It was a fitting end.
As time dissolved off the clock against the arch nemesis from the south, a menacing gray cloud lurched toward Sun Devil Stadium and exhausted its tear-like drops during a sad finish to an even sadder season.
The cold, steady drizzle washed away a storybook ending on Senior Day for a player who had contributed plenty during his career on the ASU football team and another who, in his only shot, blew it.
But the redemptive quality of senior quarterback Danny Sullivan’s performance against UA was something to be commended.
Never wavering in his support of his teammates and his coaches, Sullivan accepted his role on the team.
“I may not have had a good season, but from what I’m told, I’m a good person and a true Sun Devil,” an emotional Sullivan said after the game.
There is no denying that.
And when coach Dennis Erickson called on him midway through the second quarter of a bitter rivalry, which he had never taken a snap in during his career, Sullivan was determined.
Determined to win back the hearts of Sun Devils fans one more time.
Determined to beat the only team on the schedule that truly needed to be vanquished.
Determined just to play.
And play he did, with effort that had the ASU faithful wondering: Where was this guy all season?
“We played musical chairs [at the quarterback position this season], and for him to come out and play like he did says a lot about his character and how he studies the game,” Erickson said. “The best I’ve seen him play all year was the second half of that game.”
Sullivan’s numbers did not pop out on the stat sheet (14-of-28 passing for 168 yards and two touchdowns), but on two drives in the fourth quarter, with his team down, he showed the moxie and resilience that evaded him this season.
However, it was another senior, whose career contrasted greatly with Sullivan’s that would decide the fate of many.
Senior wide receiver Kyle Williams was responsible for, or had a hand in, all of the Sun Devils’ 17 points.
His 53-yard punt return set up the first score of the day on a field goal by junior kicker Thomas Weber.
On a afternoon where Williams racked up 200 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns, none were more important than the 14-yard touchdown grab on fourth down with 2:10 remaining.
Actually, there was a more important score with his fingerprint.
The only problem: It was for the other team.
Williams muffed punt return with 1:10 on the clock will go down as one of the biggest blunders in Territorial Cup history.
And when sophomore kicker Alex Zendejas’ 32-yard field goal crested between the goalposts as time expired, it marked the third time this season ASU suffered defeat in that fashion.
The kick deepened the wound of an eight-loss season, which is unacceptable for a coach of Erickson’s caliber.
For now, his job is safe, but changes are definitely in order.
“I have to figure out where we are as a program and a staff and what I can and cannot do with my time,” Erickson said.
Simply put: the program is currently one of the worst in the Pac-10, the staff — i.e., offensive coordinator — needs an overhaul and Erickson’s time might be spent better relinquishing the play-calling duties.
Reach Erik at email@example.com