It's tough to give away game balls when for any loss but when a team is so utterly embarrassed like the Sun Devils were Monday night in San Diego, it becomes an even more arduous task. It was contemplated whether or not even one player deserved a single game ball but at the end of the night, a single player stood out.
DJ Foster, running back
Foster led the Sun Devils with five receptions for a measly 23 yards and had 20 carries for 132 yards and a touchdown. This might seem like the average day for Foster or any given running back for that matter but on a night where so many failed to accomplish their job, Foster did what he was asked to do. Without much of a passing game to speak of, ASU relied heavily on the ground game to move down the field when it could.
Now game balls earned from previous performances won't be taken away and football is a team sport so everyone rises and falls together but it's worth pointing out some notably poor efforts:
It might have been karma for what happened at the end of the Wisconsin game, it might have been a mis-communication but whatever occurred in the moments leading up to the rushed Zane Gonzalez missed field goal, it was inexcusable. Those points could have been huge for momentum and ASU could have at least lofted one more pass up to Jaelen Strong in the end zone but it didn't happen and the Sun Devils walked away with no points after having a first and goal situation.
After a 44-yard rushing touchdown by Taylor Kelly, the Sun Devils let up a 90-yard kick return for a touchdown. ASU needed a defensive stop and a score to tie the game at 27 in what could have been a completely different football game from that point on. It was the icing on the cake to what was an awful year in ASU special teams play. Poor punting gave up critical yards in field position while big kickoff returns happened on a game by game basis, specifically at Utah and Stanford. The return problems may have had more to do with personnel than actual coaching but very few returns got over 20 to 30 yards this season. Todd Graham continued to talk about the team's need to address special teams issues throughout the season but after the game said he would deal with it immediately.
It's not fair to question a team's effort; they've been through a lot this season and it's not fair for a writer to sit behind a keyboard and question how much each player is exerting himself on the field. They put it on the line week after week for their school.
What can be questioned is the body language and the drive with which they played. Were they really motivated to win after falling just short of the Rose Bowl? If so ASU certainly didn't act like it, jogging and sub-par technique were seen on many occasions. It didn't look like the team as a whole wanted to be there. Whether they were adequately prepared or underestimated Texas Tech is a question for the players and coaches to answer but by what was seen on the field, it was certain that not every player wanted to be at Qualcomm Stadium Monday night.