TERRY COLUMN: Sun Devils show grit
We found out a lot about Arizona State football this week.
For all of the questions that still surround this team, we know this team will fight.
The Sun Devils weren’t perfect on Saturday, but they hosted a perennial top team and never backed down. Not when they gave up some big plays early. Not when they trailed by 10 points in the fourth quarter. Not when high temperatures and a raucous crowd half full of visiting fans beared down on an oddly humid night in Tempe.
The Sun Devils didn’t fold on Saturday, beating Michigan State at its own game, surviving a rock fight that proved this team has the resolve to overcome its imperfections and compete for the Pac 12 South title.
Let’s be clear, there are imperfections with this team.
Before Manny Wilkins started slinging arrows to his receivers in the final 10 minutes of the game, he had moved the Sun Devils into plus territory four times, moving backwards on one possession, throwing an interception another and taking two sacks on another. Wilkins was 0-for-6 to start the fourth quarter before morphing into 1996 Jake Plummer to close the game.
ASU gained just 44 yards on the ground and the defense was impressive in limiting the MSU rushing attack, but was getting thrashed in the air before coming up with a big interception in the end zone just before half.
But, even as this team works to mend its flaws we found out that it won’t give up, or merely give in when presented with that challenge. After taking a few hits, ASU kept punching, and eventually landed a few knockout blows.
“I’ve been to a lot of football games,” ASU coach Herm Edwards said after the win. “After the second quarter I said ‘last man standing is going to win. There’s not going to be many touchdowns.’ You could just tell the way the game was played, they were playing outstanding defense. We gave them some plays on third downs, some penalties hurt us a couple of times on offense. I just told the players at half-time ‘If you would have told us we would be in this position going into halftime we would take it.’ I said ‘Now just go finish it off.’”
ASU finished off the game with an encouraging win and after a 2-0 start will have one more opponent before the Pac-12 season starts. The South looks wide open this year with the L.A. schools floundering and Arizona in panic mode. The Sun Devils may be in a battle with Colorado and Utah for a spot in Santa Clara.
If we’ve learned anything about ASU through two weeks it’s this team isn’t afraid of a battle.
Joseph Terry is the Assistant Editor for the Today’s News-Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.