Wisconsin vs. ASU: Bizarre ending benefitted no one, even Sun Devils

It was an ending of an NCAA football game so unexpected, so confusing and so without precedent that it left Osahan Irabor channeling the enemy.

“We were trying to get a stop on defense, trying to bear down for our team,” the bewildered Arizona State cornerback said after the Sun Devils’ controversial 32-30 victory over the Wisconsin Badgers Saturday night. “Wow, I just used a U of A reference.

“Go Devils!”

The inherent problem with Irabor’s statement – other than the overt, unintentional reference to the Arizona Wildcats – is that his defense didn’t necessarily do the bearing down on that wild and wooly final play. It was both the incompetence of the Badgers to manage their clock well and the baffling indecision of the officials that led to what happened.

Let’s pretend for a moment that both teams had backed themselves into this situation with questionable play calling, ill-advised two-point conversion tries and the like. We can gloss over Jeff Duckworth’s Wisky-Two-Step on the Sun Devil sideline that could have come back because he was out of bounds but nobody could conclusively say so.

No. For the sake of this specific conversation, we’re going to focus solely on what’ll go down as the 18 seconds that will be replayed ad nauseum for the rest of 2013, especially if Arizona State is on the cusp of a high-level bowl and, perhaps, Wisconsin is on the cusp of missing one.

Before going further, here’s the video for reference.

It was reasonably clear to everyone in attendance what was about to happen, despite the lack of a Badgers timeout. When Wisconsin lined up, it was obvious quarterback Joel Stave was going to center the football? Baffling? Yes, considered the lack of a clock stop. Understandable? Kind of, I guess.

It’s a simple play. Stave takes the snap, moves left, runs into offensive lineman Ryan Groy and appears – APPEARS – to take a knee. From the high television angle, it looked like he didn’t get a knee down, but according to one of many curious NCAA rules, you don’t necessarily have to actually touch the ground.

Then, as we all saw plainly, Stave decided he was going to gently place the football on the 15 yard line as if it were a teacup on a platter. That’s when confusion reigned, Anthony Jones jumped on the ball, Stave started screaming, the clock kept ticking, and for 15 full seconds, it was anarchy.

By the time anyone had figured out that something was wrong, Will Sutton was sprinting toward the north end zone, dreadlocks flapping in the wind.

There are two fairly damning pieces of evidence that indicate that the Wisconsin Badgers really did get jobbed. First, an image that appeared on Twitter from an ESPN camera that didn’t get replayed in the immediate aftermath of the play.

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This angle, unlike the sideline camera, appears to show Stave’s knee down. Photo: ESPN

Then, as you can see in the GIF, referee Jack Folliard – he of the many years of experience in the Pac-10 and Pac-12 – seems to be signaling directly to Stave that he had, in fact, knelt. The other officials on the field seemingly did not pick up on this signal.

Kneeldown affirmed

Looks like a "you knelt" signal to me. Photo: ESPN

Looks like a “you knelt” signal to me. Photo: ESPN

Meanwhile, if you’re Anthony Jones, what else are you supposed to do? Apparently not having heard a whistle seeing what he thought was a live football just kind of sitting there, lonely as Hulk hitching a ride, he did what every player would have done. He jumped on the ball, and not one man in stripes attempted to remove him from the football.

In that sense, there is no argument here, as many Badgers folks have tried to point out, to flag Jones for Delay of Game. The umpire who is standing over the ball seems to be trying to figure out what’s going on more than anything else and was clearly not in a position to call any sort of penalty. How could he?

The umpire clearly didn’t see Folliard signaling that Stave had given himself up, nor did a clock operator, nor did anyone signal to stop the clock, run the clock, beat the clock, stomp the clock, eat the clock or do anything to the clock.

So it kept ticking. And eventually, it ticked out.

“It appears the officials never got a look at the ball at the end,” Badgers head coach Gary Anderson said after the game, seemingly dodging a question on whether or not he talked to Folliard or any official after the final gun. “It was a shame the way it went down.”

Is he right? Certainly. It IS a shame that a game that tightly contested came down to what amounted to an enormous derp on both the part of Wisconsin and a group of highly respected Pac-12 officials.

And just as certainly, a win is a win for Arizona State, a victory that will raise the team’s national profile going into next Saturday’s matchup with defending conference champion Stanford. But, as we’ll discuss later today, there’s plenty that the Sun Devils have to improve on if they want to come anywhere close to knocking off the Cardinal.

This one, though, is behind them.

Clint Myers leaves ASU to take Auburn job

The most successful coach in Arizona State softball history – and one of the most successful Arizona State coaches in recent memory across all sports – is off to the SEC.

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Myers led Arizona State to national titles in 2008 and 2011. Photo: State Press

ASU softball head coach Clint Myers is leaving Tempe to take the head softball coaching job at Auburn, the school announced Friday. The move was confirmed by ASU athletic officials shortly after the move was announced.

“This opportunity to coach with my family and to become part of what I feel is a total community family in the town of Auburn was one I absolutely could not pass up,” Myers told auburntigers.com.

Myers will be joined by his sons as coaches at Auburn, where he takes over for longtime Tigers coach Tina Deese. Deese was fired last month; according to AL.com, she was the only coach Auburn softball has ever had.

A standout for the Arizona State baseball program in the early 1970s, Myers played for two College World Series runners-up in 1972 and 1973 before being drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals.

He returned to Tempe in 2006 to take the helm of the softball program, which he guided to consistent and unprecedented success in his eight seasons as head coach.

His crowning achievements include leading the Sun Devils to Women’s College World Series titles in both 2008 and 2011. Beyond the titles, though, his teams qualified for the WCWS in seven of his eight seasons.

Myers amassed a 427-102 record at Arizona State in his eight seasons and coached 19 All-Americans while being named twice as the Pac-10′s Coach of the Year. In the postseason, he guided the Devils to an astounding 53-15, including the team’s 10-0 run to the 2008 national championship, the program’s first in history.

“As great of a coach he is, he is just as great as a father and grandfather, and this move will allow him to be with his family more,” ASU athletic director Steve Patterson said in a prepared statement. “Because of his efforts, the Sun Devil head coaching position also is one of the best in the nation and we will proceed to hire a great fit for Arizona State that continues the Sun Devil tradition at the highest level.”

A search for the new coach for the softball program will presumably begin immediately. It’ll be the first new coaching hire for Patterson since taking over as athletic director.

Notre Dame Will Visit Tempe in 2014

Steve Patterson is all smiles with Notre Dame on board for 2014.

Steve Patterson is all smiles with Notre Dame on board for 2014.

Okay, I know what you are thinking. ”Rich, you are quite possibly the worst person to be writing about this story.”

I get it. I’m torn between two lovers, with good reason.

However, I think that makes me a perfect candidate to dissect the announcement that Arizona State and Notre Dame will indeed play each other at Sun Devil Stadium in 2014.

First, the news is obviously a win for ASU. Athletic Director Steve Patterson deserves plenty of credit for holding his ground against if the face of mighty, powerful Notre Dame. But, as ESPN’s Ted Miller pointed out, Arizona State had a significant advantage because the original contract did not include a buyout.

From Notre Dame’s angle, the Irish are finding out their new ACC-heavy schedule is causing a few headaches along the way. Just ask Michigan.

As is the case whenever the Fighting Irish are involved, things seem to get blown way out of proportion. I never once believed the 2014 game in Tempe was in serious jeopardy. While it is a shame the 2017 trip to South Bend is no longer on the table, it was the route that would appeal to both schools.

ASU gets the Notre Dame cash cow to make an appearance between the Buttes and avoids having to make another last minute change to its schedule. The Irish avoid a nasty scheduling mess that would have made national headlines because, well, its Notre Dame.

Ultimately we can get back to the only thing that really matters here, seeing how Arizona State can stack up against mighty Notre Dame on the gridiron.

And I for am glad to see the bickering between the two schools come to an end.

Improving Run Defense Could Determine Devils Fate in 2013

Todd Graham is ready take on ASU's daunting schedule and lofty expectations. (Photo: AZCentral Sports)

Todd Graham is ready take on ASU’s daunting schedule and lofty expectations. (Photo: AZCentral Sports)

As Todd Graham prepares for his second year at Arizona State, the mood as definitely changed in Tempe.

Last year, Graham talked up how he envisioned playing for the Rose Bowl or a National Championship, and while that is still the same, there is a belief the Sun Devils could should be playing in the Pac-12 Championship Game in December.

“I do believe it’s our philosophy,” Graham said at ASU Media Day. “I think last year it was my philosophy and they had to do it. This time last year, if they had a vote, I probably got voted of the island.”

For the first time that I can recall in my 10 years covering ASU football (goodness, it’s been that long?) the players have fully embraced the coaching staff. From seniors to the incoming freshman and junior college transfers, every member of this team seems to enjoy playing for Graham and his staff.

“We’re trying to get everyone else better to help the team,” Senior Will Sutton said. “I’m trying to leave here with a championship and you need all 105 guys to get it done. I want to do something that’s never been done here.”

Following an 8-5 season capped with a bowl win, ASU was picked to finish second in the Pac-12 South, just one vote behind UCLA. Impressive for a team that was 1-4 against teams with a winning record during the regular season.

Lead by defensive coordinator Paul Randolph, ASU is bigger, stronger and faster up front. (Photo: AZCentral Sports)

Lead by defensive coordinator Paul Randolph, ASU is bigger, stronger and faster up front. (Photo: AZCentral Sports)

Going back to last season, the Sun Devils gave up an average of 39.2 points in those five games, with the lone win against Arizona. While that win was nice, okay really awesome, Arizona State must fare better against the tougher opponents (Stanford, USC, Notre Dame, UCLA) on their schedule in order to compete for a Pac-12 title.

ASU improved the speed and strength of the team in the offseason, hoping to see better results on the field in the fall. The Sun Devils ranked 85th in FBS at stopping the run in 2012, giving up an average of 225.2 yards in their five losses.

“When you’re in the season, that thing goes very fast,” said Graham. “I think there’s some adjustments we could have done to be better. The number one thing was lack of depth. I think that will help us.”

What this coaching staff has done to improve the run defense is pretty simple; get bigger, faster and stronger.

“Strength Coach [Shawn Griswold] and his staff have done a phenomenal job,” defensive coordinator Paul Randolph said. “Most of our players have put on 10-20 and they have gotten faster, stronger and more explosive. That right there, coupled with their worked ethic, their attitude and understanding where we finished last year, I think guys are motivated to improve the run defense.”

Sutton added nearly 30 pounds in the offseason and now checks in at 305, as scary thought of opposing quarterbacks in the Pac-12.

“It’s good weight, not bad weight, which is a good thing,” said Sutton.

Will Sutton and Carl Bradford look to improve on their breakout seasons. (Photo: AP)

Will Sutton and Carl Bradford look to improve on their breakout seasons. (Photo: AP)

Carl Bradford had a breakout season and figures to be a key competent in this defense again. While effective in pass defense (11.5 sacks, 21.5 TFL), Bradford was one of several defenders who struggled stopping the run in 2012.

“I expect [2013] to be bigger and better,” Randolph said. “His understanding of the system another year later is more in-depth, so I see Carl improving in every area, especially in fundamentals.”

While the Devils do miss Oregon, ASU will still face four teams that finish in the top 30 in yards per attempt last season. Whether the Devils can slow those teams down will go along way in determining how Graham second season plays out.

Classy Diamondbacks take Cory Hahn in MLB Draft

After Arizona State outfielder Cory Hahn was seriously injured while playing for the Sun Devils in 2011, doctors had the grim task of telling him that he may never function normally again.

That didn’t stop him, his family or his legions of supporters from backing down, and on Thursday, that indomitable spirit received another boost.

Hahn broke his neck early in his freshman year at Arizona State. Photo: Fox Sports West

Hahn broke his neck early in his freshman year at Arizona State. Photo: Fox Sports West

In the 34th Round of the 2013 MLB Draft, the Arizona Diamondbacks drafted Hahn. He’ll officially go down as the 1,020th selection of the marathon draft, but he’ll be the one Sun Devil fans will likely remember for eras to come.

Hahn, of course, broke the 5th cervical vertebrae in his neck in a Feb. 21, 2011 game against New Mexico at Packard Stadium. He was hurt sliding head-first into second base on the first steal attempt of his college career.

While Hahn still can’t walk and may never return to “normal,” he’s well on his way toward graduating from Arizona State with a business degree, as Fox Sports West reported in January. He’s serving as a student coach for the Sun Devils, whose season just ended in an NCAA Tournament regional, and will graduate in January of 2014.

Meanwhile, drafting Hahn is yet another classy move by the Diamondbacks franchise, which has consistently been regarded as one of the most upstanding organizations in baseball and sports.

It’s hard to put into words just how much this means to Sun Devil fans, let alone Hahn and his family. Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall was quick to express his happiness about the pick on Twitter:

By the way, this is the second time Hahn was drafted. He was taken by the San Diego Padres in the 26th round of the 2010 Draft. He spurned the chance to go pro to attend ASU.

We think this time around, being selected means so much more.

Anna Jelmini takes home discus national title

Jelmini easily beat out the competition by more than 5 feet to win the title. Photo: ASU Athletics

Jelmini easily beat out the competition by more than 5 feet to win the title. Photo: ASU Athletics

All that stood between junior Anna Jelmini and a national championship in the discuss was 195 feet and 1 inch.

That’s what the Bakersfield, Calif. hit, and that’s what earned her a title.

Jelmini won the national title in the discus Thursday at the NCAA National Championship meet in Eugene, Ore., knocking off her nearest competitor by more than five feet. What makes her victory even more sweet was that the second-place finisher was Arizona Wildcats junior Julie Labonte, whose best throw measured 184 feet and 6 inches.

Her national title was the second for Arizona State of the weekend. On Wednesday, redshirt junior Chelsea Cassulo earned top honors in the hammer throw.

Jelmini and Cassulo’s national titles are the 23rd and 24th to be won under 12-year veteran throws coach David Dumble.