Herm’s ‘goofy’ experiment just might be working after all.
OK, so it was mostly the purists (and a good share of sports ‘analysts’) in college football that made fun of Herman Edwards‘ idea to take an NFL approach to rebuilding the Arizona State football program when he was hired last December as the Sun Devils’ new head coach.
When Edwards was introduced to the media nine months ago, it was also announced that the athletic department would begin working under what it called the New Leadership Model, which is similar to an NFL approach that uses a general-manager structure.
That whole idea of blending college and the pro game raised more than a few eyebrows. And it was being introduced by a man who hadn’t coached at the college level since 1989. A heavy dose of skepticism has overshadowed Edwards’ preparation for his first season back.
However, there are far fewer doubters now that ASU is 2-0 in Edwards’ inaugural season. And the upset of No. 15-ranked Michigan State last weekend has not only made believers out of some of his harshest critics, but it’s energized the Sun Devil fan base.
Beating a top Big Ten team at home definitely poured fuel on the fire that’s been lit under the student body.
Granted, it took a 28-yard field goal as time expired to finally put away the Spartans. And the week before, that 49-7 win was not against a Power 5 program. The Devils beat University of Texas at San Antonio, a Conference USA team that barely scraped together a winning season (6-5) last year.
But, hey, a win’s a win. Herm’s boys are two-and-oh.
While ASU gave the 50,000 fans that showed up for the opener something to get excited about, 49 points spread evenly over four quarters, the MSU contest was more of a defensive stand-off. MSU took a 3-0 lead into halftime and then each team added another field goal off the opening drives of the second half to make it a ho-hum 6-3 offensive effort.
But the Spartans finally found the end zone just before the third quarter ended, and ASU was down 10 points, 13-3. The Sun Devils answered to open the fourth with, yep, another Brandon Ruiz field goal.
But with 8:45 left to play, senior quarterback Manny Wilkins located his go-to receiver, N’Keal Harry, for a 27-yard touchdown to tie the game. The ASU defense took over in the final minutes, using back-to-back sacks to give the ball back to the Sun Devils for one final drive. After a 13-play drive that covered 69 yards, Ruiz was called back onto the field for an attempt at a third field goal of the day, this one to win the game. The sophomore from Williams Field High School in nearby Gilbert launched a 28-yard kick that sailed through the uprights as time expired.
After Ruiz’ performance he was named the Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week. His first field goal of the game was from 49 yards out to get ASU on the board and his last was accomplished with the game on the line. He also added the point-after to the Harry TD and kept MSU deep in their own territory; there were no Spartan returns on any of his four kickoffs.
Wilkins finished the game with 381 yards on 30-of-48 passing. Harry had 89 yards via six catches.
But it was the ASU defense that get a major share of the credit for this win, holding the 15th-ranked Spartans to 377 yards and 13 points. Jalen Harvey, the redshirt senior safety, led the team with 10 solo tackles and Dasmond Tautalatasi contributed a key interception in the fourth quarter.
This week, Herm will take his show on the road as the Sun Devils get their first test away from home when they pack their bags for California to take on San Diego State on Saturday.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)