Last December, with the season having crumbled into utter disappointment and the team being thrashed by Boise State in the Maaco Bowl, Gerell Robinson's dedication and effort never wavered. After his 13-catch, 241-yard performance against the Broncos, Robinson finished one of the most impressive seasons by a Sun Devil wide receiver ever.
However, as great as his 2011 season was, it falls just shy of being called "the best". That honor goes to Shaun McDonald's amazing 2002 campaign, which earns the No. 74 spot on our 100 Day Countdown to Kickoff list.
By the time 2002 rolled around, McDonald was already known as one of the top playmakers in the Pac-10. A promising freshman year in 2000 led to a fantastic sophomore season. McDonald earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors with 47 catches for 1,104 yards, a sensational 23.4 yards-per-reception average. Despite his small frame at 5'9", 170 pounds, McDonald was primed to do even better as a junior.
Through the first two games, there were few signs of something historic brewing. He had seven receptions for 73 yards in the season-opening blowout loss to Nebraska, and just one five-yard catch the next week against Eastern Washington.
Solid yes, but nothing compared to what was next.
It was in Week 3 against Central Florida that things began to get interesting. Despite just five catches for 54 yards, three were touchdowns. The next week against San Diego State, McDonald had one of the best games ever by a Sun Devil pass catcher. He hauled in eight passes for 175 yards and four touchdowns. Yes, four. It was only the third time in school history that a Sun Devil had scored four times in a game. (Side note: The last time it had been done? McDonald versus Louisiana-Lafayette the season before)
A bye week did nothing to cool off the scorching hot McDonald. When the Sun Devils returned to play Stanford, he went off for 10 receptions and 221 yards, at the time the third highest total in school history (now fourth). Completing a dominant four-game run, McDonald had eight catches for 156 yards against North Carolina.
Several more highlight games came in the coming weeks. 12 catches for 204 yards against Oregon, another six for 138 and two touchdowns against Cal. To cap off his amazing year, he had 11 catches for 114 yards in the Holiday Bowl against Kansas State.
He earned third-team All-American honors and was again a first-team All-Pac-10 player. He became the first Sun Devil to be named a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, and his 87 catches and 1,405 yards are still Arizona State single-season records.
McDonald parlayed that success into an early entry into the NFL Draft, but was just a fourth round pick by the Rams. He went on to have a six-year career, with his 2007 season with the Detroit Lions as his best year (79-943-6).
See all the previous entries on House of Sparky's 100 day football countdown here.