Dealing with Adversity
Nov. 2, 2000
Never in my entire athletic career have I ever experienced what happened last weekend in our football game against Oregon. I have played in some exciting games and suffered some heart breaking losses before, but none could compare to last weekend's crushing blow. Over 1,200 yards of total offense and a combined score of 111 points highlighted the game by both teams. The downside to those amazing statistics was that the Sun Devils lost the football game.
What has become so frustrating for me as a player this season is the fact that this team is 14 points away from playing for a potential national championship. The 14 points I am referring to are from our three losses this season to UCLA, Washington, and Oregon. All three of those games were winnable for ASU, but our team couldn't close the deal. That's not to say that this team isn't any good. Of all of the teams that I have played with in my career here at ASU, the 2000 squad is by far the most special. If you can think back to camp then up till this point in the season, this team has dealt with some serious adversity. Every time life throws this team a curve ball, we have bounced back and become a better team from the incident. This weekend was no different. We lost a huge game that would have catapulted ASU back into the hunt for a conference championship. Cornerback Kenny Williams, an unsung hero from our defensive squad is lost for the season with a knee injury. Wide receiver Justin Taplin, who has been making some clutch plays for this team in the past few weeks, is out until the U of A game. This team will bounce back from these devastating blows suffered a week ago and play with the same enthusiasm and passion we have all season.
I am going to avoid talking about last weekend's loss to Oregon. There is nothing that can be said or done to change the outcome of that game. In case you are wondering, I agree with every decision our coaching staff made throughout the game. A motto this team lives by is that coaches coach and players play. The coaching staff makes the decisions as to what plays they want to run and it is up to the players to execute those plays. It is now time to move onto a more important issue - USC.
This weekend's game against the Trojans has been marked on my calendar since the beginning of my career. This will be the last time I take the field at Sun Devil Stadium as a player for the Devils. A long-standing tradition at ASU is our senior game. Each senior is introduced at the beginning of the game as they run out to midfield where their family members join them. My father, step-mom, and sister have been so supportive of me throughout my entire sports career. I feel that this is a way to thank them for all that they have done. My father and I share a very close relationship and I am fortunate enough to say that he has never missed a football game of mine in my entire career. Another tradition Coach Snyder has at this university is senior captains. Each game a senior from the offensive and defensive side of the ball are the honorary captains for the game. Coach Snyder has selected me this weekend for this special honor. Being my last game at home, a lot of family and friends are making the trip out to Arizona to see the game. It just so happens that we are playing a southern California team as well, which is where I am originally from. USC is the supposed 'Mecca' of college football for any athlete from southern California. Not once throughout the entire recruiting process did I hear from the Trojans. Not that I would ever consider attending their university, but I took this gesture as a slap in the face. Ever since then, I have wanted to play my best against USC. More important than playing my best is winning the football game.
USC began this season as a front-runner to win the Pac-10 championship. After a good start, their team has struggled against tough teams in the conference. In most of those games, the Trojans have played good football, but the ball didn't bounce their way at the end of the game. USC has by far the best talent in the conference. Year in and year out they get the best players in the country. This game will be pose a lot of problems for a beat up ASU squad. Offensively, the Trojans have a talented group led by quarterback Carson Palmer. Palmer is third in the league in passing with 1,900 yards. Weapons at Palmer's disposal are wide receivers Kareem Kelly and Keary Colbert. ASU's secondary, which has been depleted with injuries, will be put to a major test. Christian Rance and Machtier Clay will have to pick up the slack for an injured Kenny Williams. At running back, Sultan McCullough is the fastest player in school history and has rushed for over 100 yards in five games this year including the last three in a row. Tight end Antoine Harris is having the best season in his career. Our defense has a major challenge ahead of then this Saturday against the Trojans, but they will be up to the task.
On defense, the Trojans are banged up, but still have an abundance of talent at every position. Leading the way is linebacker Zeke Moreno. Moreno will be an all conference player this season and leads the team in tackles. Ennis Davis is a massive defensive lineman that plugs up the middle and stuffs the opponents' running game. Linebacker Markus Steele, who leads the conference in tackles for loss, suffered an ankle sprain last week against Cal, and is likely to miss the game. The secondary for the Trojans is a very talented and athletic unit. Our offense hopes it can repeat last weekend's performance and put some points on the board against a very talented defense.
Many critics have predicted that the 2000 Sun Devils will not be able to recover from last weekend's devastating double overtime loss to Oregon. They have written this team off and feel that we will not win another game this season. It is easy for those who are outside the ASU football family to make comments like this, especially when they are not in the team meetings or the practices to hear the upbeat attitude this team has. We feel that we have a talented team that can still win some games this season and play in a respectable bowl game. It starts this weekend against the Trojans. We have prepared for USC just as we have any other team we have faced. This team is anxious to take the field and avenge last weekend's disappointing loss. The younger players on this team owe it to us seniors to come out and play with heart and leave everything on the field. The seniors on this team have stressed the importance of this game all week. This team is faced with yet another challenge this season on Saturday when the Trojans come to town. With how well we have dealt with adversity so far this year, I do not question that this team will be ready to play. Last week is behind us and it is now do or die for the Devils!