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Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Arizona State season recap

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Arizona State was a lopsided team this year -- good defense, bad offense. And the good wasn't good enough to cover for the bad.

The Sun Devils ranked first or second in the conference in just about every defensive category, while they ranked eighth or worse in just about every offensive category.

Senior quarterback Danny Sullivan fought hard to make things work, but there wasn't enough talent around him to make up for his shortcomings. ASU was a play or two away from winning much of the year, see four losses by five or fewer points.

The end-result was a season ruined for a second year in a row by a six-game losing streak, not to mention a second-consecutive losing season for the program for the first time since 1946-47.

That landed coach Dennis Erickson on the hot seat by season's end, which is probably the reason he fired longtime coaching pal Rich Olson, the beleaguered offensive coordinator.

Offensive MVP -- Receiver Kyle Williams.

Williams caught 57 passes for 815 yards with eight touchdowns. His 48 points led the Sun Devils.

Defensive MVP --Linebacker Mike Nixon.

Nixon not only was the leading tackler for the stout Sun Devils defense, he also was a mature, stabilizing leader on a unit that sometimes showed too much youthful energy (hello, Vontaze Burfict). Nixon finished with 73 tackles. He also had six tackles for a loss, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and a blocked kick.

Turning point -- Arizona State was fighting all season to find its rhythm, but the game that seemed to ensure it wouldn't be found was the 23-21 loss to California on a last-second field goal on Oct. 31. That was the second and most heartbreaking loss of a six-game losing streak to end the season -- at least until the finale vs. Arizona.

What's next -- The Sun Devils need to get better on offense -- duh -- and that starts on the offensive line and then moves on to what figures to be a spirited quarterback competition this spring between Brock Osweiler, Samson Szakacsy and Michigan transfer Steven Threet, who may be the frontrunner. Erickson figures to start next season on the hot seat, so the Sun Devils may need to get to a bowl game to keep him secure.