Saturday night's official attendance at the ASU 42-31 loss to Oregon was officially 60,326. Unfortunately, it was not a great 60,326.
I was there. The first 28 minutes of the game were fantastic in the stands. The stadium was rocking; it was an electric frenzy in the seats. The Sun Devils had kicked open the doors and gotten out to a 24-14 lead over the No. 5 Ducks. That sort of thing is natural in that setting.
But something happened. In the last 2:21 of the first half and the first ten minutes of the second, Oregon rattled off four unanswered touchdowns. It took the life out of the fans. Again, this is also quite natural. The Devils were at that point 18 points down. The energy is bound to be sucked out of a stadium when you go from two scores up to three scores down against a team that has been absolutely bulldozing opponents. It was starting to look like the Devils were going to roll over.
But they didn't. Steven Threet hit Mike Willie for a 15-yard touchdown pass to pull within eleven. They were in the game. Oregon never scored again. Unfortunately, neither did the Sun Devils, even though they continued moving the ball down the field offensively and stopping the high-powered Duck offense on defense.
You probably saw the statistics. ASU outgained Oregon 597 yards to 405 yards. Oregon punted eleven times in the game, four more times than it had punted in its previous three games COMBINED. You would think that this would have led to a frenzied college football setting in the fourth quarter.
With twelve minutes left in the game, the first wave of fans started leaving. The deafening crowd noise was gone. Those that were there had stopped cheering for the most part.
I was confused. It was the fourth quarter of a game against the No. 5 team in the nation, the home team was in the game, it was stopping the opponents' offense and was shredding their defense, but people were going home. There was absolutely no energy at all in the stadium.
Yes, it was late. It was already 11PM. Yes, the turnovers were demoralizing. But when the team most needed a boost from its fans, we let them down. That stadium should have been deafening throughout the fourth quarter. It was what should have been the time for a home-field advantage. But it wasn't.
Sun Devil fans, the 2010 football team has the exact record that was expected, beating the two FCS teams and losing to the two Top-15 teams. But very few people foresaw the way that ASU dominated and really should have won those two games against Wisconsin and Oregon. However, this team is pretty good and appears to be on the brink of something special. It may not be this year, but it is coming.
All of the eight remaining games on the schedule are winnable, with the Stanford game appearing to be the only game I would see as the Devils being a clear underdog. Back in the spring I had a feeling that this was going to be a surprising year. I still think that. But we need to get on board and do our part as fans.
I'm not saying that you have to go out and get tickets if you don't already. I am advocating a more passionate group of fans at the games (although more would be even better). Don't leave when the team is down only two scores with a quarter left. Don't sit on your hands when the team is moving the ball and knocking opponents on their rears.
Stick around! Make some noise! Make Sun Devil Stadium a hell for opposing teams. I honestly believe that it could have been the difference between a heart-wrenching loss and a season making victory. This team is good. You don't want to miss it.