December 23rd means one thing. It's time to put up the metal pole in your living room, prepare your list of disappointments and limber up for the post-dinner wrestling match.
Yes, it's time to celebrate Festivus, ASU Nation.
One of the most cherished and feared holidays of the year was the brainchild of one Frank Costanza, who had an epiphany as he rained blows upon a hapless man while fighting over a Christmas present for his son George--there had to be another way. Thus, Festivus was born.
The two most prominent of Festivus traditions are the Airing of Grievances and the Feats of Strength. Let's take a look at the past year of Sun Devil football through the prism of these two events, with the Grievances calling out the worst in Sun Devil football, while we'll tweak the Feats for the positive.
Airing of Grievances
"The tradition of Festivus begins with the Airing of Grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people! And now, you're gonna hear about it." - Frank Costanza
What can be said about the season for No. 7?
His journey from the preseason defensive player of the year and most feared man in the nation ends with a benching in the season finale and the bowl game.
Quite simply, Vontaze, you were the most disappointing player in the nation.
His stat line was just OK--68 tackles, seven for loss, five sacks and one interception--but his play was anything but, and he was often only the third best linebacker on his own team. He continued his long term battle with penalties and seemed disinterested, undisciplined and out of shape for most of the year. Burfict ended the regular season by being benched against Cal and then refusing to re-enter the game.
With his probable departure to the NFL, he should go down as one of the most disappointing players in school history.
ASU's Pass Defense
During the middle of the season, the entire Sun Devil defense was on-fire, generating turnovers at an amazing rate. Then, the calendar turned to November.
While the play of the entire unit plummeted, it was the secondary that was the primary culprit behind the collapse.
It started with the heartbreaking loss to UCLA. After Nelson Rosario had juked the defensive backs out of their shoes on an earlier 76-yard score, he was able to break through for 33 yards on a key third and 29 that ended up as the key play of the division turning contest.
The next week, in a must win against perennial conference doormat Washington State, they were dominated by the Cougars' third-string quarterback, Connor Halliday, who threw for 494 yards and four touchdowns in the Washington State win. The Devil secondary put on a pathetic tackling display a week later against Arizona, including missing a sure tackle on the decisive touchdown reception by Juron Criner.
Yes, it was your first season, but you have to make your kicks, Alex.
Garoutte missed a costly 32-yard chip shot in the loss to Illinois, but later rebounded to make six in a row in midseason. But it all came apart against UCLA, when he missed all three, including a 36-yarder that would have changed the complexion of the game. The next week, a 21-yard miss crippled the Sun Devils in Pullman.
The Las Vegas Bowl Effort
There was a lot of talk about the players staying out late on the eve of the Las Vegas Bowl, and based on their effort, it seems entirely plausible.
Except for Gerell Robinson, the entire ASU team came out flat and uninspired. Boise State returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and never looked back in their 56-24 win. The Devils were outplayed in every facet and made costly mistakes and penalties. In perhaps a perfect encapsulation of the Dennis Erickson era, on a fourth and goal, Erickson tried feverishly to call a timeout but couldn't get the official's attention, and the ensuing play was an interception by Brock Osweiler that was returned 102-yards for a Boise State touchdown.
Feats of Strength
If there was one player to be proud of this season for ASU, it was senior wide receiver Gerell Robinson.
After a solid, but unspectacular first five games, Robinson went on a dominating tear. He had 101 yards against Utah, 120 the next week against Oregon. The first three November losses couldn't be put on Robinson, as he had games of 131, 158 and 199 yards.
He saved his best for last, as in the bowl game loss to close his ASU career, Robinson had 13 catches for 241 yards, both career highs, and came within nine yards of the school's single season yardage record. He finishes the year with 77 receptions for 1,396 yards and seven scores.
Another close but no cigar record attempt was posted by running back Cameron Marshall.
The junior came into the season under the radar, but his touchdown proficiency garnered him a share of the spotlight as the season wore on.
His 70 yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage against USC propelled the Devils to their biggest win of the last ten years. Marshall posted four 100-yard games and six multi-touchdown games, finishing with 18 rushing touchdowns, which is tied for the all-time school record with Terry Battle (1996) and Woody Green (1972).
Yes, his play tailed off significantly down the stretch, but what the junior quarterback was able to pull off in his first season as a starter was at times remarkable and sets the stage for a great 2012.
Osweiler set the school record for passing yards in a season (4,036) as well as set other school marks in completions, attempts and completion percentage. He engineered victories against Missouri, USC and Utah and showed the physical tool and great leadership that all great quarterbacks need.
New ASU head coach Todd Graham has a tough task in turning this program around next season, but he has a valuable asset at his disposal in Osweiler.
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