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Blanco: No Rose Bowl, but Sun Devil football is fun again

By Lisa Blanco - Dec 21, 2013

No roses. But no thorns either.  

In a nutshell, that best describes Arizona State’s 2013 football season. No, this team did not meet its ultimate goal in Pasadena, but looking back on the year, there are very few thorns that stick out.
 
From the time I was a young girl, the 1996 Rose Bowl season was ingrained in me, perhaps equal to as many times the players have heard those words come out of Coach Todd Graham’s mouth since Day 1 of his hiring. 
Possibly not as much, but you get the point. 

I rocked that commemorative sweatshirt everywhere but never truly understood the significance of it until later in life. This season I went frantic looking for that old haggard thing and couldn’t seem to find it. My only tangible remembrance of that 1996 season is now nowhere to be found. 

That’s when I realized most of these players, or student fans have absolutely no fondness of that special season, let alone anyone else within my age range. We were all so young and simply instructed to cheer when the team wearing the maroon and gold had the ball, if it is even a memory at all. 

I spent years sleeping in my dad’s oversized throwback sweatshirt that declared, “Arizona State Sun Devils vs. Ohio State Buckeyes” emblazoned in bold. Vintage. 
 
We were told stories and given sweatshirts or photos that represented that era of Sun Devil football. However, we will never truly be able to understand or appreciate the pride ASU fans felt during that time period of time.
 
We listened to our parents relive stories of Jake “The Snake” Plummer and how he led the Sun Devils to unprecedented levels of success. Success we have not truly seen until this very season, even if it wasn't entirely fulfilled.  
 
The culture of ASU football was rebuilt in the last year; pride was restored in Tempe. 

The disappointment of falling short of a Rose Bowl appearance may still linger, but to believe there’s not much riding on this upcoming Holiday Bowl game is mistaken. 
 
The Sun Devils are vying for their first 11-win season since 1996. Not only are they looking to be back-to-back bowl game champions, but they’re also transforming this program into contenders for next year and beyond. 
 
The heights they’ve reached can be seen in print. Pac-12 South Champions, Todd Graham Pac-12 Coach of the Year, Will Sutton Defensive Player of the Year, and six first-team all-conference selections, tied with Stanford for most of any school. 
 
This is an era of ASU football that my generation can look back on. It's our turn to relive those unforgettable catches by Jaelen Strong and Marion Grice, and recall wins against Wisconsin, USC, UCLA and Arizona.
 
Though they did not clench roses in their teeth at the season's conclusion, they squarely set their jaws in position to do so in the near future.
 

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