Sunday, November 30, 2008

Beastin'

Since ESPN decided to show women's basketball instead of ASU and its red-hot All-American on Sunday night, I thought an update was in order. In case you missed the late night game on Friday and tonight's game against UTEP, James Harden amassed 72 points, 17 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals in just TWO games!

On Friday night against Baylor, ASU's trademark defense fell apart and the Devils could not get a stop in the second half. Despite the bad defense, Harden nearly brought ASU back single-handedly by scoring 24 points in the last 9 minutes of the game, finishing with a tournament record 32 points in a frustrating loss. That record would not last 48 hours as Harden poured in 40 points in the tournament's consolation game as ASU cruised by 30 over UTEP.

If you haven't gotten on the bandwagon yet, now is the time to jump.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Former Sun Devil Wakamatsu named Mariners Manager


The Seattle Times has a great story on the rise of Don Wakamatsu, who played with the Sun Devils in the early 80's. You know, before most of our readers and myself were born.

Among other things, Wakamatsu talks about his relationship with Barry Bonds:

"It was one of those love-hate things," Wakamatsu told The Chronicle. "I loved watching the things he [Bonds] could do and I hated lockering next to him. That was more jealousy about what he could do and how easily he handled the pressure. He was so gifted so early."


Check out the rest of the article here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pac-10 Roundtable: Tempe is Basketball Country

I know, I know. There are still two football games to go this season and ASU needs to win both to earn a trip to the postseason and, in my opinion more importantly, three more vital weeks of practice for all of these youngsters.

But let's be realistic for just a second here. We all waited with bated breath for last Friday's thriller with Mississippi Valley State.

Despite the fact that the only thrilling thing about the 80-64 win at WFA was waiting to see whether or not ASU would actually hit theier free throws, it was nice to see a Sun Devils team come out and live up to a billing, regardless of whether it was one game against a team from a town called Itta Bena (Fun Fact: Itta Benna is a Choctaw word for "camp together").

Anyway, because of my happiness about basketball season starting, I successfully petitioned the Men of the Pac-10 Table to start some hoops discussion.

Avast, mateys! It might not be Talk Like a Pirate Day, but I'm going to anyway. Roundtable!

1. The Pac-10 has 7 bowl contracts to fill and currently only 5 spots filled. Stanford, UCLA, and Arizona State all sit in the middle of the Pac with 6 losses. Out of those three teams, which, if any, will make it to post-season play?

I have to stick with the prediction that I made several weeks back and say that none of them will get to six wins. I don't think that Stanford has the firepower to get past a California team that will be hungry to get this win so they get to 8 after they beat Washington. I think UCLA will drop their matchup in Tempe on the day after Thanksgiving and then lose to USC to finish 4-8. Arizona State, as I just said, should be UCLA on their home turf next week but I have serious doubts about them being able to go down to Tucson and win this year.

2. Is there anybody NOT rooting for OSU to win out and go to the Rose Bowl? Anybody? I think even Pete Carroll has to have a spot in his heart for this story. And if OSU does win the Pac10, pushing USC to 2nd, do you think USC will make a BCS game or find itself in the Holiday Bowl?

Yes, there are, those people take up offices at the American Broadcasting Company.

Unless Penn State lays an egg against Michigan State on Saturday, they'll be the champions of the Big Ten and earn themselves a spot in the Rose Bowl. Obviously, if Oregon State wins out, they'll be the team the Nittany Lions face. I seem to remember a certain 45-14 embarrassment that Penn State laid on the Beavers...on ABC, nonetheless. The last thing the network wants for it's only major bowl telecast of the year is a rematch of a game that wasn't even a game.

Everyone else is, that's for sure. The Rose Bowl committee certainly would love the extra revenue from having two out-of-town contingents for the first time in years.

For USC, as the BCS complexion takes shape, the fact that it still includes Utah and Boise State makes it very difficult to believe that the Trojans will go BCS bowling this season. These games salivate over having Ohio State in their stadiums because of how well they travel and the potential to have a star like Terrelle Pryor on their field. The loser of the Florida/Alabama SEC Championship game will almost certainly find themselves with an at-large bid as well. USC's best hope is for BYU to beat Utah or for the Smurf Turf Gang to drop a game down the stretch.

3. Let's take a stroll down basketball lane. What are your Pac-10 rankings for 2008-09?

1) UCLA Bruins: Still too much firepower, led by Darren Collison and super-frosh Jrue Holliday.
2) Arizona State Sun Devils: Not enough room here.
3) USC Trojans: DeMar DeRozan is going to be a beast in this league. A one-and-done beast.
4) Washington State Cougars: Lost talent on offense, but can still D up with the best of them.
5) Washington Huskies: Lorenzo Romar finally has some talent to work with again. Jon Brockman is an All-American
6) California Golden Bears: Mike Montgomery will give the program a shot a badly-needed jolt.
7) Arizona Wildcats: Probably will be better than Cal, but the Olson debacle leaves the program in a tizzy.
8) Stanford Cardinal: No Lopez twins means little success for first-year coach Johnny Dawkins.
9) Oregon Ducks: They already lost to Oakland this season...enough said.
10) Oregon State Beavers: At least their players can say, "I know a guy who knows Obama!"

4. Now that we've seen your B-Ball Top 10 (with assuredly UCLA at the top and OSU at the bottom), who is your surprise team this year? And why is it Cal?

First off, CGB, it's not Cal. Sorry. Max Zhang and Jordan Wilkes just don't inspire me to say, "Wow! Cal is going to be great!"

Can I say there won't be one? I really feel like all of the top teams will be very good, the bad teams will be very bad and the middling teams will be very...middling. Washington and Washington State are nice but they don't seem to have the youthful talent or spark to pull upsets this season.

In place of naming a surprise team, I'll give you a team that will make the most upward progress since last season and that will be the Huskies. I really, really...REALLY...like what Jon Brockman brings in terms of size and leadership, Justin Dentmon and Venoy Overton are both competent options at PG and freshman wingman Scott Suggs has the chance to make an immediate impact.

5. With the legendary Lute Olson out at Arizona, what are their chances of making the tournament this year?

Slim to none. Sure, Chase Budinger is still inexplicably hanging around, but the players around him are nowhere near the caliber of talents to lift this team into another postseason. Frankly, I didn't think this was a tournament team before Lute retired/quit/lost his key to McKale Center.

Russ Pennell has already established himself as a strict disciplinarian and it's rubbing players the wrong way; Nic Wise and another unidentified teammate are apparently still burned about being held from the starting lineup in an exhibition game because they were one minute (yes, literally one minute) late for shootaround that morning.

The thing that will keep UofA out of the tourney this year is their inability to lock down in clutch situations. A trait that was taken for granted for the past two decades, the Wildcats have stunningly lost their ability to close out games. One might trace it all back to the 2005 Elite Eight collapse against Illinois, but it's a consistent problem that Arizona has faced over the past three years.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Staying alive

Is it possible to win 31-0 and still be unimpressive?

The Sun Devils answered that question with a clear YES on Saturday in their win over Washington State. You can't take anything away from the ASU defense, which recorded its first shutout since 1996's storied 19-0 win over top-ranked Nebraska. But offensively, the Sun Devils continue to struggle to find any sort of rhythm. Rushing for 106 yards against a team giving up nearly 300 hundered per game can hardly be considered a rousing success. Giving up two sacks in a two-play span against a team that had only seven coming in doesn't bode well either.


With all that being said, the Sun Devils kept their postseason hopes alive and have set up the possibility of the Territorial Cup meaning just that much more on Dec. 6. Style points don't matter when the goal is becoming bowl-eligible, but wins -even if they come against two of the nation's most pathetic programs -do.
Photo credit: Rob Schumacher, AP


Thursday, November 13, 2008

ASU at 1600 Pennsylvania

Thanks to the commentor that led me to this today...

ASU's national championship Track & Field and Softball teams were greeted at the White House by Bush 43 yesterday. It's a repeat trip for the tracksters.

Hard for me to identify most of the people in the picture, but the ones I can pick out are AD Lisa Love (white pantsuit on the left), shotput national champion Jessica Pressley (directly to the left of GWB) and SID Alex Ryan (our friend and yours!).

Congrats to our champs! Also nice to see that Bush has found some stuff to do to keep busy as Barack starts redecorating.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

One Step Back, Two Giant Steps Forward

Just after Jared Cunningham pulled a 180 and decided not to come to ASU, the Sun Devils landed two more solid recruits on the first day of the early signing period.

First, the Devils received a signed letter of intent from 6'5" guard Trent Lockett out of Hopkins High School in Minnesota. Lockett is apparently a dynamo of a shooting guard, ranked 25th among SG in the ESPN rankings and hovering around the same in other rankings.

Just a few moments ago, ASU added some much needed size to their future lineup. Ruslan Pateev, a 7-foot man-beast of a Russian from Monteverde Academy near Orlando, FL, put on an ASU hat at a press conference in central Florida.

ASU loses a verbal commit

Not a whole lot of analysis for this one...would have been nice to get Jared Cunningham in the mix in coming years, but I guess you can't win them all.

He gave a verbal to Herb Sendek and ASU last October but apparently informed the Devils today that he will not be coming to ASU. He's got other options that he's considering across the West Coast.

Apparently, Cunningham was going to have eligibility issues anyway.

Doug Haller at The Republic can explain it all better than I can today.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Yes We Can!

2008-2009 Men's Basketball Season Preview


After enduring one of the worst football recessions in the collective memory of ASU fans, it’s time for change. We need a team that can inspire the nation! We need a team that can offer hope to the common fan! We need a team that has not been corrupted by years of NCAA experience and policies! Can you feel the excitement?! Well America (or maybe just Arizona), we have found that team. A team that you can follow into conflict and feel confident about. A team that you know will make the correct decisions in times of need. A team that will bring young people and old people together under a common cause. This team is an unlikely hero. A young, fresh team that gained recognition at the 2008 NCAA Selection Show and started a buzz across the United States. A team that has gained momentum among the talking heads in the media and offers an overwhelming message of hope. Who is this team? Your 2008-2009 ASU Men’s Basketball team!!


Now you may be saying to yourself, “Wow T.J., that was a bit overzealous. Maybe you should sit down before you hurt yourself.” If so, you’re probably correct, but after six straight games of ASU football where I felt like an altar boy leaving a private meeting with a priest, I deserve something to get excited about. (Okay, that analogy was a bit extreme and most likely offensive but it got the point across didn’t it?) Anyway, basketball season is just around the corner and ASU fans should be reminded that we have something to be proud of. Recently, as I was talking to a friend about ASU football, we were discussing the (strong) possibility that we would lose to Arizona in football this year and we realized that this may be the first time since 1769 that ASU fans would be the ones chanting, “Wait ‘til basketball!” at that game. As sad as that thought is, the truth remains the same: ASU basketball is primed for its best season in years, and unlike football, this team is for real.


Bringing back its top eight players, including all five starters, ASU is looking to improve upon the 2007-2008 season that saw the Sun Devils start off slow but make giant leaps in progress, finishing the season 21-13 and unfairly shut out of the NCAA Tournament. Coming off such a season, with an excellent coach, and a load of returning talent, it’s no wonder that ASU is finally receiving national media attention. Of course the main reason for this is one James Harden.


ASU’s most prized athletic possession spent the summer not only working out with - and impressing the likes of - Paul Pierce, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James, but also has been accumulating media accolades. Gracing the pages of Sports Illustrated, SLAM, Athlon, POST, Sporting News, and any other basketball publication known to man, James Harden has officially arrived. Flying mostly under the radar last year, James Harden had one of the greatest freshman seasons in ASU history. One can understand how Harden may have been lost in the Pac-10 shuffle last year among O.J. Mayo, Kevin Love, Jerryd Bayless, and all the other conference players drafted last year. What some may not understand is how good this guy actually is. If you somehow missed the entire season last year and didn’t get to see Harden play, go ahead and invest in some season tickets or ESPN Full Court so you can see him play every game this season.


Coming off a freshman season, where he averaged 17.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.2 apg, and 2.1 spg, James Harden is poised to take the nation by storm. Look for his statistics to improve across the board as he heads into his second season under the tutelage of Herb Sendek. There were times last season where Harden sat back and unselfishly tried to let his teammates lead the team. I expect that we will see a more aggressive offensive game this year from Harden. The great thing about Harden though is that his game never seems forced. It doesn’t ever appear that he’s struggling or over-exerting himself. The game flows naturally through him and he can simply take over in the clutch. All of those overtime wins last year? Mr. Clutch himself took over each of those and led the Sun Devils to victory.


While Harden has been named as a pre-season All-American by several publications, the Sun Devils have also been subject of media attention. Since there are more pre-season basketball rankings than there are celibate ASU freshmen, the Devils have been ranked anywhere between #12 and #25, depending on where you look. The reason for ASU achieving its second highest AP pre-season ranking (#15) in school history, is not just James Harden. Along side Harden comes six more returning starters. That’s right, ASU has seven returning starters. How does that happen? Well, depending on the game, Harden, Jeff Pendergraph, Ty Abbott, Jerren Shipp, Derek Glasser, Jamelle McMillan, and Rihards Kuksiks all started a number of games last season. All of these players are back and should see significant minutes this year. It is rare that a team returns its top seven guys, so let’s take a minute to look at each.


James Harden

I’ve already said plenty about this young stud, but really I could write articles for days about how good he is and how key he will be for the Sun Devils this year. Teams will be keying on him even more this year so his numbers may be harder to get but there are several things working to his advantage. First, the Pac-10 is weaker this year than it was last year and he should thrive in conference play. Second, with his supporting cast being much more experienced this year, they should be able to keep defenses a bit more honest, allowing him more freedom. Finally, with a summer of working with the aforementioned Bryant, Pierce, and James, along with brilliant coach Herb Sendek, James Harden is just that much better coming into this season.


Jeff Pendergraph

The senior big man should be a perfect complement to Harden’s swing game. A mobile big man with excellent defensive capabilities, Pendergraph should be much more comfortable this year as he is no longer looked at as ASU’s first option. In the past, he was the go-to man and I found him to be somewhat underwhelming. For a guy that has had NBA buzz in the past, I’ve always been left wanting more out of him. While he has been continuously solid for the Devils, averaging 12.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg, and 1.6 bpg, he has not been as good as he could be. He sometimes looks as if he is unsure of his footwork in the post, which worries me for a guy that could potentially dominate the post every night. Of course, I am being very critical as Pendergraph has a lot of great things that this team needs. Pendergraph is a strong shot blocker and is the emotional leader of this team. He is a guy that clearly wears his emotions on his jersey and when he is fired up, the Devils are a much better team. In games where Pendergraph scored early, he was much more effective as he was able to gain comfort early in the game before his emotions could start playing with his head. If Pendergraph can average close to a double-double and stay out of foul trouble, the Devils should have a good chance to win every game this season.


Ty Abbott

The sophomore shooting guard should be the X-Factor for the Sun Devils this year. One of the streakiest shooters I’ve ever seen, if he is able to be more consistent from the outside, he should be able to keep zone defenses in check and open up Harden for more man-to-man coverage. While Abbott was often great from behind the arc, what I really wished he did more of was slashing to the basket. He did this on rare occasions last season and showed some skill that I think could be better utilized. If Abbott and Harden both had the green light to slash inside, they would open each other up for outside shots and could collapse the defense to give Pendergraph open looks as well. My biggest hope for this season may be that Abbott opens up his offensive game and gains a bit more consistency from three point range.


Derek Glasser

Excellent at protecting the ball, Glasser has proven himself to be a very reliable floor general. With one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in the nation, Glasser works mainly as the man that brings the ball up, sets the offense, and then gets out of the way for the scorers to operate. While Glasser doesn’t shoot much, he has shown the ability to knock down shots when needed. A smart ballplayer, Glasser’s best asset is his consistency and his willingness to operate as an unsung hero. There were several games last season where his ability to do all of the little things on the court ensured ASU victory. Don’t expect much difference in his numbers this year, but another year of experience should serve Glasser and the rest of the team quite well.


Jamelle McMillan

A true coach’s son, McMillan showed great ability to pick up the offense quickly last season and worked his way into the starting lineup early on in the season. While his numbers don’t jump off the page, McMillan is a good defensive complement to Glasser and should improve across the board this year statistically. It should be interesting to see if McMillan begins to take over any more of Glasser’s minutes this year. Glasser was the PG at the end of games last season and if McMillan continues to improve, Sendek could have a good dilemma on his hands this year when it comes to point guard.


Jerren Shipp

With the exception of his ASU debut, Shipp has been almost exclusively a quiet role player. Shipp has the ability to score in several ways, but seems content to live in the shadows of Harden and Pendergraph. Shipp comes from a family of ball players and has a good basketball IQ. He is many times asked to play as an undersized post player and has done reasonably well defending opposing bigs. Shipp does a lot of the things that don’t show up in the box score and is an important part of this team.


Rihards Kuksiks

The Latvian-born sophomore came on strong at the end of last season and gained a lot of minutes as the season wore on. Kuksiks is the second-best returning outside shooter after Harden. Kuksiks is another guy that will benefit largely from logging significant minutes as a freshman and should show marked improvement this year. If his defense improves, he will find himself on the floor in clutch situations.


The Rest

Eric Boateng – I left him off of the key returning guys because, well, he has been a huge disappointment. At times last year he was so bad that a friend and I started calling it “pulling a Boateng” when someone did something dumb on the court or turned the ball over. With his size, he really gets your hopes up but he just hasn’t come through. ASU could really use him to give Pendergraph a break in the post but he has been mainly a liability. Any improvement out of him would be huge for the Devils.

Kraidon Woods – I want so badly for him to be good. He is one of those guys that you love watching because he has so much raw potential but also hate watching because he just hasn’t realized it yet. Still one of my favorite players on the team, but for no good reason.

Johnny Coy – The Devils’ top recruit this year had some buildup but I don’t anticipate seeing much of anything from him this year. Sources have told me that he has been unimpressive in practice and not the shooter he was expected to be. Don’t get your hopes up here. That being said, I would love to be wrong.

Taylor Rohde – A Phoenix product and very similar to Johnny Coy in body type and high school statistics. I think Rohde and Coy will be the only freshman with a chance to play any this year and should get buried on the bench once the conference season begins.


After looking through the roster and knowing how the Devils performed last year, it’s easy to see why pundits have chosen ASU to finish second in the Pac-10 this year. UCLA is still clearly above everyone else in the conference, but the Sun Devils should be able to beat everyone else in the conference. I even expect that ASU could give the Bruins a run when they come to Tempe this year. Look for ASU to win 25-26 games this year and easily make their way into the NCAA Tournament. Without having seen them play a minute this year, I’m calling at least a Sweet Sixteen berth. The only thing that worries me is ASU’s glaring lack of post depth but thankfully the Tournament is dominated by guards and wing players and the Sun Devils just so happen to have one of the best in the nation.


ASU kicks off the season this Friday, November 14 at home against Mississippi Valley State. The game begins at 8pm. Continue to check out Pitchfork Nation for analysis throughout the season and I’ll be back with improved podcasts as the season gets going.


Sun Devil Basketball. Yes we can!


Oh boy.

*nervously looks around*

Oh boy.

Any good ideas for a jinx-breaker?

Pitchfork Podcast: The Justin Isn't There Edition

Since I was off doing my day job last night, I didn't get a chance to join Todd and Brett on The Stretch for our weekly look at ASU sports.

They found someone nice to fill in for me though.

The guys at The Blaze got to chat with men's basketball coach Herb Sendek last night for a while in anticipation of this Friday's season opener with Mississippi Valley State.

And even if I hadn't been watching my beloved 49ers embarrass themselves at the UOP last night, I'd gladly step aside for Unkie Herb any day.

Take a listen.







The 11/11 Pac-10 Roundtable: "Everybody Love Everybody"

It's apparently Will Ferrell reference week here at PFN.

Not that this is a bad thing...as long as we stay away from that Stranger Than Fiction disaster. I'm waiting for those two hours of my life back.

Anyway, we had another new and welcomed twist to the Pac-10 Roundtable: the "everyone hosts" edition!

Five of us (including yours truly) submitted one question to the pot and we came out with the best five. Don't forget to check out the other Square Table member blogs to check out their answers as well.

And now, in the spirit of spreading the wealth, it's this week's roundtable.

1. USC and OSU win out. OSU wins the Pac10 and goes to the Rose Bowl. USC doesn't win the Pac-10, but due to the Big XII and the SEC cannibalizing themselves, manages to get into the National Championship game. Discuss.

Forgive me, but I'm a little verklempt thinking about USC being, once again, where they shouldn't. The scariest thing here is that this could actually happen. Don't forget that back in 2001, Nebraska didn't even WIN THE NORTH DIVISION in the Big XII yet still went to the Rose Bowl/National Championship (and got jackstomped by the Fighting Dorseys).

That 2001 season, with Oregon and Colorado having better cases than Nebraska to get to the title game, was clearly the strangest season the BCS has ever seen, but 2008 has a chance to be almost as weird.

I'm going to go ahead and assume that the winner of the SEC Championship will be in the National Title game, so throw Florida/Alabama in there. That leaves USC, the champion of the Big XII and, as the longest shot, Penn State.

It's easy to say that if Texas Tech wins out, and that's far from a certainty since they'll have to beat Oklahoma and most likely Missouri in their conference championship, they'll be in Miami to face Florida/Alabama.

If the Red Raiders lose, all hell will break loose. Then you've got Texas stating their case to move up if they can win out and take the Big XII, Penn State wanting to vault USC and Utah into the top two and, in a repeat of 2006, even the loser of Alabama/Florida claiming in Michigan-esque fashion that they still deserve a chance at a rematch.

Oh, and about those pesky Utes. Don't forget them. They're hovering at #7, and a perfect storm of losses could hasten their ascent to the top two. And frankly, none of us want that.

But about USC. Absolutely possible. If the Trojans can win out, Texas Tech loses and Texas loses the Big XII Championship game, then the Men of Troy will most likely be #2.

2. Oregon State is the only team that controls its Pac-10 destiny due in large part to freshman phenom Jacquizz Rodgers, but their next 3 games will be their toughest stretch of conference games. What are their chances of winning out and going to their first Rose Bowl since 1965?

Very possible, but it wont be easy. California has steadily gotten better over the course of the season but they've struggled away from Berkeley, going 1-3 with that only W coming in Pullman, so it really doesn't count. What's more disturbing is that the Bears offense nearly shuts down away from home (6 points in the first three quarters at Maryland, 2nd half stagnation at Arizona and the debacle in LA).

Arizona will be a stiff test because now that they are guaranteed a bowl game, they wont be content to just stand pat with their six wins. They'll also have to find a way to shut down Rob Gronkowski and Keola Antonin, who have established themselves as the offensive pacemakers for the Wildcats.

Anything can happen in that Civil War. Nothing more needs to be said.

3. It's pretty widely accepted as of now that the Pac-10 is having, across the board, its worst season in years. Give us your #1 reason for this sudden downturn in quality.

The quality of quarterback play in the Pac-10 has been completely diminished over the past four seasons and I relate that directly to the downturn in quality of play in the conference. In fact, I've been working on an enormous project which I'll unveil between the UA game and the start of the bowl season here on PFN showing you exactly why.

Consider this a Cliff's Notes version of it.

Just four years ago...the good old days of 2004 when I was a sophomore at ASU and the world was my kegger, the Pac-10 had the nation's 7th and 8th rated passers (Matt Leinart and Aaron Rodgers) with Andrew Walter of ASU coming in at 22nd. The conference also had six of the nation's top 40 in passing yards (Leinart, Rodgers, Walter, Derek Anderson, Drew Olson and Kellen Clemens). Anderson was 4th in the nation that year.

This season, the conference's highest rated passer is Mark Sanchez in 12th and Arizona's Willie Tuitama comes in at 18. Another Pac-10 QB doesn't show up until #38. Sanchez has the most passing yards in the Pac-10 with 2,122...good enough for 29th in America.

Even beyond stats, that generation of quarterbacks in 2004 were more mature, had better decision making skills and better field managers than this crop is. It's fair to say that there's a gap in age between the two seasons, but these youngsters have a lot of ground to make up.

4. Each season can bring significant change to a college football team, whether from graduation or a change in starters. Now that we've seen the majority of the 2008 season, what do you think will be the significant changes for your team to contend with in 2009?

The first major change will be at quarterback, where I'm now convinced that none of the undergrad signal callers currently on the ASU roster (Sullivan, Szakacsy, Stangel, Elway) will be anywhere close to being Pac-10 caliber starters in 2009. I'm convinced that ASU will hit the JuCo quarterback market to find a spot starter for next season and wait for Jack Elway or another QB recruit to develop.

At the same time, I'm not sure who is going to be in the backfield for the Devils next year either. Keegan Herring is out of eligibility, I'm really sketchy on Dimitri Nance or Shaun DeWitty being the full time starter and, sadly, we haven't seen enough of Ryan Bass in game situations to know if he's going to be a difference maker yet.

5. Will USC ever suck again? EVER!?!

Of course! The beautiful thing about college football is it's ebb and flow, regardless of how long change might take.

Every major power in college football eventually takes a step back, however brief. It can be for a number of reasons; a coaching change, a string of weak recruiting/disappointing recruiting classes, strength of the conference and other factors can all signal a temporary downfall of a major NCAA football powerhouse.

You need to look no further than teams like Miami, Florida State, Nebraska, Colorado, Alabama and, most recently, Tennessee and Michigan as programs where mitigating factors have led to all of these programs to briefly take a step back in power in the past decade and have, well, a "regular" or even a "bad" season. Yet, at their time at the top, we all wondered if they would "ever suck again...ever."

Eventually, Pete Carroll will leave, the allure may wear off and the Trojans may suffer a 9-3 or 8-4 season. Don't forget that this was the team that lost the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl after going 6-6, so it wasn't that long ago that USC was a program treading water in the Pac-10. This all may take 25-30 years, of course, but it will happen. Trust me.

Monday, November 10, 2008

We might be bad...but not WSU bad...

You have to give it to Paul Wulff for trying to keep his troops optimistic. After all, they still have more wins than that team in Seattle!

Granted, it's over an FCS team, but still, it's better than the 0-for that the Huskies are laying right now.

This is what he had to say after his Cougars lost to Arizona this Saturday. Courtesies in order to KVEW in Kennewick, Washington for the video hookup.

I'm sure what he really means is: "we're going to put 11 men out on the field and...you know...see what happens."


video

It's been a while...but I'm back.

Life and work got in the way again, so sorry about the silence from PFN this week. I promise that it will not happen again.

For the next two weeks at least. I'll be taking a well-deserved week away from Arizona that will take me through the UCLA game.

Either way, I feel like we didn't miss much anyway. I've just got a few simple observations from the 39-19 win over Washington.

-Washington is terrible, but for 2 1/2 quarters, they looked downright competent. That trick play from Ronnie Fouch was a gutsy call and I was impressed with the ease in which they pulled off the Homerun Throwback (There it is folks, your shameless Tennessee Titans reference).

-Nice to see some production out of the wide receivers, most notably Mike Jones. It's safe to say that our WR's have had their share of struggles and dropsies this season, but #1 looked like vintage MJ with his acrobatic catches, sharp routes and 146 yards.

-Hello, Keegan Herring! Not sure what it is about Husky Stadium, but it has brought out the best in Keegan in his two visits there; both times the Devils have played in Seattle with Herring on the field, he's broken a frenetic run to seal a victory for Arizona State. Granted, this game and the next one are against the Washington schools, but Herring looked like normal, healthy Herring on Saturday night.

-Defense stepped up again with a momentum changer. Troy Nolan followed through on his instincts in following the play and scooped up a fumble to take to the house for his second straight week with a touchdown return. His return to form has energized this defensive unit.

Thankfully for myself and anyone with a pair of eyes, thanks to the win, I will NOT have to run across the ASU campus in my Joe Boxers. And thank goodness for that, because that cold snap that rolled through would have most likely caused an unfortunate and likely hilarious (for others) situation.

However, since it is getting cold out and it is getting close to the holidays, I'm going to and I encourage ALL of you out there in Sun Devil Nation to take some time to think of those less fortuante at this time of year.

I'm sure that you read that as a part of my promise to Will Ferrell myself across campus that I would donate whatever clothing I shed to a local charity, and I'm still going to do that and I want all of you to consider doing so as well.

I've decided to make my donation to the Child Crisis Center of the East Valley and encourage you to do the same. Here's a list of locations to make your donation, and let us know at pitchforknation@gmail.com when you do so we can give you some love on this here blog.

Anyway, plenty coming up this week, including a look ahead to Washington State and the men's and women's basketball season openers.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Happy Election Day, Everyone

After so many days and months of stumping, political speeches, mudslinging, maverick-ing, Joe-the-Plumbering and wishing kids on our youth hockey teams had hockey moms that looked like Sarah Palin, it's finally time to vote.

It's your privilege as an American to have a voice in our political system, so whether you're voting for Barack Obama or John McCain, make sure you vote. It's your duty.

What Has My Big Mouth Gotten Me Into This Time?

Sometimes, I really need to remember that when I say something, not only are people actually listening, but said people will hold me to what I say 99% of the time.

Which leads me to tonight's...situation.

You'll hear the comment in this week's Pitchfork Podcast tomorrow but I might as well let you all know now, so you can prepare yourselves for the potential carnage.

During my appearance with Todd and Brett on The Blaze 1260 AM tonight, the guys asked me if this Saturday, in fact, would be the day that the Sun Devils finally get off their slide and win their 3rd game of the season.

And I was apparently so confident about it, I said that I'd run across the ASU campus (specifically down Palm Walk) in my skivvies if the Sun Devils were to actually suffer a loss to the Washington Huskies. The 0-8 Washington Huskies, who have been outscored 89-7 in their last two outings.

Here's the rub: Todd and Brett, two guys whom I know very well, will not let me chicken out of this.

So the gauntlet has been thrown. ASU plays Washington in Seattle at 5:00 PM on Saturday. If the Devils suffer an unthinkable loss to the Huskies and LDCTW (Lame duck coach Ty Willingham), I'll dash the length of Palm Walk. Better yet, to sweeten the deal, I'll even donate my clothes to a local charity. We're just those kind of people here at PFN.

No, not ones that enjoy making asses out of ourselves. I know you were thinking it. I'm talking about the part where I'm kindhearted.

I do need suggestions to where to donate though, so leave a comment with some ideas should the unthinkable happen.

And get some sunglasses. If this comes to fruition, the loss and I will be unbearable to look at.

It wasn't quite FIU/Miami...

...but it sure wasn't something that I was happy to see.

It was a simple call, really. Jacquizz Rodgers, whose older brother is on the team and is more strongly protected by teammates than the POTUS, got hit after the whistle and out of bounds by Terell Carr. Naturally, the Beaver sideline was up in arms about the incident and swarmed to Carr, who was pulled away by teammates.

Quizz was restrained by his own teammates, Carr was out of the picture, the flag for unnecessary roughness was thrown and all seemed to be OK. Until Tank English showed up.

What happens next is a bit muddled because of the obvious limitation: I wasn't in Corvallis, I didn't see the incident first hand and was limited to the camera angles and replays that FSN decided to run with.

But what I saw was a hot headed defensive lineman willingly go onto the opposing sideline. Maybe he was acting as a peacemaker. Maybe he wasn't. I'll never know what his mindset was. What I DO know is that all would have been peaceful had an Oregon State assistant coach not stepped in.

The replays show that there was a clear shoving match between English and the unidentified coach, and the contact from the coach to Tank clearly had more "oomph" behind it. Simply put, it really looked like the members of the Beavers staff lost his cool and decided to show it physically.

That coach/staff member needs to be suspended immediately. The role of the adult in that situation, whether it be football or anything else, is to be the level-headed peacemaker. What that coach did was a clear escalation of a situation that referees and other coaches were trying to resolve and he decided to take his frustration into his own hands and go after an opposing player. It obviously was no Woody Hayes punching Charlie Bauman, but it was a completely unacceptable act by a non-player.

Before it was over, though, ASU had its own shameful moment. All of a sudden, Steve Physioc comes out and says "There must be 20 ASU players off the sideline near midfield...Dennis Erickson is PAST midfield!"

Great.

As soon as he said that, I started counting ASU players. All of a sudden, I saw 13 maroon and gold bodies. Two too many. Ryan McFoy made it all the way across without his helmet (a sure sign that he...uh...WASN'T on the field on the previous defensive play) and so did PFN's favorite goat, Nate Kimbrough.

The ONLY person that should have been off the bench for Arizona State was Erickson. In those tense situations, I think it's the responsibility of the coach to play peacemaker. Not other players, especially those who are on the bench.

I'm not laying blame on anyone here; this, frankly, was a very minor situation. No one was ejected and there was no retribution on either side. Both teams got personal foul penalties and the rest of the 4th quarter progressed without incident.

However, it's worth mentioning here, because if it's frustration that's starting to boil over for 2-6 Sun Devils, someone needs to step in and rein it in.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Better Effort, Same Result

It's simple now, really. Even as a journalist who took his last math class 5 1/2 years ago, I can put the numbers together.

Four games left. Four wins needed to get bowl eligible.

The worst part about this one was the marked, drastic improvement of the Arizona State Sun Devils performance across the board in their 27-25 loss at Oregon State tonight.

This was, by an extremely wide margin, the Devils' best effort of the season. I'm serious. The only problem was that this tremendous effort was only present on about 90% of the plays at Reser Stadium.

On the other 10%, ASU looked like the same-old-sorry-ass Sun Devils.

Yet on a day where wild finishes and upsets were the norm across the board, our Devils almost pulled off a miracle of their own.

Rudy Carpenter deserves a lot of credit for his performance tonight, regardless of his less-than-stellar numbers. On the day that RC took over as America's College Ironman at QB (Curtis Painter didn't start for Purdue today, in case you missed it), Rudy kept ASU afloat early in the game when, as usual, his running backs couldn't move the ball. He started 7-of-10 and kept his offense moving, albeit slowly, and kept the game close through the first 25 minutes.

RC came up with a VERY gutty effort today. The calls were going mostly against ASU (that gripe coming in a later post), his receivers were well covered and defended all night and he had to fight his own offensive line jumping the snap count pretty much every other play. However, that final drive, he was able to keep it all together and at least put the Devils in a position to tie the game.

Then, of course, he waited too long to pull the trigger on the 2-point conversion.

However, it seems as if Dennis Erickson and Rich Olson are set on running between the tackles until it works. Here's the funny thing though: it actually almost worked. Shaun DeWitty remarkably got free for 111 yards on 16 carries, a mindblowing (for him) 6.9 YPC. The bad news is that DeWitty's runs came at times where they were less than opportune. None of the dashes were considerably clutch or at times when the Devils needed him to break a big one.

On another bright side, Dimitri Nance touched the ball once and didn't fumble. Good for him!

The offensive line...guh. Not much to say here. You all saw it. Three drives, including the first two of the game, started with false start penalties...basically canceling any sort of momentum before the drive even started. I'm sure it was loud and rowdy at Reser Stadium tonight, but that was ridiculous. I'll have to go back and look, but I'm pretty sure every member of the offensive line jumped at some point, and that includes Andrew Pettes. The difference between the line and Pettes is that he redeemed himself on the same drive by grabbing the TD that led to the potentially tying two-point conversion. The bad news is that the rest of the guys up front did their best impression of a colander as the Beavers D-line came through unchallenged on the roll out.

On the defensive side, it was another typical ASU effort. By that, I mean, they forced a tremendous pick six by Troy Nolan. Unfortunately, it was the only turnover forced throughout the game.

Tackling wise, it was all or nothing. Either the Devils got to Jacquizz Rodgers immediately at the line or he stomped all over the Devils front seven. Quizz joins Frank Summers, Knowshon Moreno and Joe McKnight as RB's that have cracked 130 on the ground against the Sun Devils. For the most part, the diminutive freshman ran roughshod over the Sun Devils; at times, it took 3 or more ASU defenders to take him down.

The Sun Devils were able to take out starting QB/professional eater Lyle Moevao before the half. Unfortunately, that may have been a blessing in disguise for the Beavers. Backup Sean Canfield came in and ran the OSU offense like a charm, continually putting his offense in the right place at the right time. His mobility may have been what saved Oregon State on a few plays; Luis Vasquez and Lawrence Guy had really good games and were getting into the backfield all night.

All told, I can't say I was overly disappointed with the Devils effort tonight. They came out to play and kept it close with a far superior opponent who truly have the Rose Bowl in their sights. But it's games like this that teams with a senior quarterback and veterans on defense should pull out. That inability is what makes the Devils a poor football team in 2008.

I've got plenty of more analysis that I'll spread out through the weekend, including my first ever gripe about officiating. I really don't think I've ever posted on PFN about poor referee work, but this game was so terribly officiated that it deserves its own article.

I've also got some thoughts on that little skirmish on the OSU sidelines, and here's a warning: it's not complimentary toward our guys.