ASU Football: Sun Devils Host the Trojans


Editorial by Mike Slifer, editor of Devils in Detail

Tonight, in Tempe, the ASU Football team hosts the Trojans of USC.  For ASU, it is the opening of conference play and a crucial South Division matchup.  For this game, I have outlined only one Key to Victory for ASU:

Get back to the Sun Devil Way

Since his arrival at ASU, head coach Todd Graham has tirelessly reconfigured this football program.  Most fans will agree that the philosophy, style, energy and attitude of everybody and everything associated with football has been upgraded by Graham.  In short, Graham has been able to overachieve with his players.

In three games this season, it appears that the Sun Devils may actually be underachieving.

Quite honestly, this ASU Football team looks uncharacteristically sloppy and undisciplined.  All of the things that disappeared when Graham arrived have resurfaced.  In Graham’s first three seasons, ASU was a national leader when it came to penalties and ball security.  Not so in the first three games this season.  (including wins over inferior opponents Cal Poly and New Mexico)

So far, ASU has six personal fouls, more than all of last season.  They have also have been committing the silly, annoying 5-yard penalties such as encroachment, delay of game and false starts.  Very out of character for this program.  Last season ASU fumbled the ball 15 times for the whole year. (losing seven)  This season, they’ve already fumbled eleven times (losing four)  The discipline and focus has just not been there.

Devils in Detail is going to take it one step further.  For Graham’s first three years, it appeared that ASU was “blessed” by avoiding injuries to their players.  Graham attributed that fact to his strength and conditioning staff.  That’s not the case this season.  I can’t remember an ASU team that had so many personnel go down with injuries.  Every week, key players are leaving the game with nagging injuries, forcing them to wear “no contact” jerseys the following week at practice.  I will stop short of saying that ASU players are “tapping out”, but there have been moments where it looked like that was the case.  How can there be so many players lying on the ground with muscle cramps in a home game against New Mexico?  It just doesn’t make sense.

The feel, the vibe, and the body language of this team simply does not look or feel the same as it has the last couple seasons.  These Sun Devils do not look like champions.  Never mind the fact that the ASU offense has no vertical threat and poor pass protection.  Never mind the fact that against inferior opponents, the offense couldn’t punch it in for a touchdown when they had First and Goal from the 1-yard line.  And once again, never mind the fact that the ASU Special Teams have been dismal.  The key to victory is to start approaching football the way the Sun Devils used to; by being vigilant about protecting the ball, and by displaying discipline, character and toughness.

Devils in Detail believes that eventually this ASU team will figure it out.  However, if they haven’t done so this week, the ASU faithful better prepare themselves for an ugly, painful and embarrassing loss at the hands of 19th ranked USC.  The Trojans are talented and experienced.  They are also chomping at the bit to get revenge for last season’s heartbreaking loss on the last play of the game.  (Jael Mary)  Additionally, USC got brought back down to earth last week against Stanford.  Losses like that tend to cause teams to refocus and circle the wagons.

Coach Todd Graham and offensive coordinator Mike Norvell will have a good game plan for USC.  But it won’t matter if the players don’t execute that plan with passion.  ASU absolutely must return to the fundamentals of a winning mentality that has been their trademark for about three years.  If they can do that, they have enough talent to rally and be South Division Champs.  If they can’t, they may not win a single conference game.