Weekend High 5: Ugly ASU Looks Prettier Than Rest of Pac-12

Matthew JohnsonSeptember 7, 2021
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The Sun Devils’ 41-14 win over Southern Utah last Thursday night in Tempe was riddled with penalties, and poor special teams play, and lacked much of a passing attack – but it’ll likely appear to be a regular Week One blowout on paper when we look back on it at the end of the season. That tops our look at the five biggest stories and takeaways from a busy weekend in sports.

ASU had one of the better wins for Pac-12 teams in Week 1.

I fully admit I felt a tinge of doom and gloom for the 2021 season while watching the Sun Devils commit 12 penalties for 120 yards in their season opening win over Southern Utah on Thursday. ASU kicker Logan Tyler booted the opening kickoff out of bounds and missed two extra points. Herm Edwards summed it up well in the postgame interview, saying “the Sun Devils played the Sun Devils.”

Those glaring miscues will derail a season if not corrected soon because any Pac-12 opponent will surely capitalize on those mistakes and blow past the Sun Devils – or so I thought. The rest of the Pac-12 (outside of UCLA’s win over 13th-ranked LSU) looked unimpressive to awful on Saturday. Here are some lowlights:

• No. 20 Washington lost to FCS school Montana 13-7 at home.

• Kansas State blew out Stanford 24-7.

• Nevada downed California 22-17 in Berkley.

• Utah State defeated Washington State 26-23 in Pullman, WA.

• No. 11 Oregon needed a late fourth quarter touchdown to beat Fresno State.

• No. 15 USC held a 13-7 lead going into the fourth quarter against San Jose State before scoring 17 in the 4th quarter to win 30-7.

• Oregon State dropped its opener at Purdue 30-21.

Big Takeaway: This might be ASU’s year after all. The Sun Devils have the best rushing attack in the Pac-12, experienced quarterback Jayden Daniels leading the offense and a stout, veteran-laden defense led by linebacker Darien Butler. Despite the ugly look to the season opener, the Devils appear to be in much better shape than almost every other team in the Pac-12. ASU still has some things to clean up and they get their next shot at it against a bad opponent in Week 2 when they host UNLV Saturday night.

Malcolm Butler put Cardinals in a tough spot before season opener.

The Arizona Cardinals placed cornerback Malcolm Butler on the Retired/Reserve list last week. The move came days after Butler left the team for reported personal issues that had him considering retirement.

Big Takeaway: The Cardinals go into the regular season with Robert Alford and Byron Murphy as the starters at cornerback, with rookies Tay Gowan and Marco Wilson as the backup/nickel-and-dime-coverage corners. Murphy is a very good third-year player, but Alford is coming off two straight years of season-ending injuries. Needless to say, but this defensive back group is not deep and needs some reinforcement. Unfortunately, the San Francisco 49ers beat the Cardinals to sign former All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman over the weekend. Time for General Manager Steve Keim to scour the practice squad rosters of other NFL teams or skim the free agent list or cornerbacks – which is not very deep either.

Student sections are back and it’s glorious to see.

The weekend gave us the return of fan traditions inside college football stadiums across the country. Jump Around was back at Camp Randle in Wisconsin. The Tomahawk Chop swept over Doak Campbell Stadium at Florida State. 110,000 Michigan fans sang Mr. Brightside in unison. And let’s give a shoutout to The Inferno: The ASU student section helped set attendance records Thursday night.

Big Takeaway: COVID fear porn has no effect on football fan bases. The game is bigger and better than ever and most of these fans have waited two years to fill the seats.

What the sports world got right…

The McKenzie Milton comeback was the best story of the weekend. Nearly three years after suffering nerve damage from a catastrophic leg injury while playing quarterback at Central Florida and nine surgeries later, Milton returned to the field Sunday as the backup quarterback for Florida State. Doctors told him he would struggle to walk the rest of his life, but he worked his way back and led the Seminoles to an 10-point comeback to force overtime against 9th-ranked Notre Dame. A missed field goal by Florida State’s kicker ruined what looked like a Hollywood script and his team ended up losing, but Milton’s story in truly inspiring and one to keep an eye on the rest of the season.

… and what the sports world got wrong.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly attempted to make an execution joke but failed miserably on national TV. First, understand that this joke has been done correctly many times in different sports (John McKay said it first as head coach of the 0-14 Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976). Second, the joke needs a reporter asking about execution in terms of playmaking in the context of the game. Kelly, in the clip below, clearly wants to tell the joke, but also has to do the setup himself. Also keep in mind Notre Dame was found at fault for the death of a student video assistant who was killed when the hydraulic lift he was filming on fell over on a windy day back in 2010. Kelly’s attempt at being funny was a brutal moment on live TV to say the least.

As you can imagine, the comments went over the heads of some people online and gave others plenty to pile on Notre Dame.

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