Dear coach: Beat the Ducks, and then some
Dear CTG (Coach Todd Graham),
Man, I’m so pumped for Thursday night’s game. I’ve got stuff at work today that is owed some of my attention, but sometime after lunch, my attention is going to shift. And Thursday, well forget about Thursday. Thursday is game time. They say Sun Devil Stadium is going to be packed. The House of Heat will be filled to the brim, national cameras will be trained on the field. I live for this stuff; my school with the chance to look great in front of the whole country. But here’s the thing you need to know: We’ve been here before. Just last year we beat USC in a huge conference game that proved we were a conference power. And it all fell apart. And I’m not going to lie, that’s happened around here a number of times. But I’m not here to talk about our previous relationships. This is about you, and this is about now.
And so far, you’ve done everything that has been asked of you. You’ve won winnable games. The only loss you have is completely acceptable. A new coach introducing a new offense to a brand new quarterback should hold no shame in starting a season with five wins and one loss. And you’ve done it the right way. You’ve cleaned up all the pieces that have frustrated us for years. The predictable shootings in the foot have given way to a welcome addition: Big-play potential. I now hold my breath in excitement when we have the ball, not in fear. That you’ve taught the lads the word “sir” and to see them take such a liking to saying it is more refreshing then seeing Tucson in my rear view mirror. And that used to be tops on my list. To not see our drives stalled or the opponents’ lengthened is something I could get really used to.
Now, many people are saying it’s all premature speculation. We haven’t played anyone of merit. And they are right. Even our loss to Missouri looks shaky after seeing them play a couple more games. But here’s the thing: Away from that loss to Mizzou, we’ve beat the teams we’ve played the way good teams do. In addition to stomping some inferior competition, we got a tough road win in Berkeley, which hasn’t happened since the end of the Clinton administration. But the ultimate test is how you perform against top competition. The last two years we had legitimate chances to win the game against Oregon. Last year, penalties (and an egregious call on a fumble recovery) kept us from competing. The year prior, we lost at home due to seven turnovers. And now you present us with a team that prides itself in its ability to do neither of these things.
And that’s the thing, Coach. I thought I was going to write you a letter about how you have to earn our trust. That winning one game against Oregon isn’t going to make a program. But the more I see of this team and where you put your emphasis, I can’t help but get excited. Sure, we’re razor thin in the secondary, but you’ve relieved some of that by bringing an aggressive blitzing defense. And you’ve said that you’re not going to back down on any of that against Oregon. “Left lane, hammer down” you say! Thank you! Very few people can beat Oregon, but when teams do have success it usually involves pressuring them early and getting them into passing situations. But if you’re going to beat Oregon, you’re going to have to put up some points. And this is a team that’s been doing that. Show up to find you don’t have top quality receivers? You put your running backs in space and pass them the ball giving them the chance to make plays. And that’s kind of your thing – finding how to get your best players on the field and in a position to make plays.
Do I think we have a chance? I think we have an amazing chance. You’ve sold me, Coach Todd Graham. But I need you to know something; if we win this I’m going to expect more. We’re all going to expect more. You weren’t brought here to beat Oregon once. You were brought here to bring big wins all the time. And frankly, we deserve it. We’ve had too many years of big wins and big defeats and not meeting expectations. And if we do lose, know that I’m still here – rooting week in and week out, because I want you to succeed. I want this to be a program. And you’re taking some big steps to accomplish that. It’s good to hear Jake Plummer texted Taylor Kelly this week to “Keep Ballin.” The players of the past haven’t always seemed like a fraternity woven into the fabric of the program like at many big-time schools. And Jake is the alum of alums. Recruiting has started receiving positive marks from the gurus. This is how you build a future.
And yet there is also the chance that this current is a special squad. There’s some great stories on the team from the veteran leader Brandon Magee to Cameron Marshall’s quest to have more touchdowns than any ASU running back ever to Junior Onyeali’s attitude shift to Taylor Kelly’s emergence as a formidable quarterback that is starting to remind people of the fellow Idahoan that texted him. I like this team. I love this team. I’m going to be rooting for them all year because I really like the heart they have. But Thursday night … Thursday night we find out if this can be a special year. And the whole country will have the opportunity to see it. That includes media and potential future players. And if we win, I’m going to lose it. I’m going to be elated all week. I’m going to be searching the internet for every mention of this team. But more than anything I’m going to be excited by what I think lies just beyond the victory. Because on the other side of this victory potentially lies what every college football fan dreams of: The possibility of having a perennial power. We can dream big. And if we beat Oregon, you’ll be the one telling us to do that.
Fork ‘em Devil,
Left Lane, Hammer Down,
Nic from Lot 59