From knocking on the College Football Playoff's door to sneaking by the Blue Devils in El Paso, I think it's abundantly clear this season had it's fair share of ups and downs. We may have lost our shot to shake up the inaugural Playoff and lost the Territorial Cup to that other team in the desert, but look at the bright side Devils. We're the 2014 Sun Bowl Champions and no one can take that away from us. NO ONE. *quiet sobbing*
I'd be remiss if I didn't start off with "Tempe's Best Kept Secret" becoming a darkhouse Biletnikoff candidate. Jaelen Strong carried the passing attack this season, finishing his maroon and gold career with 157 grabs and 2287 yards, to boot. The redshirt junior is in line to be picked early come draft time and has the chance to be ASU's first first-round selection since 2003. Hopefully, he actually tells people about his alma mater... The fact we haven't licensed that for merchandising makes me wonder what my business degree is worth.
One player who underwhelmed this season was the guy who seemingly carried this team since CTG arrived on the scene, Taylor Kelly. Jake "The Snake" Jr went from hero (once with 33:1 odds of winning the Heisman) to zero (getting benched in the Territorial Cup). But, let's try and remember the good times. TK10 finished with career with 8819 passing yards, good for fourth in program history, and 1404 rushing yards, ranking number one among all ASU quarterbacks past or present. Despite the senior struggles, Taylor Kelly helped deliver us a PAC-12 Championship game in Tempe, consecutive ten win seasons and a year or two of success away from being mentioned among the elite of college football. Taylor Kelly might have once been compared to Russell Wilson (yes, that Russell Wilson), but he most likely won't be taking his bae (in educational studies) to the NFL next year. Don't be surprised if he's sporting a gold polo, headset and khaki shorts next fall.
From the parting members of ASU's Big Three to the Roommates, DJ Foster and Mike Bercovici showed the Sun Devil offense will be in good hands next season. DJ has already announced his farewell tour of Tempe and the backfield Swiss Army knife did everything last season, leading the team in rushing and second in receiving. For the sleepless Sun Devils worried about who would replace the mighty TK, Berco helped them get some much needed rest. The quarterback sporting a cannon for a right shoulder crossed the 400 yard passing mark twice this season, something his predecessor never accomplished. Also, I probably should mention
my man crush third roommate Jordan Simone. You know Jordan; the second generation Sun Devil who went from walk-on to starting safety who cracked the century mark in tackles and is returning to anchor this young defense for his senior year. It'd be fair to say team chemistry will be high next year... unless an argument breaks out over the dishes.
On the defensive side of matters, it's time to say goodbye to senior leaders Marcus Hardison and Damarious Randall. In his only year of significant playing time, Hardison showed everyone he was worth the wait, leading the team in tackles for a loss and was the only Sun Devil to hit double digits in sacks. Did I mention he runs a 4.7 forty at 300 pounds? Don't be surprised if he joins lineman alum Will Sutton in the NFL next season. Safety Damarious Randall was the rock of CTG's 2014 defense. Leading the team in tackles, interceptions and fourth in TFL all from the defensive backfield, Randall's leadership will be missed next year.
Before I move on, we had some other contributors who had a big impact this season, but didn't warrant their own paragraph. Sorry boys, maybe next year.
- DJ Calhoun: After being named a FWAA Freshman All-American, ASU is the only school in the history of football to have 2 DJ's accomplish that same feat. I have no idea if that's true or not.
- Tashon Smallwood: "Hey, Dad, I can't see real good. Is that Will Sutton over there?"
- Demario Richards: Between Baby Beast Mode and Super Demario, Richard's now has two better nicknames than Kevin Durant. And that's what's really important.
- Kalen Ballage: Meanwhile, his name sounds like a salad.
- De'Marieya Nelson: Credit where credit is due; the guy played the first half of the season on both sides of the ball.
- Cameron Smith: Quietly racked up 41 grabs and 596 yards on the other side of Jaelen and will have to carry some of the load he leaves behind.
- Kyle Middlebrooks: Again, credit where credit is due; you have to respect a guy who loses playing time, redshirts his SENIOR year and stays with the program. You can't teach that kind of loyalty... or this type of return.
And the moment you have all been waiting for is here. I present the top ten moments from the Sun Devil football team (sorta) in 2014:
10. The Fray: Never forget Arizona State tried to bribe 18-22 year old party animals into coming to the final home game... with the Fray. It's like they don't even know us.
9. Jimmy's Pick: What can I say? Our alums stick together.
8. Sun Bowl Sealer: Any play that locks up consecutive ten win seasons is top ten in my book.
7. Irish Step Dancing: As a good little irish boy, I have to say Kweishi that is terrible form. No arms bro.
6. (content removed): I know we'll have to battle the 'Canes for that title... We have a Snoop Dogg endorsement. Bring it.
1. The JaelMary: Because the "BercoMary" sounded convoluted and "Hail Berco" sounded relatively cult-y.