Arizona State Sun Devils Herm Edwards off to a fast start

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Herm Edwards has cracked college football.

He hasn’t broken it — yet? — but this season’s most unconventional new hire has the Arizona State at 2-0 after last week’s 16-13 win over the No. 15 Michigan State. Edwards outfoxed one of the country’s best coaches in Mark Dantonio during a winning 69-yard drive by forcing timeouts and simply playing for a field goal while bleeding the final 4:55 off the clock.

“He out-chested the very fine Dantonio when he took that last timeout,” ASU athletic director Ray Anderson told ESPN. He stood under the winning goalposts during Brandon Ruiz‘s 28-yard kick. “That was it. I’m not sure folks anticipated he would do that.

“That was really gratifying to see because some of the folks wanted to doubt the intellectual capacity [of Edwards]. I think he has quieted that noise quite well.”

Arizona State enters Week 3 ranked No. 23, its first AP ranking since the 2015 preseason. Now Edwards has to make sure his team doesn’t waste its promising start when it goes on the road to play San Diego State (1-1).

On Tuesday, Edwards surprised players and coaches with a slideshow of a man blowing up a balloon until it got too big and popped. The symbolism was obvious, but Edwards won’t miss an opportunity to send his team a message.

“You gotta stay humble and hungry, man,” Edwards said. “That’s how we function around here.

“They’re getting a good feel for who I am when it comes to that stuff because I create chaos all the time around here, but you have to be able to function in it.”

But does he worry about his team overlooking San Diego State and getting lost in the rankings?

“I would hope not, but that’s the emotions of football. That’s the emotions of do you live off of what you did last week? We can’t do that because we were in no way perfect last week. There’s a lot of things we can still improve on. I told the players that. I told them, ‘Look at the tape. Tape doesn’t lie.'”

“They’re getting a good feel for who I am when it comes to that stuff because I create chaos all the time around here, but you have to be able to function in it.”

Herm Edwards

As perplexing — and impressive — as the Sun Devils’ start has been, Saturday is the real test, as they have to flip from a physically and emotionally draining win and refocus against a San Diego State team primed for its own upset.

It was easy to get up for Michigan State, and it could be equally as easy to sit down for San Diego State. The schedule presents more opportunities, with prime-time bouts with the No. 10 Washington and the No. 9 Stanford looming. Edwards said that’s a lot for a team still very much in a rebuild to handle.

“They never had that,” Edwards said of ASU’s national recognition. “They’ve never seen that, and I’m telling them, ‘Guys, that’s the elements you’ve got to play in. That’s the stage you want, man. But you gotta work at it because when they turn the TV on, they’re looking for something, and you can’t disappoint them now.’

“We’re on the stage now, so let’s go play.”

Edwards knows and respects San Dan Diego State and its head coach, Rocky Long. Edwards played at San Diego State in 1975, when the Aztecs were hungry to beat Pac-8 teams. Now, they hunt Pac-12 teams, beating Stanford last year and playing the Cardinal tough in Week 1.

Edwards knows these two wins mean little in the long run, Anderson said. Yes, he hugged Edwards like a son after the Michigan State game, but Anderson returned to work this week expecting Saturdays like that to eventually be the norm.

“That’s what we’re going to do and no one should be surprised by the intelligent football that they’re gonna get out of ASU football going forward,” Anderson said.

Still, receiving congratulatory texts from Tony Dungy and John Madden this early in the process, praising Edwards’ fourth-quarter coaching, was neat for Anderson.

“That’s validation,” he said with a laugh.

There’s a charming quality to Edwards’ perceived madness and his unorthodox approach at ASU, but through an entire offseason and two games, it’s paid off. For as strange as this has been for the masses, inside, there’s a trust and a belief in Edwards’ unique process.

“If you do it like everybody else, you might get some value in it, but are you going to be elite?” defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales said. “Are you going to have an opportunity to go somewhere you haven’t been before? The model we’re creating here gives us that opportunity.”

We still have no clue what’s in store for Edwards and ASU. We don’t know if he’s a genius or lucky, but he’s having fun and he’s changing the narrative earlier than expected.

Maybe he’s a little more prepared than we thought.

“This is my passion. This is who I am,” Edwards said. “This is what we do and this is a wonderful life. I ain’t never had no job; I’ve been a football guy.”



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