Coach Dennis Erickson fields a question about his job status, but his attention is on beating in-state rival Arizona, a must-win game for ASU and one that could save Erickson's job.
As difficult losses for Arizona State Sun Devils football go, last Saturday's in the chill of Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash., against the Washington State Cougars was tough to take. Right up there with the loss at UCLA the week prior.
To borrow a phrase from pro wrestler Chris Jericho once known as Y2J, "What you do know is...."
A. The Sun Devils are simply not a good road team, or better said, they are good in spurts but can't stay that way for a consistent 60 minutes of football.
B. ASU can't falter over its last two and somehow, amazingly, possibly three games. The Sun Devils need a win to absolutely assure themselves of a bowl bid. That laugher over UC-Davis counts as a victory for 6-4 ASU, but it would have looked much better against another FBS team.
C. If nothing else, beat your rival. Plenty of folks truly don't care if you're 1-11, as long as you beat U of A. Just ask Brock Osweiler. He heard it upon arrival in Tempe, and he won last year in Tucson in the game that entrenched him as the Devils' next No. 1 QB.
But plenty of other folks demand more success are calling for coach Dennis Erickson to be fired. Erickson said Monday he's received support from the school administration, and it's hard to imagine him not sticking around if he can get ASU to a bowl game, let alone the Pac-12 championship game. A South Division title, no matter what the record, or a bowl berth should save Coach E's job for at least another year.
Osweiler admitted that he and teammates are aware of the calls for Erickson's dismissal. "But that goes with the game of football," he said. "If you don't win, probably going to get fired. If you don't produce as a player, probably not going to start. We are aware of it, but that's not the major concern... however things work themselves out on Saturday, then you kind of go from there."
All four of the Devils' losses have come on the road this season, though they did win at Colorado. ASU lost late leads at both UCLA and Washington State.
"We haven't been very good since I've been here (on the road)," Erickson said. "To me it's more of a mental thing than anything. We've just got a find a way to be more focused."
Erickson said he's talked to players about the team's road woes in past offseasons and will do so again.
The truth of the matter is, this still has the makings of a very successful season for ASU despite the maddening losses. The next two games are at home, where the Devils are undefeated in five games, against hapless Arizona and sketchy Cal. UCLA still has to play USC, so if ASU can win out and the Bruins lose one, the Devils go to the Pac-12 title game. And Erickson's job is more than likely safe.
Much hinges on this Saturday's game, though. Arizona is 1-7 in conference play, 2-8 overall. The annual Territorial Cup game is in Tempe. The Devils, for all intents and purposes, should be able to dominate and get that seventh win. They are rightfully treating this game as their biggest of the season.
"Really more than anything, we just got to be more disciplined and don't give up the big play," Erickson said. "We're very capable of doing that, we've done it."
Practice is closed to media all week so the team can focus, Erickson said. That said, don't be surprised at some sort of lineup shakeup that could emerge out of the week of work.