The Arizona State Sun Devils lost the Pac-12 Championship Game because Stanford's coaches coached better, and they lost the game because Stanford's players played better.
Stanford did not drop key passes. Stanford did not allow its quarterback to be constantly harassed. Stanford did not allow linebackers to be matched up against ASU's best receivers. Stanford did not bring in their backup quarterback in the red zone.
Feel free to explain the loss by saying, "If ASU would have just..." But know you're wasting your time. That phrase needs to start 27 different sentences because there isn't just one "if" statement. Stanford beat ASU in 27 different ways.
It's not a terrible thing to accept ASU being the best team in the Pac-12 South. It's a great thing that Todd Graham is taking ASU to a Holiday or Alamo Bowl in only his second year. It just stinks to be hit in the face Sunday with how far behind ASU is from getting to Stanford's status.
The loss to Stanford is not the most troubling aspect of this game. The worst thing to accept is the gap between some of ASU's fans and reality.
I'm not allowed to offer this, but I wish I could. I would love to offer the chance for one intelligent, passionate fan each game to walk around with me on the sideline of an Arizona State game. You see and hear so many things that you would never guess. The saddest thing I saw was fence-side "bravery."
In the middle of the fourth quarter, an ASU "fan" stood at an opening of the fence that separates the stands from the bench and yelled, "You suck, Alex Garoutte. You hear me? You suck."
We have soldiers getting shot at in the Middle East, yet one man in his 30s thinks there is bravery in standing behind a fence to yell at a 22-year-old. Even more embarrassing is Garoutte knows he's not a punter, so the ignorance of this fan is not enlightening anyone.
Think of something you are terrible at doing or accomplishing. Now, allow me to put you in a room with 85 other people who are all worse than you at your weakness. Are you going to step up and realize that you are the best option? Are you going to sacrifice your pride? Garoutte did.
Garoutte is the best option at punter for the Arizona State Sun Devils. That is not Garoutte's fault. Dennis Erickson didn't recruit someone to replace Josh Hubner. Todd Graham felt he had to win over in-state recruits like D.J. Foster and Jaxon Hood. Although he was right to put the majority of his focus in that area, he did not do enough to bring in an immediate starter at punter. The freshman punters that started this year for ASU were just as bad. Garoutte stepped in because ASU had no other options. He did not come to ASU to be a punter. He came to ASU to become a man -- which is a lot more than can be said for fans hiding behind fences to yell.
Arizona State did not deserve to win the Pac-12 Championship. It did not deserve to have any fans like Mr. Fence Screamer either. With 30 seconds to go in a disastrous Pac-12 Championship Game, the outstanding student section began chanting "A-S-U, A-S-U." There is no way to put into words what that meant to the players. So many seniors woke up Saturday morning with the dream of going to a Rose Bowl. Their dream is over, yet more than 10,000 of their peers still had the maturity and class to salute them for what they've accomplished this year.
Let's compare the difference in actions of the "adults" and the "kids": A legion of ignorance rushed to flood the phone lines of "Sun Devil Sound Off" with Craig Grialou to voice disgust with the 10-win Pac-12 South Champions. Twenty-year-old students who camped out for days just so they could be as close as possible to their team stood with their team to the bitter end.
Maybe it's the students that should be teaching the lesson.