The Arizona State Sun Devils returned to action after their bye week, falling to the Oregon Ducks 61-55 in triple overtime Thursday night at Sun Devil Stadium in one of the most bizarre, yet entertaining games of the college football season. With the loss ASU drops to 4-4, 2-3 in Pac-12 play. The Ducks improve to 5-3, 3-2.
Here are five things we learned in the loss.
1. Oregon Trail…the Ducks dramatic win was their eighth-straight against ASU at Sun Devil Stadium. Hard to believe the Devils let this one slip away after amassing 742 yards and 37 first downs on 108 total plays. Oregon appeared to get a break when Braylon Addison was ruled in bounds on what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown. Replays appear to show Addison’s foot landed out in the back of the end zone but the play stood after review.
“I thought the guy was out of bounds but they reviewed it and evidently he wasn’t,” said head coach Todd Graham after the game.
2. Giving, Not Taking…Graham’s defense had several opportunities to seal the deal but could never corral quarterback Vernon Adams (23-40, 315 yards, four touchdowns) on the games biggest plays. They picked off Adams once which was only their 10th forced turnover in eight games. Last year they finished with 27. Oregon converted just 3-14 third downs but all three of their fourth down attempts. The defense also was the cause of some uncharacteristic penalties which prolonged Oregon drives and led to points which was the topic Graham was most upset about after the game.
“Defensively, we were very poorly prepared,” mentioned Graham. “We busted more coverages tonight than we have all year and a lot of undisciplined play. We win together and we lost together, but I was disappointed in our discipline on defense. At the end of the day that was the difference.”
3. Duck-ing Out…the Devils, like many of UO’s opponents, had no early answer for sophomore workhorse running back Royce Freeman who had 80 yards by halftime, 64 on an explosive burst up the middle before sprinting to the end zone down the Oregon sideline. Former Thunderbird High alum Kani Benoit added a 62-yard touchdown in the third quarter but mysteriously–Mark Helfrich opted to use the air instead of the ground. Curious for the sixth-best rushing team in the country who averaged just under 300 yards per game coming in. They finished with 186 yards but 126 came on the two long scoring runs.
4. Oh No, Berco…no player left more on the field Thursday than senior quarterback Mike Bercovici who tallied 456 total yards and six touchdowns. Unfortunately, the two throws Berco would want back most ultimately doomed the Devils in the end. Midway through the fourth quarter he was picked off in Oregon territory on a play where he thought there was an Oregon defender offsides. Then on the final play he was intercepted in the end zone on second down by Arrion Springs which sealed Oregon’s comeback win.
“As a quarterback, it is on myself to make sure the ball gets completed or thrown away,” stated Bercovici. “It’s on me at the end of the game, to put the ball in jeopardy like that but I can’t say enough about what our offense, defense and special teams did tonight.”
5. Maroon and Gold Rush…maybe there’s something to those classic maroon and gold uniforms–they certainly infused ASU’s run game which had the Ducks on their heels all night. Demario Richard looked decisive in his cuts, while Kalen Ballage provided power up the middle extending drives with physical runs between the tackles. Both true sophomore backs went over 100 yards and provided a spark for Mike Norvell, whose rushing attack entered the game 86th nationally. Their 344 yards (6.3 per attempt) on the ground was just under 100 yards less than their last three games combined totals.
“I thought we had a great rotation between Demario and Kalen,” explained D.J. Foster. “Those two guys played their butts off. I mean those are my little brothers and they ran their absolute butts off tonight and I am proud of them. I thought we had a great game plan as an offense and great chemistry going.”
Todd Graham called this loss as tough as one they’ve had since he has been coach of ASU. They will try to snap this two game losing streak in a tough road test against a high powered Washington State offense in Pullman next week.