ASU football starting redshirt senior linebacker Anthony Jones has been through this before.
He’s seen the swarm of black in the crowd, heard the extra noise it brings and felt the extra intensity the blackout game presents.
Jones wants he and his teammates to focus on one goal, though, and that’s to beat Wisconsin.
“They just need to stay calm, stay patient and play football,” Jones said. “Don’t get overwhelmed with all the extra stuff. It’s football at the end of the day.”
The Sun Devils are only 1-2 in blackout games since they were implemented in 2011, so Jones just wants to keep his mind right and let everything fall into place.
“It’s going to bring a lot of excitement, but like I said before, you have to stay focused,” Jones said.
The Sun Devils’ newcomers, including redshirt sophomore receiver Jaelen Strong, have followed Jones and the rest of the seniors in maintaining their focus.
“I enjoy the blackout, and it’s going to be fun,” Strong said. “But the real focus is Wisconsin.”
Strong admits he has thought about what taking the field to the blackout crowd will be like.
“I visualize it every day,” Strong said. “I visualized the first game, and it was ten times better than I visualized, so I can only imagine what this will be like.”
As previously noted, Jones has the blackout game experience, which includes a victory in 2011 versus Missouri and a pick six last season in the Sun Devils’ 43-21 loss to Oregon.
Jones understands where the hype comes from and is ok with it, as long as everyone maintains their focus.
“I hope the blackout game is a new tradition when we have a bigger opponent coming to town,” Jones said. “I expect these are (the types of) games we should pull them out, and they shouldn’t be used for just any game.”
Senior safety Alden Darby, like Jones, is trying to keep focus while still appreciating what the blackout means.
“I can’t wait,” Darby said. “I’m excited, but I’m trying to stay calm as well, because I don’t want to get overexcited. You got people talking (about) it now. You got teachers talking about it. You got fans talking about it. The blackout is everything. For some odd reason, we put on the all-black, and it sends it to another level.”
Jones said he “feels more mean” and that “there’s nothing soft in the black” but, like Darby, he just wants Saturday to come.
“We’re just ready to go,” Jones said. “This is game two, and we’re just going to keep moving, man.”
Strong is also ready to finally hit the gridiron and show Wisconsin what the Sun Devils have to offer.
“It’s definitely going to be some extra hype knowing it’s on ESPN primetime at 7:30 p.m.,” Strong said. “There’s nothing else on at that time so the whole nation will be watching, and we have a statement to show.”
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