Arizona State wore down Northern Arizona at the end, but the 2006 college football opener was not the light workout the Sun Devils expected.
It was a 35-14 clunker.
The game was poorly played, officiated and broadcast on Fox Sports Arizona. Pretty much what you’d expect on opening night, I guess.
With all the talk in Tempe about a Pacific-10 Conference championship, maybe a run at the national title, you’d have expected something like 70-0 against the Lumberjacks from Flagstaff.
Instead, the Devils had to come from behind – twice – to make it 14-14 at halftime.
That was the score after three quarters, but ASU’s talent, size, speed and hot-weather conditioning took over.
It took a lot of Baloney to get the Devils on top to stay. Chris Baloney – it’s actually pronounced “BALO-nay” – intercepted a Jason Murrietta pass and returned it for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter, giving ASU a 21-14 lead.
Murrietta was beaten up by that time, part of the Devil defensive strategy apparently being to whack him real good on every snap of the ball, after every pass, early, late, whatever.
Rudy Carpenter, who won the ASU quarterbacking job in a sort of palace coup – Sam Keller beating it out of Maricopa County to enlist at the University of Nebraska – threw a couple of touchdown passes, but was not terrible impressive.
Late in the first half, with the Lumberjacks ahead 14-7, Doug Plank, the Fox color analyst, suggested “some of the fans are getting restless.”
What they were doing, Doug, was booing the lackluster Sun Devils.
Plank had a problem with Alex Watson’s name, too. The superb NAU receiver was referred to a number of times as “Washington.”
The Fox graphics were bad, what there were of them. Unless you kept score, listened closely and took the announcers at their word, you had no idea what the down and distance were. Putting those numbers on the screen is something TV viewers take for granted, I guess.
Oh, and while former Tucson broadcaster Kevin McCabe was interviewing some guy from “College Football Saturday” on the sidelines, two important plays were run on the field – and we had no idea what happened.
Unless ASU was hiding a lot of secrets from mighty Nevada, its next opponent, the only conclusion you can make from last night’s game is that the Sun Devils – for all their hype – aren’t very good. Not yet, a least.
There’s tremendous talent on the team, yes. But talent is worthless unless it is used, and it wasn’t used much against Northern Arizona. The Sun Devils were not exactly the efficient victory machine we’d been led to believe, and their performance was by no means what their fans wanted to see.