Brian Forth: 'Season Becoming Interesting'
Oct. 13, 2000
The 2000 ASU football season is about to become interesting. The weaker part of our schedule, if such a thing exists, is now over. The coming weeks will make or break the season for the Devils. What the Sun Devils do know is that they control their own destiny in this race for the Pac-10 title. With Oregon State losing last weekend to Washington, ASU needs to win out to earn a berth to play in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day. By winning out, ASU will have to beat both Oregon and Arizona, the two teams in the Pac-10 that have not yet lost a conference game. However, before we can even think about the bowl picture, the Sun Devils need to have their best performance of the year this week against the Washington Huskies.
I think it's important to discuss last weeks win against Cal since there are many facets of our game that still need to be improved if our team wants to make a serious run at the conference title. Although the Devils are putting up huge numbers on offense and have rediscovered our passing game, we have been unable to sustain a long drive in the last three contests. The result from this is putting a fatigued defense back on the field. In order to succeed in the Pac-10, the Sun Devils need to sustain lengthy scoring drives that consume large chunks of time. This will be especially important this week when the Huskies come to town with their high-powered offense. Another major concern for the Sun Devils is their output in the fourth quarter. In the five games the ASU has played, we have scored nine fourth-quarter points compared to the 27 scored by opponents. Luckily for the Devils we have been able to hold onto our lead in four, but this lack of output lost the game against UCLA. Not to take anything away from Tom Pace and his fantastic performance against Cal, but the ASU rushing attack has never gotten off the ground this season. In seasons past, the Devils have used their ground game to wear down opponents and control the clock. This aspect of our game is integral for the success of the remainder of the season. Griffin Goodman made a strong statement in his second career start, connecting on 11 passes for 394 yards. This performance has been the best by a Pac-10 quarterback so far this season. It's interesting to watch a season unfold. At the beginning of the season, the offense was non-existent for the Devils, but has now developed into a unit that ranks 17th nationally, averaging 279 passing yards a game.
Defensively, the Sun Devils played a lot better than the statistics may show. The Golden Bears gained 390 total yards, 103 above their season average. Most of the damage came on the ground when Cal running back Joe Igber broke an 80-yard run in the fourth quarter. Take that play away and the defense played an outstanding game. Turnovers have been the key in each of the Sun Devils wins. This stayed true against Cal, as the Devils forced four fumbles, recovering three. The defense continues to improve week in and week out. By the end of the season, I feel that it will be one of the best units in the conference.
The Washington Huskies come to town this weekend for a game that has major implications in the Pac-10 title race. Two losses in conference play may eliminate a team from the conference race. The Huskies are coming off an emotional win against Oregon State. They were a preseason pick to win the Pac-10 conference. What will probably motivate Washington the most was last season's lopsided loss to ASU at Husky Stadium, a feat that not many teams have accomplished in quite some time. Washington is loaded with talent this season. The offense for the Huskies is the best in the conference. Quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo leads the charge as one of the most exciting players in college football. Many will remember Tuiasosopo's performance last season against Stanford where he threw for 300 yards and ran for another 200. A quarterback with mobility is one of the toughest things to stop in football. Our defense will have to contain #11 if the Sun Devils hope to win the contest. Tuiasosopo has many weapons to work with including running back Paul Arnold, wide receiver Todd Elstrom, and tight end Jerramy Stevens. It will be an interesting battle between Stevens and ASU tight end Todd Heap, two of the best at their position in the country. Defensively, the Huskies have a solid unit, loaded with stars. Larry Tripplett anchors a physical defensive line. Linebacker Jeremiah Pharms plays the game with reckless abandon and safety Hakim Akbar will be an all conference player this season. There is no doubt that this will be the toughest challenge for the Devils thus far this season. If the Sun Devils hope to remain in the conference title race, we have to win this weekend.
With the importance of this weekend's game against the Washington Huskies, I ask that all of the Sun Devil fans come out of the woodwork and support our team. I cannot stress enough the importance of a loud and intimidating Sun Devil Stadium crowd. When the Huskies played at Oregon, their only loss of the season, the Duck fans took Washington out of the game. It was embarrassing last weekend to take the field for our Pac-10 home opener with a meager 41,000 fans in the seats. This team is 4-1, has one of the most explosive offenses in the nation and an aggressive defense. I know many fans have doubts about this team, especially with the upcoming schedule against the top teams in the conference. I will reassure you that the 2000 Sun Devil football team is for real. We will be ready for the Huskies when the game begins at 7:15 p.m. Saturday night. We hope to see you there!