ASU Vs. Cal: Sun Devils Fall 47-38 To Bears; Erickson Done?

The Sun Devils conclude their season losing four straight, including five of their last six.

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ASU Coach Dennis Erickson May Be Gone Soon, Report Says

The Arizona State Sun Devils suffered another bad loss on Friday night, their third in three weeks. The loss to the California Golden Bears may ultimately end up proving to be the last game for head coach Dennis Erickson, according to Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic.

Sources: Dismissal could come soon for ASU football coach Dennis Erickson
Vice President of Athletics Lisa Love did not return messages left by The Republic on Saturday, but multiple sources confirmed that the end is near for coach Dennis Erickson, and his dismissal could come soon.

With the loss, the Sun Devils fell to 6-6, with a record of 4-5 in Pac-12 play. Although they are bowl eligible for the first time since 2007 and Erickson boasts a winning record as head coach (31-30 during his tenure), the 2011 season was in many ways an embarrassment for ASU. They lost games to beatable teams, often watching leads dwindle away before ending up in the loss column.

A similar story has popped up regarding UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel, although the Bruins athletic director has gone on record that Neuheisel will be around to coach Friday's Pac-12 championship game. That makes a lot of sense, given that if UCLA manages to pull off a huge upset against the Oregon Ducks, they'd earn a spot in the Rose Bowl, regardless of their 6-7 losing record. It remains to be seen, however, whether ASU will want to keep Erickson around to coach the Sun Devils in a postseason bowl game. Erickson's contract is set to expire in 2013.

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ASU Vs. Cal Final: Devils Close Season On Lowest Of Lows Following 47-38 Loss

In what was supposed to be Arizona State's final chance at fine-tuning before their appearance in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship game instead became the humiliating finale to one of the most epic collapses in the university's history at the hands of the Golden Bears. Cal totaled 247 yards and four touchdowns on the ground including 149 from Isi Sofele. Cameron Marshall did his best to give his team a chance to win with 157 rushing yards and two touchdowns of his own but ultimately four turnovers were too much to overcome in an game in which both teams were matching each other score for score till the clock hit three zeros.

And from the opening kickoff it was clear that there wouldn't be many defensive highlights in this affair. After a quick field goal by Cal, the Devils answered with an uncharacteristic 11-play scoring drive that consisted of 10 runs, the last of which by Marshall who punched it in from one yard out.

From there though, Cal would score 14 unanswered points in only seven plays. The Golden Bears got their first TD on an 18-yard run from the little burner, Sofele. The second touchdown was a bit of a gift from the Devils. Following a costly fumble from Kyle Middlebrooks, quarterback Zach Maynard took the ball in himself on a 16-yard run in which he displayed his impressive wheels.

Osweiler then took the Devils offense on their second 80-yard scoring drive of the night, capped off by a passing touchdown to Aaron Pflugrad from 17 yards out on the senior receiver's final collegiate game. The Devils weren't awarded much time for celebration though with Cal extending the lead to a game-high 13 with a one-yard touchdown from C.J. Anderson on the ground then a 27-yard field goal from Gior Tavecchio that was setup by an Osweiler interception deep in Devil territory. 

With the boo-birds beginning to emerge, Osweiler and the offense picked an excellent time to recapture the momentum. Scoring 14 points in half a minute, Osweiler found Rashad Ross for a 35-yard passing touchdown on fourth and ten then was rewarded with a Davon Coleman forced fumble on the subsequent kickoff, which he turned into another passing touchdown to tight end Trevor Kohl from four yards away.

The momentum wouldn't be the Devils for long though. After the opening drive resulted in a 47-yard Alex Garouette field goal, Cal bounced back with two more touchdowns, both of which from C.J. Anderson (one rushing and one on a 74-yard catch and run after Maynard extended the play yet again with his feet).

Down 41-31, the Devils gave the rock to Marshall four straight times following a 27-yard catch from Gerell Robinson. On his fourth carry, Marshall busted an impressive 24-yard touchdown run that put him over the 1,000 yard mark on the season and also tied him for the most rushing touchdowns in a single season by a Sun Devil with 18 (Woody Green and Terry Battle also had that number).

At the start of the final quarter, Dennis Erickson sent a powerful message of discipline to his team in perhaps his last home game as ASU's head coach, benching star linebacker Vontaze Burfict after two personal penalties. The defense responded magnificently-or at least as magnificent as a defense can respond in a game in which the teams combine for nearly 90 points-holding the Golden Bears to a field goal after an inspiring goal line stand.

Unfortunately, that inspiration would be short-lived with Marshall coughing up the ball on the ASU's second play of the drive. Cal turned Arizona State's third turnover into another field goal with another solid red-zone stand by the Devil's defense. But with a nine-point lead and five more minutes ran off the clock, there wasn't much that the boys in maroon and gold could do to salvage one final win for their seniors. Osweiler tried his best at one last comeback but the drive ended with his second interception of the night when he was absolutely annihilated on his release (Osweiler finished 21-37 with 264 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions).

With the loss, the Devils drop to 6-6 on the season, the same record as the previous year. But there isn't nearly as much hope in Tempe as there was this same time last December after the upset over the Wildcats. Finishing with four straight losses and dropping five of their last six, this team will most likely look vastly different with both its biggest superstar (Burfict) and longtime head coach (Erickson) in all likelihood moving on. And as this team looks to rediscover it's identity while ushering in a new regime, it's looking more and more like being a long nine months in the valley of the sun. 

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ASU Vs. Cal: Teams Combine for 24 Third-Quarter Points, Cal Leads 41-38

Things were looking up for the Sun Devils when often spotty kicker Alex Garoutte drilled a 48-yard field goal with 12:15 to play in the third quarter. It gave ASU a 31-27 lead over the Cal Golden Bears. 

Then composure and discipline, two of those little devils that always sit on ASU's proverbial shoulders in the Dennis Erickson era, reared their ugly heads. The Devils were flagged for three personal foul penalties -- each one after a positive gain for the Bears -- on one drive. Cal drove 77 yards in seven plays and capped it off with another C.J. Anderson touchdown run, this one for three yards, and lo and behold, ASU linebacker Vontaze Burfict picked up his second personal foul penalty of the drive after the touchdown.

Cal led 34-31 and ASU had to start it's next drive deep in its own territory, and a 30-yard completion on third-and-10 was nullified by a holding penalty. The Devils were forced to punt, and needed their defense to get a stop and get off the field to avoid a further deficit. 

The chance was there. On third-and-4 from the Bears' 26, Cal QB Zach Maynard escaped the rush and lobbed a floater over linebacker Shelly Lyons head to Anderson. The junior tailback had no other ASU defender to beat and sprinted 74 yards to the end zone to give Cal a 41-31 with 2:53 left in the quarter.

The Devils absolutely had to answer, the game having reached critical stage for them. Where so often they had not in games they were expected to win of late, ASU came up with two big plays on their next possession. 

One was a 27-yard pass from Brock Osweiler to Gerell Robinson, and the other a spectacular 24-yard touchdown run by Cameron Marshall that gave him 18 rushing TDs on the season and 29 for his career. The 18 tied a single-season school record. 

Marshall broke into the open field on the run and put a move on defensive back D.J. Campbell that was equivalent to breaking ankle in basketball. The Devils trailed 41-38 to start the final quarter, and Marshall had 22 carries for 131 yards up to that point in the game. 

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ASU Vs. Cal: There Are Still Things To Root For Tonight

With the door now officially closed on ASU's Pac-12 South division hopes, some may think that tonight's game may be devoid of merit. That's untrue.

There are a few things that make this game significant, so here goes.

1) Senior Night. This will be the final home game for these seniors: Oliver Aaron, George Bell, Omar Bolden, Jonathan Clark, Chris De Armas, Eddie Elder, Nick Emanuele, Clint FloydGarth Gerhart, Jamaar Jarrett, Cameron Kastl, Dan Knapp, Trevor Kohl, Shelly Lyons, Angelo Magee, Mike MarciszTrent Marsh, Bo Moos, Colin Parker, Aaron Pflugrad, Gerell Robinson, Zach Schlink, Aderious Simmons, T.J. Simpson Adam Tello, Steven Threet and Mike Willie

These young men deserve to be sent out with a victory.

2) Bowl Game. For the first time in since the 2007 season, ASU will be going bowling. Granted, it will not be the one they were hoping for, but a bowl is still a bowl. Whether it's the Holiday, Sun, Maaco or others, knowing the Devils will be playing another game is a nice thought.

3) Record Breaking. Lost in the disappointment of the late-season slide is the fact that several prominent records can be broken. Sadly, the Devils will not have the luxury of the Pac-12 title game to help out, but the bowl game should help. 

Brock Osweiler is chasing the single-season marks in passing yards, passing touchdowns, completions and attempts. Cameron Marshall needs just three rushing touchdowns to set the school mark. And Gerell Robinson has an outside shot at the receiving yards mark if he can continue his hot play.

4) It's a Sun Devil Football. There are only a dozen or so of these great events a year--an ASU football game. Sit back, relax (until the team starts making their mistakes) and enjoy watching your Sun Devils.

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What Sun Devil Fans Should Be Thankful For This Thanksgiving

It may seem like a rough time to be a member of Sun Devil Nation, and in a lot of ways, it is. The team is riding a three-game losing streak, they just lost possession of the Territorial Cup and the fans are hopping off the bandwagon.

However, with Thanksgiving coming up tomorrow and the Sun Devils set to take on Cal on Friday, there is a lot for which to be grateful surrounding the team and the program.

Let's take a moment to reflect on some of them now.

Be thankful the 11-game losing streak to USC is now a one-game winning streak over the Trojans.

Be thankful you've seen a player grow from underachiever to true stud like Gerell Robinson has done this season.

Be thankful the team has awesome uniforms and so many combinations (seriously, a lot of time can be spent on this uniform website).

Be thankful that ASU is in a premier conference and not part of that realignment drama.

Be thankful you get to hear Tim Healey call games.

Be thankful you will get to see so many meaningful records get broken this season.

Be thankful that Omar Bolden and seven to eight other Devils will be representing ASU in the NFL over the next two years.

Be thankful ASU didn't just hire Rich Rodriguez. 

Be thankful that this photograph exists.

Be thankful that next year you (hopefully) get to watch the backfield tandem of Cameron Marshall and Deantre Lewis.

Be thankful that for the first time in a while, the Rose Bowl is still a legitimate possibility in late November.

Be thankful that ASU has a great SID who tweets awesome and fun stats.

Be thankful that the overall talent level on the roster is better than it has been in many years.

Be thankful that ASU hasn't been subject to an NCAA investigation or sanctions (baseball on the other hand...).

Be thankful you get to watch the best mascot in the conference every game.

Be thankful that there's such dedicated fans as Moustache Nation and Tez' Troops.

Be thankful you have a great quarterback in Brock Osweiler coming back for another year.

Be thankful you're a Sun Devil, because that's a pretty great thing to be.

Finally, be thankful you're not in Tucson.

Happy Thanksgiving, Sun Devils.

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