Friday night was a big day in Tempe. Arizona State was hosting 21st-ranked Missouri in a nationally televised game that ASU fans had marked on their calendars for months. It was their first test of the season. Pac-12 fans looked at this game as a barometer for this team on the rise that a lot of experts had been making some noise about.
This was the biggest game in Tempe in a long time. Too long. To commemorate this game, ASU went with a “black out.” And as tired and cliché as it is, it worked for this game because the team was wearing their brand spankin’ new black jerseys on national television. And those are awesome.
With all of the offseason hype surrounding this team, this game had all the makings of a memorable one if the Devils could step up and prove that the hype was more than just that. They also were carrying the torch or respectability for the Pac 12, who as a conference has had a not-so-good start to the season. So yeah, there was a little pressure on coach Dennis Erickson and his crew.
At the end of regulation when Missouri was lining up for a possible game-winning field goal, it looked as if ASU had done it again. They had used typical Sun Devil slight of hand to let go of another game they should have won. They were up big, but took their foot off the pedal and let Missouri come back. Every fan sitting in Sun Devil Stadium was thinking, "I have been tricked again," including me. I was almost expecting it.
I was gouging my eyes out. They had fallen apart like Phil Mickelson on the back nine at Winged Foot. It was a twisted trip down memory lane back to the Wisconsin game last year. I was screaming “NOT AGAIN” in my head as loud as I could.
Except then something happened. Something unexpected.
They caught a break.
The Missouri kicker missed and the Devils pulled out a stop in overtime. This scenario was the last thing I was expecting.
In the past this was the exact sort of game they would have lost. ASU had become the kings of the “we shoulda won that game” phrase. They owned it. They were slowly becoming the Clemson of the west; they were always supposed to be good, but it just never worked out.
Well, that’s not the case anymore.
They actually look to have taken a step forward and seem to be a more mature team. There were fewer penalties and they rebounded when things didn’t go their way. This was something new for anyone who has followed the program in recent years.
It is never ideal to give up a big lead late and have to finish the game off in overtime. But for this team, it may have been the perfect way to break through on the national scene.
This is not the same weak-minded team of the past. They beat a ranked team for the first time with the most miserable looking old man on the sidelines as coach. The big hurdle had been cleared. Now, having confidence moving forward can only help the Devils as they enter conference play in a couple weeks.
The rest of the Pac-12 better take notice. There is a rising star playing QB out in the desert along with a defense that has a bit of a mean streak in them. They have a coach who has won before and just may be the best team in the South this year.
See you in the Top 25 next week, Devils.