Editorial: The Buckner effect

There is always a scapegoat. Fans search for an individual to blame for an unexpected loss, and Saturday night’s scapegoat was freshman kicker Alex Garoutte.

He missed three field goals in ASU’s one point loss to UCLA, one of which came as time expired.

He is an easy target. The kicker doesn’t see much playing time, but is thrown into the most pressure-filled situations. Four quarters of hard-fought football can come down to a single “perceived” chip shot.

It has happened many times before. An individual is singled out to justify why an entire team has failed.

Bill Buckner, Steve Bartman and even Boise State’s Kyle Brotzman all suffered that fate. They represent the moment of their team’s demise. Buckner, who let the ball go between his legs in the 1986 World Series, felt the wrath of Red Sox nation for years.

Bartman, a Chicago Cubs fan, reached to catch a foul ball catch and disrupted a possible catch by an outfielder and hurt the Cubs chance to win a National League championship. Brotzman, a kicker for Boise State, missed two chances at a field goal that would have sealed the team’s perfect season.

Garoutte can relate most to Brotzman, who was the target of threats and harassing phone calls shortly after the game was finished. The supporters responded, and his coach and teammates tried to share the blame, but the mob mentality dominates with sports frustration.

Garoutte made mistakes against UCLA, there is no debating that, but so did many other Sun Devils. The offense didn’t capitalize when it recovered a fumble in UCLA territory, then the defense gave up a first down on a third-and-29.

Erickson could have used the time-outs more efficiently and given the team time for a couple more plays.

The game should have never come down to a field goal. UCLA showed up to play and the Devils didn’t. It is unfair to put the blame the loss squarely on Garoutte’s shoulders.

The win puts the Bruins in control of their own destiny for the Pac-12 South championship. They are just three victories away from clinching it.

ASU played as if they were entitled to a win, and it put the outcome of the game on the young kicker’s shoulders.

But this is what we have come to expect from ASU football. Finally the team is poised to make a big win, but the Sun Devils rarely come through in the clutch. This is part of being an ASU fan.

This loss needs to serve as a wake-up call to Garoutte and company. The fate of the Sun Devil post-season was in their hands Saturday night. Now, UCLA controls it.

Three wins and the Pac-12 South is UCLA’s, all because ASU added one more “almost” story to the list.

 

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