From division title to bowl eligibility: ASU football resets season focus

Nov 2, 2021, 7:15 AM | Updated: 7:54 am
Head coach Herm Edwards of the Arizona State Sun Devils reacts on the sidelines during the first ha...
Head coach Herm Edwards of the Arizona State Sun Devils reacts on the sidelines during the first half against the UCLA Bruins at Rose Bowl on October 02, 2021 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

TEMPE — It’s been nearly four weeks since the Arizona State Sun Devils won a football game.

After ASU’s last victory on Oct. 6 at home against Stanford, the team has since lost to Utah and Washington State, with a bye week sandwiched in between.

The importance of winning became even more paramount in each of Arizona State’s last two ballgames given that the consequence of losing was no longer controlling its destiny in the Pac-12 South.

And after being ranked as high as No. 18 in the AP Top 25 with a 5-1 record going into the Utah matchup on Oct. 16, it looks like the back-to-back losses in all likelihood will leave the Sun Devils on the outside looking in for the Pac-12 Championship Game.

With the lofty hopes of a third Rose Bowl appearance in school history well out of ASU’s control, Edwards and Co. now have to reset their focus on what is still achievable for the 2021 Arizona State Sun Devils.

“The (1997) Rose Bowl team was here” visiting on homecoming for the Saturday loss to Washington State, head coach Herm Edwards said Monday. “When was that? Twenty-five years ago. So that’s how hard it is. It’s that hard.

“There’s a lot of good coaches who have coached here. It’s hard. Football is hard, it’s not easy. Everything has to come together. We had an opportunity this year and we still have an opportunity to accomplish a lot of things in my opinion. That’s just my opinion as a head coach. And that’s what the team understands.”

At 5-3 (3-2 Pac-12), the team is one win away from becoming bowl eligible and still has an opportunity to finish with up to nine regular-season wins and 10 total including a bowl game if ASU was to win out.

Both of those metrics would be career-bests for Edwards in Tempe, as the head coach’s best season at the helm came in 2019 when the Sun Devils finished the regular season 7-5 and finished the year 8-5 with a bowl win over Florida State.

Coincidentally, Arizona State started that season 5-1 before dropping four straight, including losses at Utah and vs. USC, the latter of which visits Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday.

“We need to get bowl eligible. That’s kind of important. We need to figure that out, how to do that,” Edwards said. “So all those things are still in front of us. If it was easy, it would just happen. And it doesn’t happen that way.

“There’s a lot of highs in it and there’s some lows in it. And right now we’re low and we have to get out of it if we want to feel better — we want everyone to feel better. But it’s part of the process and you have to live with it. I’ve done it a long time and I’ve seen it and you go, ‘OK, how do we get out of it?’ And that’s what we have to figure out — we have to find our way out of it.”

Edwards added that he’d like for practice to be more competitive as part of a way to shake things up and focus on getting back to what it feels like to win again.

The head coach said he’s going to have the first-team offense go up against the first-team defense in order to put guys in a position where they have to compete.

“They don’t like being in this situation and I said the only way to clean it up is win,” Edwards said. “Then you’re not in this situation anymore. Then you don’t have to worry about it.

“But we’re in this situation and we have to find our way out. I’m betting on my players. I’m betting on they’re going to play and we’re going to find our way out of this. And my coaching staff — that’s what I’m betting on.”

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