TEMPE, AZ — A month-long COVID-19 shutdown sandwiched in between two games they could have and should have won; nobody would have blamed the Sun Devils for mailing it in for their final two games of the wacky 2020 season. But they didn't. In fact, quite the opposite.
"We were 0-2, and I'm going, 'hey, man this is not a lot of fun. We get it.' And I told them how much I appreciate it. The fact that we've hung in there and our season's been cut short," Sun Devils head coach Herm Edwards said.
Prior to that game in Tucson, Edwards was able to do something for the first time, that's otherwise routine in a normal season. Gather his team in a big auditorium to address them as a whole.
"Now we're a team," he called. "We're all in the same room. I can look you guys all in the face now and talk to you. It was unbelievable. Because you missed that as a coach, just a little part of speaking to your team. We can see all the faces, I'm not seeing half the team on a monitor. I think it brought us even more together."
What transpired on the field that week is something that won't soon be forgotten in this state. A 70-7 thumping in the Territorial Cup.
"I could tell from the first kickoff it was going be bad," said freshman running back Chip Trayanum. "That game was crazy. It was a very nice win."
"That's why I can't say that 2020 was terrible, that feeling right there," said senior cornerback Chase Lucas. "That was probably one of the best feelings that I've had as an Arizona State football player."
The Sun Devils reward? Another road game to rainy Corvallis, which left many in the program feeling disrespected after all they had gone through, to not be able to play more than one home game.
"We were kind of all just over the season, especially after they told us that we weren't going to get another home game," said Lucas. "The Pac-12 didn't really care about ASU, so we're just going to put this season away, and then we got something for you in 2021. That's kind of how we just rolled with it."
They rolled the Beavers that night knowing they had no plans to play in a bowl game, but what many outside the program didn't know, ASU had another COVID scare on game day.
"We were literally in the parking lot game day, and we had our starting tight end out, we had two of our starting wide receivers out, so we had to re-personnel everything," said offensive coordinator Zak Hill. "We had to scratch things off the game plan, redo the game plan on game day."
"It was fun to watch them play in a really tough environment," said Edwards. "I thought the way they went about their business was very, very hopeful. For me, it brought hope like they're starting to get it."
While fans were left wondering what could have been only playing four games, the team didn't see it that way. To them, a lost season it was not.
"It does matter, because all of the time that was put into it," said Edwards. "If you're a parent, if you're a player or coach, anyone that loves sport, I think they saw the ability for people to adjust, right? And I applaud the young people."
"Having a new defense, having a new offense, getting any opportunities to go practice, walk-through's, games, it was a successful season in my mind," said Hill. "I think we got a lot out of it. And I think we can now build from that, knowing what we have with our personnel and the guys that are coming back."
Essentially all that the Sun Devils lost was wide receiver Frank Darby and starting center Cade Cote. The rest of the key players will return for the 2021 season.
"I think the players realize it, they have a chance to be good," Edwards said. "And I'll kind of leave it at that and smile."