Nothing Special, Really

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bigger Than Huge

In response to an "anonymous" comment, here's my thoughts on ASU's football season.

I'll admit; I don't pay too much attention to ASU football. I pay some: I look at the scores each week, try to stay updated, and catch an occasional game when I can. But I still only follow it somewhat casually, so when I'm asked to express my thoughts about ASU's season this year, I really don't have all that much to say.

What I do know is this: Saturday's game is the biggest game in ASU history since our last trip to the Rose Bowl. Bigger than any bowl we've been to since then. Bigger than ASU vs USC two years ago. This game is HUGE.

And I don't think I'm going to watch it.

New Year's Day, 1997. I don't remember much from the Rose Bowl that year except for two things: Jake The Snake's touchdown run & the TD catch by David Boston at the end. One moment, I was pounding the floor in excitement, the next moment I nearly broke my hand punching the wall. What made that game so heartwrenching, beyond watching the game itself, was two things:

1. Florida State lost two days later, leaving No. 3 Florida as the champs.
2. We lost to Joe Germaine. There are few people in the world I hate more than Joe Germaine. In high school, Westwood had a chance to take state my sophomore year, but we ended up losing a critical game to Joe Germaine & Mountain View. Three years later, he does the same thing against my (future) college team. At least he didn't amount to anything professionally. Man, I fucking HATE Joe Germaine.

During the time I attended ASU, we weren't very good. With Andrew Walter at the helm, we were an offensive juggernaut, and we had no problem with unranked teams. But against the better teams, in those games that counted, we were outmatched. In my 2+ years there, the best we ended up was 9-3. Many schools would love to be 9-3 and go to a bowl game. But that year, we only beat one ranked team (Iowa early in the year), lost to USC & Cal, and finished the season with a loss at our hated rivals, U of A. Sadly, I never went to a game as an ASU student, but then again, I never had much of a reason to. It wasn't that I wasn't a fan, nor that I wasn't proud to be a Sun Devil, but admittedly, even 7 years later, I was still hungover from the Rose Bowl. Unless we had something close to national championship aspirations, I just couldn't get interested.

We got close in 2005. We headed into the season ranked somewhat high, and got a good test early against No. 5 LSU in our second game. We lost by four, but it was a game that we would have normally got blown out in. Instead, we played it close and should have won the game, but we gave up 4 TDs in the fourth quarter. What would've been a statement game against a Top-5 team became another "what could've been game". But keeping the game close kept us on the radar and had us thinking possible national title hopes, or at least conference hopes, heading into a showdown against No. 1 USC.

I remember very nearly flying back home that weekend to watch the game with my friends. That's how big this was. We had a solid team that year, a decent national ranking, and we finally had USC in our stadium, with a national TV audience. If we won that game, we move into the top 10 easily, someplace we've never been since the Rose Bowl. Up 21-3, we had USC confused, frustrated. We weren't quite dominating them, but it was pretty damn close. A victory looked imminent.

The second half wasn't even close. USC took over, running the ball at will. ASU allowed 3 TD runs of over 20 yards in the second half. They had our way with us. On the other side, the Sam Keller show took over, as he threw for four interceptions in the second half. Despite getting run on left & right, we still had a 4 point lead in the 4th quarter, but Keller gave the ball back twice after that, and what looked like a monumental upset in the making turned out to be another typical ASU loss. We never recovered from that loss, losing two more after that, and ending with a 7-5 record and a trip to the prestigious bowl.

So if you're counting, that's two huge games in the past 10 years. When I say huge, I mean season-defining, program-altering type games. Not just bowl victories, not just games against ranked opponents, not just U of A games, but life-changing games. We have another one this weekend, against Oregon, and I'm afraid to watch because I don't know if I can take another loss like this. Furthermore, I get it in my head that maybe I'm affecting the game. If I watch the game, then it puts a curse on the team & they lose. I'm very rarely superstitious, even in sports, but I kind of believe this for some stupid reason.

I think we can beat Oregon. They're a good team, and it's going to be a tough battle, but I don't see any reason why we can't win. If we can avoid this habit of starting off slowly, I think we can dominate our game. It looks like our rushing game may be answered by some dude named Dimitri Nance, Rudy's having a great year, our defense is underrated, and Dennis Erickson has our team believing we can beat anybody. I believe it too. So maybe I'll try to watch on Saturday. Maybe there is no curse.

But I guarantee this; if we start off slow and fall behind early, I'm shutting the TV off and walking away. I won't be the cause of another loss like that.


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