Who are these guys?!
Two weeks ago, the Arizona State Sun Devils beat Washington by 10 points, as Steven Threet threw for 288 yards and the team piled up a total 387 yards. Things were looking good.
Then they took a week off to give them plenty of extra time to prepare for Saturday’s game with California at Berkeley.
It apparently didn’t help much. The Bears took them to the wood shed, putting a 50-17 hurt on the Devils in a game in which the only ASU scores came on a punt that was blocked by Colin Parker and covered in the end zone by Oliver Aaron, and a 25-yard fumble return by Clint Floyd.
Can’t blame it on the rain at Memorial Stadium that made for a sloppy second half. They played through a downpour in Seattle when they beat the Huskies.
ASU’s hapless offense had just 57 yards rushing for the entire game Saturday. Threet started the game and managed just 125 yards on 9-of-17 passing before an injury (concussion) forced him to turn things over to the back-up, Samson Szakacsy, for the second half of the game. But before Threet left, he tossed in a couple of interceptions for good measure.
Szakacsy, the redshirt junior from California, went 8-for-17 for a whopping 52 yards. And he accounted for another interception as well.
Add to that an anemic 23-yard rushing performance by the freshman running back, Deantre Lewis, who has piled up 100 yards or more for three games already.
Heck, the Devils lost more yards in penalties (72) than Szakacsy got in the air – or the entire offense accumulated on the ground.
That means they have reverted to their early-season woes when turnovers were a staple of their game. Against Washington, it looked like they had turned the corner, picking up just four flags for 31 yards. But up popped the miscues again on Saturday.
What happened to the team that started the season 2-0 and then played toe-to-toe against two ranked teams, losing to No. 11 Wisconsin by one point and then racking up almost 600 yards of offense against No. 5 Oregon?
We know this year’s edition wasn’t expected to live up to the 10-3 squad from a couple of years back, Dennis Erickson’s first year as head coach. But they appear to have the talent to post a winning season and perhaps even finish in the top half of the Pac-10 standings when it’s all over.
And the no-huddle, quick-strike offense brought in by new offensive coordinator, Noel Mazzone, was going to light up the scoreboard. The Devils are averaging 32 points a game, about 10 points better than last year, but the new offense doesn’t produce on a consistent basis. Case in point: only the defense was able to score against California.
Now they’re struggling to get above .500 and have the meat of the schedule ahead of them. The Devils have to play USC, Stanford, UCLA, and Arizona.
They can warm up this weekend against Washington State, finally able to enjoy a home game after more than a month on the road. And no doubt looking forward to a dry field for the first time in awhile.
The Cougars are a team that doesn’t have a win in conference and is 1-7 overall, and the last opportunity before ASU will have to buckle down and face the California schools and that other Pac-10 school down in Tucson.
That last game of the season against the Wildcats is looking more formidable each week. The Cats are a 6-1 team, ranked No. 15 in the country, and just became bowl-eligible by stomping on University of Washington, 44-14.
But right now, ASU (3-4, 1-3) is too busy worrying about the rest of the alligators in the swamp to give much consideration to that rivalry game that’s still a long way down the road.
This week is Homecoming in Tempe. A feel-good win against the Cougars on Homecoming night would provide a temporary shot of adrenalin and a little renewed hope.
But then reality sets in again. Even with a win over the Cougars, they have to beat three of the last four teams to become bowl-eligible.
In order to do that, they will have to play like the team that nearly beat Wisconsin, or the one that rushed for more yards than Oregon – which is now the No. 2 ranked team in the country. Or even the team from a few weeks back that ran up 387 yards to beat Washington.
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see which ASU team shows up for these last five games.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)