Sun Devils suffer 1st Pac-12 loss against Oregon
The Arizona State University football team scored both early and late but could not overcome a major loss to its defense early in the game as the No. 2 Oregon Ducks defeated the No. 24 Sun Devils 43-21 at Sun Devil Stadium on Thursday.
Playing in front of a sold out crowd decked out in black and full of enthusiasm, the Arizona State (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) defense came out firing on all cylinders. On the second play from scrimmage, defensive tackle Will Sutton forced a fumble on Oregon (7-0, 4-0 Pac-12) quarterback Marcus Mariota that defensive end Davon Coleman returned for nine yards. Quarterback Taylor Kelly connected with wide receiver Kevin Ozier on the very next play to give the Sun Devils an early 7-0 lead.
Sutton was injured while forcing the fumble, however, and did not return. "[Will] provided motivation," safety Alden Darby said. "He told us to keep going out there and pushing. He was a great motivator on the sideline. It's tough to do what he did. He got hurt in the second play of the game and he didn't go out hanging his head. He continued to be a leader."
The loss of Sutton, as well as defensive end Junior Onyeali, proved too much for ASU as Oregon went ahead 8-7 on the very next drive and never surrendered the lead again.
ASU had few scoring chances in the first three quarters and failed to capitalize against a stingy Oregon defense that forced four turnovers. A field goal attempt would have put ASU ahead by two points in the first quarter, but kicker Alex Garoutte missed the 43-yard attempt. The Sun Devils did not reach the red zone again until the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Oregon scored all 43 of its points in the first half with the first points coming on a 71-yard touchdown run by running back Kenjon Barner and a successful two-point conversion. ASU struggled to capture a first down in between two Oregon drives of over four minutes that resulted in touchdowns and a 22-7 lead. The Ducks increased their lead to 43-7 by the early part of the second quarter thanks to two interceptions and an 86-yard touchdown run by Mariota.
The Sun Devils defense regained its footing mid-way through the 2nd quarter, however. The defense held Oregon scoreless for the rest of the quarter and entered halftime without any more damage done. ASU managed only 139 yards of offense in the first half, compared to the Ducks' 377 yards.
"I'm proud of our guys and how they responded," coach Todd Graham said. "They came in at halftime and we had no bad body language and went to work. We never gave up. We never quit. We came back and shut them out in the second half defensively."
ASU and Oregon traded blows on defense in the third quarter, with both teams failing to sustain a drive of more than 20 yards. Neither team reached the red zone until the beginning of the fourth quarter when tight end Chris Coyle caught a pass from Kelly to reach the Oregon four-yard line. Kelly was sacked on the next play but the Sun Devils failed to score on the drive.
The Sun Devils would find the Oregon endzone twice more in the fourth quarter. Linebacker Anthony Jones intercepted Mariota and took the ball into the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown. During their next offensive possession ASU moved the ball 77 yards and capped the drive with a 23-yard pass from quarterback Michael Eubank to running back D.J. Foster. ASU cut the lead to 43-21 and threatened to score again after Garoutte recovered an onside kick. But Oregon forced its fourth interception of the game on the very next play and both teams remained scoreless the rest of the way.
Kelly finished the game 10-for-18 for 93 yards and one touchdown while rushing for 38 yards. Eubank came in late in the game but went 10-for-19 for 123 yards and one touchdown. Coyle led all receivers with 56 yards while running back Marion Grice was the team leader in rushing yards with 48.
Hoping to capitalize on its strong finish on both offense and defense, ASU will take on UCLA at Sun Devil Stadium for its Homecoming game next Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. and will be broadcasted on FX.