One week after the ASU football team seemed to finally establish an identity that was just out of reach for the better part of the first half of this season, it is becoming increasingly harder to ignore the truth.
Simply put, any flashes of brilliance that appear to manifest themselves when the Sun Devils are on offense are an illusion.
Do they have potential?
Do they have talent?
But they consistently fail to move the ball when they desperately need to.
Danny Sullivan’s homecoming to the northern-California area felt more like he was AWOL than a trip to Stanford to show nearly 200 of his acquaintances how he has developed as a quarterback since he left Los Gatos High School.
It is hard to not feel bad for him, too, considering Sullivan was coming off of the best performance of his career and one of the more memorable game-winning plays in ASU history.
Finally, he silenced his critics who were clamoring for a change at the quarterback position.
And in combination with coach Dennis Erickson’s miraculous discovery of an innovative game plan that threw some much-needed wrinkles into a rather bland offensive attack, the ship appeared to be righted.
But with 7:49 remaining against the Cardinal, Sullivan was just a spectator, and ASU was getting dominated in every facet of the game.
On this night, the defense would not save the day, as Stanford senior running back Toby Gerhart shredded a Sun Devils defense that had not allowed a 100-yard rusher all season.
Gerhart, however, imposed his will upon the defense to the tune of 125 yards.
Once again, penalties plagued ASU – 10 for 90 yards.
Freshman linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who was recently told by Erickson to play with “controlled enthusiasm,” committed two of them, and both resulted in points for the Cardinal.
It is hard not to love his tenacity and passion for the game, but not at the cost of jeopardizing the team’s chance of adding another win to a schedule that will only get tougher.
Finding two more wins this season is suddenly a much more daunting task than it was a week ago when the Sun Devils knocked off a UW team that showed it could compete with, and beat, anyone in the country.
Heading into the Stanford game, ASU was tied for second in the Pac-10.
Now, the Sun Devils are sitting in fourth and will likely drop further after the three-game stretch that lies ahead, fe
aturing matchups against Cal, USC and Oregon.
But that does not mean this team should pack it in.
Thus far, the Pac-10 has proven to be one of the most competitive conferences in the country, and the Sun Devils should not lose sight of that.
Stealing a win from one of those top-flight teams would do wonders for ASU; otherwise, the Sun Devils may be looking at another rivalry matchup that will determine their postseason fate.
And after watching UA sophomore quarterback Nick Foles this year, the Sun Devils do not want that.
Reach Erik at firstname.lastname@example.org.