some of the team’s more experienced players didn’t spend much time thinking about rankings.

Defensive lineman Darius Slade called all the hype ASU received following the 2-0 start “outside noise” and wants it to remain just that. Slade started his career at Ohio State, where he sat out as a true freshman when the Buckeyes won the inaugural College Football Playoff in 2015. Ohio State’s lineup featured eight future NFL first-round draft picks that season. So he knows all about “outside noise.”

Now at ASU, Slade’s stoic approach is something the team can benefit from if the team continues to receive recognition.

Defensive lineman Renell Wren was on campus in 2014 as a true freshman when Arizona State reached as high as No. 6 in the College Football Playoff poll. Now a redshirt senior, he remains one of seven players from that team and is focused on results in his final year in Tempe.

“I’m not worried about the rankings,” he said.

“That can be all fun and games, but you just have to do your job and get the ‘W.’ Like Coach Herm says, ‘You play to win the game.’ ”

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Stage fright suggests ASU football still adjusting to the spotlight