The holidays are a time of reflection. As the calendar year comes to a close and we spend time with our dearest loved ones, we mentally encapsulate the year that has just passed and prepare ourselves for a better New Year. It's a means of allowing ourselves to come to terms with all that we can't change, while also making goals for what we can change. Once we realize what is set in stone, it makes it that much easier to let go.
I think I've finally accepted that I can't change ASU's 2014 season. No, I can't go back to October and reteach the fundamentals of tackling before the UCLA game, I surely can't travel back to November and tell ASU that Oregon State is much better than its 1-5 conference record would suggest, and there's no way for me to go back to Tuscon and warn Taylor Kelly of the Arizona defender about to strip him from behind.
No, this season of ASU football will always be remembered for what it could have become rather than what it became. A 9-3 campaign and trip to the Sun Bowl with a defense largely comprised of newcomers would have been seen as a success for ASU in years past, but this year was different. Climbing up to No. 6 in the country and wins over USC and Notre Dame set a precedent for national relevance, a glimpse into a future in which ASU could change its reputation from a sleeping giant into a very-awake and well-rested giant. But with the jubilation and excitement surrounding the program in its ascent up the College Football Playoff rankings, the losses that followed were that much more disappointing and frustrating.
In reflection, we pick a lasting image and assign it to an individual memory, a singular feeling and emotion that stays with us whenever we mentally return to the experience. So, tell me, how is this season going to be remembered? I know the Jael Mary is a lasting imprint in many Sun Devils' minds, and the copper uniforms from the Notre Dame game upped the aesthetic ante for ASU. Taylor Kelly's last game in Sun Devil Stadium went down as an emotional exit for a great quarterback, and the Sun Devils finally got the Stanford-sized monkey off their back in October. Or you could remember the low moments of the season. The 542,929 missed tackles in the UCLA game, the anemic passing attack in the Oregon State game and a loss in the de-facto Pac-12 South Championship to Arizona are clear black marks on ASU's 2014 season.
I know the images that I'll remember. I'll remember the ASU players that got off the bench to watch Mike Bercovici when he entered the game against Arizona, I'll remember the two-headed monster of D.J. Foster and then-17-year-old Demario Richard busting off impressive run after impressive run and I'll definitely remember those awesome copper unis (please don't mess those up adidas). Instead of the moments that defined this season, I'm keeping with me the moments that showed us what next season can be.
We're about to conclude year 3 in Todd Graham's renovation project in Tempe. So far he has a pair of wins over UA, a Pac-12 South title, and has brought ASU back into consistent national relevance, a relevance that's quantified in the great recruiting classes Graham has put together. He's taken the sleeping giant of ASU, poured a bottle of water on it and ripped off the covers.