Saturday’s game in Eugene followed the script of so many others in Dennis Erickson’s tenure at Arizona State.
Another “program turning” game against a Top-10 team which ultimately ended with the same result.
Despite a 21-17 third quarter lead, you just got the feeling you’d seen this movie before.
Junior quarterback Brock Osweiler’s first half poise evaporated, the Sun Devils defense had problems getting off the field, and Erickson’s team self-destructed with untimely penalties throughout the game which either killed positive plays or extended Oregon drives.
Earlier in the week Osweiler trumpeted about how ASU was ready for the challenge, ready for chaos of Autzen Stadium, and ready to prove themselves in primetime on ESPN, but in the end their fragile psyche was broken by a backup quarterback and a pair of backup running backs who would start at nearly any other school.
There was no LaMichael James and for a half, no Darron Thomas but in the end it didn’t really matter.
Freshman Bryan Bennett took over for the injured Thomas and gashed the Devils defense with speed on the edge, while Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas combined for 244 yards and three touchdowns as the Quack Attack steps on Sparky’s throat and never let up.
Although ASU managed 460 total yards and controlled time of possession (33:45 to 26:15), they learned there is little, if any margin for error playing a team with the offensive firepower of Oregon who has now won 20 in a row at home.
Sure, there were some questionable calls and nobody will question the Devils effort, but when Oregon threw their second-half haymakers, ASU failed to answer the bell.
That includes Erickson, who opted to punt on 4th and two down 14 midway through the fourth quarter.
So now we’re left to wonder what to make of the Pac-12 south leaders. Yes, they will likely capitalize on a soft second-half schedule and represent the south in the conference title game, but will they learn from Saturday’s mistakes if they see Oregon again with a BCS bid on the line?
Judging from the past, the answer is no.
There is nothing sweet about this 16.
16 straight losses against Top 10 teams.