For the first three weeks of the season and first of the coach Kenny Dillingham era at Arizona State, the team was kicking, but not on all cylinders; there were hiccups and stutters. It took a catalyst for the team to come together, and it happened to be a 29-0 beating in Week 3 to Fresno State.
Dillingham said he noticed a different look about his players after the thrashing. “When you look at people’s eyes and they don’t like that feeling,” he said. “You can feel that they want to do something about it and create change.”
The change was immediate, Dillingham said, as the entire offense was a full 10 minutes early to meetings on Monday after the game. ASU got shut out at home for the first time since 1988 while committing eight turnovers in the process. That put the Sun Devils in a corner, and they responded against USC.
“Felt more of a family out there,” running back Cam Skattebo said of the synergy on Saturday night. “Tighter knit, a lot more energy.”
The sold-out crowd certainly played a part, but Week 4 was the most complete ASU has looked all season despite playing the No. 5 team in the country. The offense, under supervision of Dillingham, moved the ball effectively while the Sun Devil’s defense was able to keep the nations top offense in check for majority of the game.
“It was good to see,” linebacker Tate Romney said. “Overall as a team we improved, I think there was more of a family culture on the sideline, everyone getting involved with each other. And that was good to see. Obviously, it’s not the outcome we wanted. You can’t ever be happy about losing, but there are good things coming forward and we feel like we can keep building from this.”
While the players are the ones on the field, it all starts with Dillingham and the attitude he brings each week. The aura of confidence is contagious, and it’s spreading through the locker room.
“It starts with coach (Dillingham) from the beginning of the week, he told us we are going to win this game,” Tate said. “And so it really helped us to get the confidence coming in practice and coming into the game.”
Elijhah Badger, who hauled in nine passes for 88 yards and a score, coincided with Tate, “I don’t think we ever just lost confidence. I think it just came back and kept practicing, kept the family together and we just knew what we could do and we put it out.”
Dillingham said the bonds of brotherhoods were bound to happen at some time, but the adversity faced early on propelled his guys for the better.