Arizona State University alumni, including myself, cherish the moments we cheer former Sun Devil sports stars as they go on to make a name for themselves in the professional ranks.
Over the decades, ASU had produced some of sports finest including Danny White, Pat Tillman, Jumpin’ Joe Caldwell, Reggie Jackson, Curley Culp, Heather Farr, Phil Mickelson, Rick Monday and Sal Bando.
But every once in a while, there is a hiccup among the former ASU players that makes us squirm in our recliners, throw up our hands and shout, “Oh No!”
Such was the case in the San Francisco 49ers 20-17 overtime loss on Sunday to the Super Bowl-bound New York Giants.
Kyle Williams, a second year pro out of ASU and a graduate of Scottsdale Chaparral High fumbled a punt in OT that set up Lawrence Tynes’ game-winning field goal.
Watching Williams fumble was painful, distressing and gut-wrenching, especially for ASU faithful.
Williams, who for all we know is a fine young man with deep Arizona roots, is not making any excuses for the miscue.
But as fans, we are allowed a few excuses — we know Williams was playing as a reserve punt returner replacing Ted Ginn Jr. who missed the game because of a knee injury.
Also, it had rained in Candlestick Park, which makes hanging on to the ball even more difficult, especially when 250-pound defenders are bearing down on you.
Following the game, angry football fans around the country took to blogs, call-in radio and Twitter to heap scorn on Williams.
Shame on them. Those types of fans are what’s ugly about sports. Fans have the right to complain, but not make personal attacks.
Thankfully, Williams’ teammates have rallied around him in support refusing to point fingers for a loss that kept the 49ers out of the Super Bowl.
While watching a former Devil commit the miscue was heartbreaking, ASU fans will remember that on Nov. 28, 2009 against Arizona, Williams muffed a punt late in the game that gave the Wildcats possession at the 22-yard-line.
The fumble led to the Wildcats’ 32-yard game-winning field goal on the final play of a clash that ended with a loss by the same score as Sunday’s game, 20-17. The similarities between the endings of those two games are spooky.
Although some fans are tagging Williams the goat for the 49ers’ loss, he’s a young player with a bright future who most certainly will go on to have an illustrious football career.
Williams a target?
Most troubling about the former Sun Devil’s fumble is that in the Giant’s post game locker room celebration, a New York player is quoted by the Chicago Sun-Times as bragging they were out to cause the 49er punt returner another concussion.
“The thing is, we knew he had four concussions, so that was our biggest thing, was to take him outta the game,” Jacquian Williams is quoted by the Sun Times.
It was Jacquain Williams who forced the fumble in overtime to set up New York’s game-winning field goal. Later in the same interview, he told the Newark Star-Ledger that teammate and backup safety Tyler Sash “did a great job hitting him early and he looked kind of dazed when he got up. I feel like that made a difference and he coughed it up.”
No fan is naïve enough to believe that pro players don’t target venerable opponents, but let’s hope it was not a part of the game plan and coaches were unaware of the scheme.