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Saturday night wasn't Arizona State's best night of football this season, and against a team of higher caliber, the Sun Devils might have fallen.
Four turnovers and four sacks of quarterback Brock Osweiler were disappointing. But ASU was far and away the better team on the field at Sun Devil Stadium, and did what Top 25-ranked teams do to lesser opponents in defeating Oregon State 35-20.
The Beavers actually trailed by one, 21-20, midway through the third quarter after James Rodgers' touchdown catch. But they wouldn't get closer and had only themselves to blame for 13 penalties for 139 yards and four turnovers of their own.
The 25th-ranked Sun Devils got two touchdown runs from running back Cameron Marshall, one a punishing burst in which he bowled over one would-be tackler and broke two others for a 37-yard score in the third quarter. Junior wide receiver A.J. Pickens caught his first touchdown as a Sun Devil and safety Alden Darby intercepted two passes to lead the Devils (2-0 in Pac-12, 4-1 overall).
"Guys just kept bouncing off of me and I was able to put it in the end zone," Marshall said.
"I have to give my defensive line a lot of credit for getting pressure on the quarterback," Darby said.
Arizona State goes to Utah next week with a chance to effectively lock up the Pac-12 South title, as strange as that may seem in October. The Devils have Utah, which lost badly to Washington Saturday at home, then lowly Colorado in Tempe, at under-.500 UCLA and at home for struggling Arizona remaining in South Division play. At this point, those are all winnable games.
ASU also figures to move up in the polls.
The Sun Devils will need to play much better, however. Quarterback Brock Osweiler threw three interceptions and lost a fumble and ASU finished 1-for-10 on third down. The Beavers, winless this season in four games, did some things on defense ASU had not seen on film. Quarterback Sean Mannion completed 40 passes on 66 attempts for 341 yards.
"It was really errors I can't make," Osweiler said. "Obviously we can't play like this every week."
Osweiler did make some key completions, however, as ASU began to settle in and figure out what the Beavers' defense was doing.
"He reacted, he hung in there, there wasn't any panic in him," coach Dennis Erickson said of Osweiler, who was 24 of 37 for 258 yards.
The other highlight of the night for ASU was Jamal Miles' 78-yard punt return in the second quarter. It gave the Devils a 21-13 lead as ASU stormed back from a 13-0 deficit two plays into the second quarter.
Miles recorded the first punt-return TD in 68 games for ASU, a span of almost six years. He now has a TD pass, a kick return TD, a punt return TD and three TD catches this season alone, according to the school's sports information department.
"I certainly would be surprised if he is able to play next week," Erickson said. Gerhart, a senior, was replaced by sophomore Kody Koebensky.
The Arizona State Sun Devils lead the Oregon State Beavers 28-20 after three quarters, and the third period mirrored the game's first half in many respects. Reminiscent of the game's first 30 minutes, the two teams repeated a very similar process: the Sun Devils turned the ball over early, the Beavers capitalized, and then the Sun Devils put up points.
Both teams swapped punts in the first two possessions of the third quarter, but then the Beavers' Anthony Watkins picked off Brock Osweiler and followed up with a 40-yard return to the Sun Devil 11-yard line. The Beavers scored two plays later on a five-yard pass from quarterback Sean Mannion to James Rodgers, pulling Oregon State within 21-20.
ASU resorted to a series of short passes on the following drive before running back Cameron Marshall broke four tackles en route to a 37-yard touchdown run. The play marked Marshall's first big run of the day, pushing his total from 17 to 53 rushing yards in just one play.
Both teams exchanged a few more punts over the final five minutes of the period before ASU began piecing together a sustained drive. The Sun Devils will start the fourth quarter on the Beaver eight-yard line.
The first play of the second quarter of Saturday night's Arizona State-Oregon State game was a pass interference penalty against ASU. The second was was 10-yard touchdown run for the Beavers' Terron Ward, and Oregon State went ahead 13-0.
Then the bad bounces and breaks began to go the Sun Devils' way, as they put together a scoring drive that ended in Brock Osweiler's 17-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Pickens on a crossing route that saw PIckens outrun his defender to the sideline, turn upfield and score.
The touchdown seemed jumpstart the previously mistake-prone Devils. Though they punted on their next possession, the Beavers' Jordan Poyer muffed the catch and Oliver Aaron recovered the fumble to give the ball back to ASU.
That was one big break. The second came moments later, when running back Cameron Marshall was ruled to have fumbled on a carry, but coach Dennis Erickson called time out and the play was reviewed. The call was overturned, and two plays later Osweiler checked down and found Gerell Robinson for a 24-yard TD pass with 7:56 left to make it 14-13 ASU.
Now the Sun Devils were rolling, and soon the crowd was rocking again. The defense forced a three-and-out and OSU was forced to punt.
The ball came down to Jamal Miles, who took off up the middle of the field and sprinted 78 yards for ASU's third touchdown of the quarter.
Safety Eddie Elder dropped a sure interception with 4:06 left that extended an Oregon State drive, but the Beavers, who seemed to find any and every reason to hand the game to the Sun Devils, missed a chance for more points. Trevor Romaine missed a 34-yard field goal.
ASU drove the ball to the OSU 18, Osweiler hitting Robinson for 44 yards on one play, but Alex Garoutte missed a 35-yard field goal try to 1:03 left before halftime.
Still, the Sun Devils ended a dominant second quarter with Orashon Irabor's interception with 40 seconds to go. Osweiler was 14-for-22 for 188 yards, two TDs and two interceptions but was also sacked three times, including on the last play of the half.
Coming off their historic win over USC, the Arizona State Sun Devils look to stay undefeated in conference play as they host the winless Oregon State Beavers.
The Beavers won the toss and elected to receive. Their first drive featured three straight quick passes, but failed to generate a first down and punted.
ASU began their first drive at their 27. A swing pass to Kyle Middlebrooks seemed to generate some momentum, but quarterback Brock Osweiler was intercepted on third down, giving the ball back quickly to Oregon State at midfield.
Sean Mannion guided the Beavers down the field with quick passes, including a 21-yard connection to slotback Jordan Bishop to get into the ASU redzone. The defense stiffened and forced the Beavers to settle for a 34-yard field goal to open the scoring.
However, the Devils once again turned it over, this time on a fumble on a sack of Osweiler. The Beavers took over at the 25 of ASU, but the "bend but don't break" Sun Devil defense again held Oregon State to a field goal.
Despite a terrible personal foul penalty on Aaron Pflugrad, the Devils managed to generate a drive with quick passes of their own. ASU was helped out by a personal foul facemask penalty on the Beavers that negated another sack of Osweiler, but ASU immediately returned the favor as a Osweiler slant was intercepted for a second time by Jordan Poyer.
The Beavers again were able to drive the field on the ASU defense with their reliance on quick passes, and ended the quarter on the ASU 25 yard line.
The Arizona State Sun Devils are looking to build off a big conference victory against the USC Trojans last week and their next foe, the Oregon State Beavers, have not had a strong start to their 2011 season. Winless after three games, defense and a consistent passing attack have been an issue for OSU. Simply put, this should not be a very close game.
That being said, the Beavers are looking for a big upset and it is crucial for the Sun Devils to avoid becoming cocky and big-headed. ASU has fallen asleep for stretches in previous games (see the 4th quarter against Mizzou, most of the Illinois game) and the last thing they need is to give a hungry Oregon State team a chance.
Here is all of the game day information you will need:
Kickoff: 10:30 EDT / 7:30 PDT
Weather: The high in the Tempe area on Saturday is around 100 degrees, but it should cool down to the lower-80's by game time. There is a slight chance of thunderstorms before 10 p.m.
Last Meeting: In a wild game last season, Oregon State came away with a 31-28 victory at home.
TV Coverage: Fox Sports Net Arizona; ROOT Sports will also re-air the game later this evening on tape-delay.
Radio: KTAR 92.3 FM (local), Sirius and XM Channel 193.
Online Stream: None of the national providers are streaming the game.
One third of the way through the 2011 regular season, the Arizona St. Sun Devils are 3-1. They are tied for first place in the Pac-12 South with the UCLA Bruins, a team that hasn't exactly lit up the scoreboard.
In essence, the Sun Devils have an incredible opportunity on Saturday against the Oregon St. Beavers. A 17.5 point underdog, the Beavers are without starting running back Malcolm Agnew. They will be reliant on redshirt freshman Sean Mannion to move the ball through the air to his experienced receiving corps.
Expectations are high for ASU this week after a huge win over the USC Trojans. This team is a Jekyll & Hyde story, however -- look at how they performed against the Fighting Illini of Illinois after a big win against Missouri.
Oregon State is not going to be a cakewalk. This isn't the Wazzu of the recent past (no offense to Cougars fans). While we had a dose of reality against Illinois, this team can still get to a BCS bowl if they play their cards right. It starts with a hard-nosed effort against a Pac-12 foe that usually gives us fits. A big win tonight would go a long way towards establishing ourselves as the team to beat in 2011.
For more on the Sun Devils, head over to House Of Sparky.
The long odds of the Oregon State Beavers scoring their first victory on Saturday against the Arizona State Sun Devils got longer when it was announced that true freshman running back Malcolm Agnew would miss the game.
Agnew, who became the first true freshman in school history to start a season opener, appeared on track to return to action from a nagging hamstring injury, but he re-aggravated it during practice Thursday.
In that season opener, Agnew ran for 223 yards and three touchdowns against Sacramento State. However, his monster day wasn't enough to overcome the pesky Hornets, as the Beavers fell to their FCS opponent in overtime 29-28.
The injury depletes an already struggling Oregon State offense, who rank 112th (out of 120 teams) in the nation in scoring at 15.7 points-per-game.
In the opener, they benched quarterback Ryan Katz for freshman Sean Mannion, who has struggled. Their best playmaker, wide receiver James Rodgers, missed the first two games with injury before returning last week against UCLA.
With Agnew out, look for even more attention to be paid to Rodgers, who in 2009 caught 10 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown in the Beavers' 28-17 victory at Sun Devil Stadium.
Following in the footsteps of the ancient Greeks, the Arizona State Sun Devils have brought down the Trojan Empire. After suffering 11 straight defeats to the USC Trojans, ASU took a major step towards the Pac-12 South division title with a historic 43-22 win on Saturday.
Sandwiched between this emotional high and a huge game next week against Utah is a visit from the Oregon State Beavers.
OSU has been awful so far this season, coming into the game at 0-3 and generally playing like the Beavers from the 1970s, 80s and 90s. However, the Beavers have historically turned a switch come October of every year, and this is a conference game, so ASU must be ready for a fight.
Here now are the keys to victory.
1st - Don't Get Cocky
As they are fleeing the Death Star in the Millennium Falcon, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo manned the gun turrets against a squadron of TIE fighters. After Luke shoots one down, his jubilation is tempered by Han's quick reply of "Don't get cocky".
Arizona State must maintain the same attitude.
Yes, they managed their biggest win in several years against a longtime nemesis, but continuing the Star Wars theme, they've just shot down a TIE fighter, not blown up the Death Star.
Oregon State is a team that is 0-3 on the season and has had 17 players make their first career start, factors leading to ASU entering the game as an 18-point favorite. Nevertheless, as Dan Hawkins told us, this is Division 1 football and a conference rival who has a three-game winning streak over ASU. The Sun Devils can ill afford another letdown after a big win like what happened earlier this season in Champaign.
If they can play with the same intensity as last week, this should be a rout.
2nd - Continue to Run
One of the most disappointing aspects of the Sun Devils so far this season had been the performance of the running game.
Against their two FBS opponents, ASU had only run for 210 yards on 65 carries, a pitiful 3.2 yards-per-carry average. The offensive line was unable to generate any push off the line and consequently there were no running lanes for ASU's talented playmakers.
That changed against USC.
On his first carry of the game-and while playing with still injured ankles-Cameron Marshall took the ball 70-yards for a touchdown. It was merely a sign of things to come.
For the day, he finished with 141 yards on a career-high 25 carries and three touchdowns.
Oregon State suffered huge losses in their defense over the off-season, with only four starters returning. They are vulnerable up front, and the Sun Devils must exploit this match-up. Marshall and company should have no problem replicating last week's success against the Beavers.
3rd - Contain A Rodgers Brother
Last season, Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers shredded the Sun Devil defense for 145 yards rushing and two touchdown, including a 74-yard score that marked his career long. In 2009, Jacquizz scored two touchdowns and his brother, wide receiver James, caught 10 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown.
Jacquizz has since moved on to the NFL but James remains.
He had missed the first two games before returning last week, catching five passes for 76 yards against UCLA.Now with a game under his belt, the fifth-year player must be contained as he represents the biggest threat to the Sun Devil defense, especially since running back Malcolm Agnew will miss the game.
4th - Start Fast
Oregon State is one of the worst first half teams in the nation. So far this season, they've been outscored 56-13 in the first two quarters.
Upset bids always follow the same script-the heavy underdogs somehow manage to keep it close long enough to finally topple the favorite at the end. Given OSU's penchant for October success, ASU can not allow that to happen.
Much as they did against UC Davis, the Sun Devils must storm out against a markedly inferior opponent and deliver touchdowns early.
Oregon State has the 119th ranked pass efficiency defense and have yet to intercept a pass this season. That should have Brock Osweiler licking his chops. Look for a first half heavy with throws to Aaron Pflugrad, Gerrell Robinson and Mike Willie to exploit this.
Goal - Keep On Keeping On
The Sun Devils played their finest game in years last week.
The offense was powerful and efficient, the defense created several big plays and the bad habits that ASU has shown thus far-penalties, poor pass blocking and special teams blunders-were for the most part not at all a factor.
There is not an aspect of this game in which the Sun Devils do not hold the advantage. The only thing that can make this a competitive game are those aforementioned mistakes. Penalties and turnovers are football's great equalizer.
Should ASU play with the same level of intensity and focus as last week, we should hopefully see the backups playing significant time in the second half of a comfortable ASU win.
Prediction: ASU 38-13
For more in-depth analysis, listen to Speak of the Devils, the premier ASU podcast, now on iTunes. Part I of this week's episode is an in-depth interview with Tim Healey, the Voice of the Sun Devils, and Part II features a complete breakdown of the USC win and a look at the Oregon State game.
With a historic win over USC, the Sun Devils are now 3-1 and in prime position for an epic October that will shape their season.
The ASU Sun Devils got struck hard by the injury bug this offseason, losing several key seniors to various season-ending injuries as the season drew closer and closer. Despite the personnel losses, the team currently sits at No. 25 on the AP Poll with a 3-1 record and quality wins over then-No. 22 Missouri and then-No. 23 USC.
The program could be getting more good news back soon. According to AZ Central, cornerback Omar Bolden may be able to return this season.
Of course, nothing is definitive. Bolden has been seen on practice days running sprints, but his recovery is entirely up to him and his body. Coach Erickson had this to say about his senior: "I feel like after the bye (Oct. 22) that he has a chance to come back and play, but he has to make that decision."
Neither Bolden nor the team have provided a time table for his potential return since it may not come to fruition. If it does, though, these Sun Devils get a little bit scarier on defense. The team gave up several big plays earlier in the season, most notably in the game against Missouri, but the secondary has improved since there.
Adding veteran depth in Bolden, though, would help the squad even more and could serve as a rallying point for the Sun Devils as they gear up for the second half of their season. Keep an eye out for this story as ASU gets closer to its bye week on Oct. 22nd.
Ten former athletes will join the ASU Sports Hall of Fame during halftime of Saturday's football game against Oregon State.
Dennis Erickson faces a familiar foe Saturday night when ASU hosts Oregon State.