Sunday, October 12, 2008

Rock Bottom

Any way you slice it, there's very little good that came out of the carnage that occurred at LA Memorial Coliseum yesterday. I was hamstrung by how many characters I could fit into the title of this blog.

Before I go on, sorry it took so long to get a recap up. I had to:

A) Cover the Phoenix Coyotes last night
B) Cover the Arizona Cardinals today
C) Give myself a day to cool off and refrain from saying something I might want to take back

That wasn't a multiple choice, it's all of the above.

Yesterday was shameful. A shutout to extend this losing streak might be rock bottom for the Sun Devils. It was the first time the Devils have been shut out since 2004, but at least that team had some offensive firepower.

This one seems to have lost it all. And after a 4th straight loss, we're once again forced to ask ourselves, where do we begin?

Let's this time actually start with the positive...that being the defense. This defensive unit, inexplicably, has improved greatly over the four game losing streak, and yesterday was arguably their best performance of the season considering the machine they were facing in USC. The third quarter may have been the best defensive showing I've seen since I began covering ASU football back in 2003.

I was very impressed with the play of James Brooks and Jamarr Jarrett. They were buzzing off the defensive end positions and were consistently getting in Mark Sanchez' face all day long. It's refreshing to see them play well so early, especially since Luis Vasquez and Dexter Davis have not really come close to their production of last season. For kids that are new to this program, they look like mature vets. Speaking of Davis, nice to see him make a play when he sacked Sanchez and forced a fumble that ended up being the Trojans' first of four 3rd quarter turnovers.

Omar Bolden and Troy Nolan had much, much better games. Both of their picks were highly athletic, heads-up plays; stuff that we, once again, saw throughout last season. Mike Nixon's interception was especially impressive considering that the ball was a dying quail and Mike had to turn his body around to snag it.

And finally, something good to say about Dimitri Nance, who regained a little of his between-the-tackles ability to pick up 4.6 yards per carry. Oh wait, but he officially now fumbles more than Chris Perry.

That's about all the good I've got. Better get onto the awful.

Awful Observation #1: The offensive line
With a warrior mentality that we've grown so used to since 2005, Rudy Carpenter trotted out to start this ball game. Don't you think that as a unit, that should have inspired this woeful O-Line to step up? Guess not. Rudy dropped back to pass 20 times and was hit on 12 of them. His last play, the aftermath of which you see in the photo, was technically a lateral. If Rey Maualuga was in RC's face one more time yesterday, he would have had to ask him out to dinner. The offensive line again was just awful at pass protecting.

Awful Observation #2: The coaching/medical staff
Bear with me here, this is a long one.

If I was RC's dad, which obviously I'm not, I would be livid at the ASU trainers and coaches. On the last play where Rudy got creamed by Maualuga, Shaun Lauvao and Maualuga had to pick him up, because Rudy wasn't showing any signs of getting up himself. The fact that I (or the radio broadcast team for ASU of Tim Healey and Jeff Van Raaphorst, for that matter) didn't see a SINGLE member of the medical staff move toward him is appalling. What's more appalling, and was pointed out by JVR, is that the referees may have been the ones who had to step in and remove RC from the game. Only then did two members of the Devils' medical staff move, lackadaisically, toward the wobbling QB. Rudy didn't enter the game again.

The rule, of course, is that if a player goes down and is tended to by trainers, he must come out for at least one play.

This is UNACCEPTABLE. This is a kid that has given so much to this program, and you're going to leave him in and take this beating when he's already way less than 100%? As stated above, Rudy was hit 13 times on 21 dropbacks. Every single one of those hits would have put you, fair reader, or me in the hospital. But RC popped back up, gingerly, after 11 of them. The last two, Lauvao had to yank him up by his jersey. That made me sick to my stomach.

I don't know RC personally outside of a few brief exchanges at press conferences, but I've covered him enough to know that he didn't want to leave that game. There's a difference, though, between respecting your quarterback's will to compete and recognizing his inability to perform.

Awful Observation #3: USC's lack of respect
ASU has lost any sort of respect that it previously received. If the Trojans thought that the Devils had any chance to mount a comeback from down 21, why would they attempt a fake field goal on a chip shot attempt for David Buehler with less than two minutes left in the 2nd quarter? That play call was Pete Carroll showing that he knew that ASU had no chance of getting themselves back into the football game.

And now that's something that other coaches will probably do as well. I guarantee you that in two weeks, when Mike Bellotti and his Ducks come to town, we'll see the same amount of respect.

Awful Observation #4: The Field Goal Unit
This is officially out of control. Thomas Weber has now had three field goals blocked this season, only a year removed from Weber's kicks not even getting close to touched.

It's asinine to wonder why Fili Moala was able to block both of those 3rd quarter field goal attempts. Don't you think that after he blocked the first one (which by the way, was kicked with FAR too low of a trajectory anyway) that the Devils line would probably make sure they found Moala on the next one to make sure he's neutralized?

Apparently not.

I have no idea why this team all of a sudden cannot protect Weber's kicks and punts, but in that stretch, the Devils had 6 automatic points wiped off the board. Granted, there's a bigger problem here in that Arizona State earned zero points off of four 3rd quarter turnovers, but when you can't even settle for three from the defending Lou Groza Award winner, the problem is out of control.

Awful Observation #5: Nate Kimbrough
Let's get this straight. You've never lived up to any expectations placed on you in 4+ years at ASU. Every time you've been given a chance to work your way into the offense, you blow it and end up being dropped on the depth chart. Your biggest contribution to Sun Devil football since 2004 has been the A-State Shuffle (thanks for the link, Cactus Ranch).

Yet you, Nate Kimbrough, are the one having to be restrained by teammates after losing control of your emotions?

What a joke. Kimbrough, if you didn't see it because you were trying to figure out why the Sun Devils couldn't capitalize off of Troy Nolan's interception, was physically restrained by several teammates after apparently getting into the faces of assistant coaches, most likely overwhelmed with anger/emotion/whatever.

Obviously no place on this team for that. The team is already 2-4, cruising toward possibly 2-5 on October 25, and you're the one that's letting go of your emotions.

RC didn't. Dimitri Nance and these receivers haven't. Frankly, the loudest mouth on this team, Keegan Herring, is noticeably silent. But it's Nate Kimbrough.

Final Awful Observation: The wide receivers
Not much to explain here. When Mike Jones and Chris McGaha...the Jones and McGaha of "having two of the surest sets of hands in the Pac-10" according to ABC...are dropping passes, it's, you guessed it, rock bottom. When Jones straight up dropped Danny Sullivan's first pass of the game in the 3rd, it was over.

Stay tuned to PFN this week. We'll have the Pitchfork Podcast with The Blaze 1260 AM coming tomorrow and plenty more.

1 comment:

isharpe100 said...

I wish Mike Jones would have decided to play football or baseball not both. He is big enough not be scared to catch over the middle.