Back about a hundred years ago (actually it was September 24) just after Arizona State's high point of this lost football season, a 43-22 win over USC, team defensive coordinator Craig Bray spoke to an Arizona Republic reporter about "superstar" linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
Burfict had gotten about as much notoriety in his sophomore season at ASU for collecting a bushel of especially ill-timed personal foul penalties as for his playing ability, which at times has been superior.
|A reminder of Dennis Erickson's nine lives--his stint with the NFL |
He vowed to keep himself under control during the 2011 season, and yet retain the super-aggressiveness that had become his stock in trade.
After the USC game, which included a high-profile finger-pointing moment by Burfict at the Trojans' star quarterback Matt Barkley, Coach Bray noted that Vontaze needed to return to his old ways of being "an angry, violent person from snap to whistle."
The problem (one of many) during last night's 47-38 loss to the Cal Golden Bears came after the whistle, and after head coach Dennis Erickson finally had seen enough and yanked Burfict out for the duration during a critical part of the game.
Burfict seemed to be having an okay game to that point, nothing of All-American stature certainly, but a decent enough outing with a solo tackle here and there.
ASU already had been eliminated (mercifully) earlier in the day from having a chance at a berth in next week's Pac-12 championship, which made the Cal game a "pride" thing more than anything else. (Utah's upset loss to Colorado did in the Devils' and handed mediocre UCLA the Pac-12 South championship).
The second half started with a one-point ASU lead, and most of the dwindling number of fans in the stands (generously 10,000 by the end of the game) and watching on ESPN sensed that the last team with the ball probably would win the thing.
That turned out not to be the case, in part because of yet two more frighteningly immature personal fouls against Burfit--both late hits that were more shoves than anything else--right in front of the refs.
Erickson pulled Burfict from the game for good, which left the already depleted Sun Devils' defense in an even worse way.
This is when it got really ugly.
The ESPN cameras showed Burfict sitting on a bench on the sidelines, surrounded by his "posse," which seemed to be redshirted players and some deep subs.
He honestly didn't seem all that upset about being sat, not at all.
Late in the fourth quarter with the outcome now decided in Cal's favor, the cameras again zoomed in on Burfict, who was facing away from the field, obviously holding court with his head was draped in a towel.
Whatever ASU's "superstar" was yipping about must have been pretty darned funny, because his crew was laughing fairly uproariously.
If any one visual could speak to the demise of ASU's football program and of Coach Erickson at the helm, it was that one.
Staring into space about 20 feet away, Erickson looked very tired and quite old--maybe the right word is resigned to his fate.
He'll be fired as a multi-millionaire, or at least he should be a rich guy by this point. Not bad for coaching a sport.
But it's over for him at ASU, and he knows it.