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There were a lot of takeaways for the Arizona State Sun Devils following their 41-27 loss to the Oregon Ducks. The main focus from coach Dennis Erickson was on defensive penalties in the first half and sense of blown opportunities. Quarterback Brock Owseiler talked about offensive players "trying to break out of things we normally do and kind of do something on your own".
One discussion point for fans and media after the game, however, was coach Dennis Erickson's decision to punt the ball on fourth down with his team down 14 points with under 8 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
As Erickson remembered it, his team was near their own 25-yard line facing a 4th down conversion attempt that was too risky. If it was 4th and 1, he said he would have gone for it but facing a longer situation with the ball where it was he felt a failure to convert would have ended the Sun Devils chances.
On the replay (available at ESPN 3), we can see after Osweiler ran 14 yards on 3rd and 16 that about 10 seconds ran off the play clock before the punt unit came on facing a 4th and 2 at the ASU 32. There was no urgency in getting set and the clock expired right as the snap was made. The five-yard delay of game pushed it back to 4th and 7 at the ASU 27 and the Sun Devils punted.
The Sun Devils defense did get the stop after the punt but only after Oregon ran 3:13 off the clock. ASU got the ball back on their five and drove 87 yards in 3:37 before the drive ended with Jamal Miles dropping a sure touchdown in the end zone which ended up in the hands of the Duck defender and essentially ended the game.
Take what you will from Erickson's explanation. It was his call to make and ultimately, that one decision didn't decide the game.
In a season of great leaps forward and streaks broken, Arizona State fell back into old habits in their 41-27 loss to Oregon on Saturday.
Entering the game, ASU was ranked No. 18 in the nation and in total control of the Pac-12 South. Standing in their way was No. 9 Oregon and their lightning fast offense. Even with the Ducks' star running back LaMichael James missing the game, the Ducks were still loaded with explosive playmakers.
The Devils opened with a three-and-out, but a Kenjon Barner fumble gave ASU excellent field position, which they promptly converted into a 20-yard touchdown pass from Brock Osweiler to Gerrell Robinson.
A defensive stand by the Devils' defense was wasted by a bad drive by the offense, and the Ducks then took advantage on the next drive. An ASU personal foul aided the Ducks as they soon scored on a 16-yard De'Anthony Thomas run.
The Devils did show great resolve in answering back immediately. Despite their running game being completely shut down, ASU drove 77-yards in seven plays that ended with a 25-yard scoring pass from Osweiler to Mike Willie.
ASU appeared to have forced the Ducks to punt after a thrid down incompletion, but a Bo Moos roughing the passer call extended the drive, and in typical Oregon blitzkrieg fashion, they soon scored the tying touchdown after three Darron Thomas passes.
A Shelly Lyons interception appeared to primed the Devils for a big swing, but the drive stalled and ended in a 37-yard field goal by Alex Garoutte. Late in the second half, the Devils were driving deep into Ducks' territory when a taunting penalty on Gerrell Robinson after his clutch catch pushed the Devils back. On the very next play, Osweiler was intercepted in the endzone by Cliff Harris, who returned it 50 yards. Three plays later, Thomas threw another touchdown pass to give Oregon a 21-17 lead that they took into halftime.
ASU's chances appeared to get a huge boost on Oregon's first drive that opened the second half. Darron Thomas was injured on a run and did not return. After a brief bump from the shock of being without their starting running back and quarterback, the Ducks soon were back.
Then the Ducks ground game went into full on beast mode.
With backup quarterback Bryan Bennett in the game, the Ducks ran De'Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner right down the Sun Devils' throats. Even Bennett got into the action, with a 36-yard run among his 65 yards for the game. Both Thomas and Barner scored touchdowns in the third quarter, and another Oregon field goal early in the fourth quarter gave Oregon a lead that would never be threatened.
It surely wouldn't be in danger with the conservative playcalling of Dennis Erickson. On the next drive, he opted for a 30-yard field goal instead of attempt a fourth and seven at the Ducks' 13, and later opted to punt with just under eight minutes left in the game and trailing by 14 points, following another Oregon field goal.
The Ducks were able to run out the clock while ASU appeared defeated on both offense and defense. The final Sun Devil drive with under a minute left ended with a perfect touchdown strike to Jamal Miles being bobbled and then intercepted.
It was that kind of night.
Oregon finished with 327 yards on the ground, including Barn'er career-high 171.
Yet, this should be a mere speed bump to the Sun Devils' season. The Sun Devils head into their bye week with a solid 5-2 record and are 3-1 in conference play, and still firmly in control of the South division.
A first half personified by "what ifs" gave the Sun Devils equal parts optimism and regret, as they trailed No. 9 Oregon 21-17 at the break, thanks to the usual complement of stupid penalties and ill-timed turnovers.
Oregon took the ball to begin the second half after deferring to start the game.
The drive looked promising after a nice second down run by quarterback Darron Thomas, but he injured his left knee on the play and was taken off. On the next play, Will Sutton shot through the line to drop running back Kenjon Barner for a loss to force an Oregon punt.
The Sun Devils looked prime to answer back and regain the lead. They wasted no time, as Jamal Miles took a swing pass 51-yards to the Oregon 16, and the third Cameron Marshall run following was good for the go-ahead touchdown that gave ASU a 24-21 lead.
With backup quarterback Bryan Bennett in the game, the Ducks re-committed to the run. Barner and De'Anthony Thomas made it look easy as the Ducks were able to drive 68-yards in 1:50 and take a 28-24 lead on Thomas' three yard run.
The pressure was on to answer back to the Ducks' blitzkrieg attacks, but a three and out forced a quick punt, but thankfully a good roll pushed the Ducks back to their 12-yard line. However, Bennett immediately reeled off a 36-yard run to take the ball to midfield. A controversial ruling on a Bennett fumble was upheld and Oregon kept possession. Two Barner runs later and the Ducks had extended their lead to 35-24.
ASU managed to get a first down, but a key third down conversion was called back after and offensive pass interference call. The next pass fell incomplete, and the Sun Devils had to punt.
However, the defense finally stepped up, and forced a three-and-out of their own, and the Ducks punt was fair caught at the ASU 20. Sadly, a short Marshall run was followed by two straight sacks and the Devils had to punt from near the goal line, and Oregon took over at their own 40.
They continued to gash the Devils with the run, but a taunting penalty on Thomas set up a third down and long to open the fourth quarter.
Arizona State is right in their game with No. 9 Oregon for two reasons, at least: Their offense has shown it can move the ball and complete passes over the soft middle the Ducks are giving the Devils, and ASU has done a very good job defending Oregon's vaunted running offense.
But ASU is behind on the scoreboard at halftime because of a key interception thrown by Brock Osweiler near the end of the half, which the Ducks turned into one of their fast touchdown drives, and personal foul penalties by one guy you expect -- Vontaze Burfict -- and one you don't --Gerell Robinson.
Truth is, ASU deserves to be ahead in this game. They've made a number of big plays. Osweiler is lighting up the secondary and there was a semblance of a running game before the interception. Osweiler is not letting the noise get to him and the offensive line is protecting him incredibly well.
Total yards on offense are about the same on both sides. But Oregon has a history of flipping the switch in the third quarter and the Ducks will open the second half with the ball. The Devils could use a key stop right away, but saying that, this is still anyone's game as neither team has proved it can or will blow away the other.
The Sun Devils have at this point turned Oregon QB Darron Thomas into a passer, which might not be a bad move. Oregon needs to regain its running game; if so it's defense should be able to bend a lot and break once or twice without costing the Ducks a win.
The ASU Sun Devils came out strong and found their rhythm on offense against the Oregon Ducks as the first quarter progressed. The Sun Devils lead 14-7 after the first quarter.
ASU received the ball on the opening kickoff but proceeded to struggle on the first drive and go three-and-out. After the punt, though, Arizona State forced a fumble off of running back Kenjon Barner to regain possession at the Oregon 36-yard line. Four plays later, quarterback Brock Osweiler found Gerell Robinson for a 20-yard touchdown and an early 7-0 lead.
Both teams exchanged punts before the Ducks took over at the ASU 47-yard line. The Ducks used three plays to drive down the remainder of the field, scoring on a 16-yard run by De'Anthony Thomas to even the game 7-7.
The Sun Devils went right back to work after the ensuing kickoff. Osweiler went six-for-six on completions as the Sun Devils drove down the field, hitting Mike Willie on a 25-yard throw that soared just above the defender's arms for a 14-7 lead.
ASU contained the Ducks offense on the following drive- with help from a penalty that called back what would have been a long rushing touchdown by Barner- and managed to hold off the Ducks on a 4th-and-11 trick play that came up short by just inches. ASU regained possession and are driving down the field.
Osweiler has played very well so far, throwing for 112 yards and two touchdowns on 10-of-12 passing. The run game has been slow so far, with Jamal Miles leading the way with only nine rushing yards on one carry. Willie leads the ASU receivers with 46 yards and one touchdown on two receptions.
The Sun Devils will start the second quarter at the Oregon 37-yard line.
Arizona State and Oregon will be on the national stage Saturday night as ESPN's College Gameday televises the action. It's a huge game for both teams, and not something you're going to want to miss, so here's everything you need to know:
Teams: #18 Arizona State Sun Devils at #9 Oregon State Ducks
Kickoff: 7:15 p.m. (PDT)
Stadium: Autzen Stadium, Eugene Oregon (capacity 54,000)
TV Coverage: ESPN, in a nationally televised game. Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit will call the action with Erin Andrews on the sidelines. The game will also air on ESPN 3D.
Radio: The IMG-Sun Devil Sports Network will carry the game live on their 10-station radio network, including flagship station Sports 620 KTAR AM. Tim Healey (play-by-play) and former Sun Devil quarterback Jeff Van Raaphorst (color analyst) will call the action. The Oregon game will air on 620 AM. The game is also being broadcast nationally on Sports USA Radio.
Previous Matchups: The Ducks have won the last six matchups between the two teams, including the last two at Autzen Stadium. ASU last beat the Ducks in 2004.
All-Time Series: Arizona State leads the series 16-15, going back to 1966.
These days in college football teams have as many uniform options as they do offensive play calls. The Oregon Ducks, well-funded by Nike, started the trend and still leads the nation in wardrobe selection. Arizona State got in on the act this season with a complete uniform makeover that thrilled fans and players alike.
So far this season we've seen the Sun Devils go with all black against Mizzou at home, all white against Illinois on the road. We've seen plenty of other mixes of maroon, white and yellow. For this Saturday's game against Oregon, the Sun Devils have opted for maroon helmets, white jerseys and maroon pants. If you want a preview of what that will look like, go to this great web site and check it out.
The Ducks are copying ASU's blackout and going with black helmets, jerseys and pants and feathers, of course.
For more on Arizona State, check out House of Sparky.
Is this a preview of December 2nd's Pac-12 Championship Game? With the Sun Devils firmly in control of the Pac-12 South, it may come down to the winner of the Oregon versus Stanford game on November 12th to determine whether Saturday's huge game will merely be prelude to a battle for a BCS berth.
No. 18 Arizona State will have their hands full with the speed of No. 9 Oregon, not to mention the hostile environment of Autzen Stadium. So how can the Sun Devils come away with a huge win?
1st - Only Hope to Contain Them
Oregon's Heisman contending running back LaMichael James should miss the game, but Oregon's second ranked scoring offense (50.2 points per game) shouldn't miss a beat. The Ducks are loaded with dynamic playmakers such as Kenjon Barner, De'Anthony Thomas and Darron Thomas. It is unrealistic to believe that ASU can stop their offense entirely, so instead they must focus on containment. They must ensure that the Ducks are not able to consistently make big plays while at the same time forcing multiple turnovers. ASU's defense has 17 takeaways in the last four games, and will need perhaps three or more to give the Sun Devils a strong chance.
2nd - Run
Arizona State is venturing into one of the most intimidating stadiums in the nation in a nationally televised game with major conference implications. You can bet that the Oregon fans and players will be hyped up and ready, so one thing that ASU can do to combat that is to establish a strong running game early.
Oregon is one 86th in the country in rush defense, but ASU is averaging only 3.7 yards per carry on the season, and had a disastrous day on the ground in Utah when that number was a pathetic 1.9. The offensive line must get a strong push in their run blocks against Oregon's undersized defensive front to open running lanes for running back Cameron Marshall.
3rd - Keep Brock Standing Tall
The ASU offense is talented enough to score 30 or more points on most any team in the nation. That is, if they can protect quarterback Brock Osweiler, a facet that the offensive line has struggled with a times this year. Oregon likes to bring a lot of blitzes, utilizing their defender's speed in attempts to overwhelm opposing offensive lines with sheer numbers. The Devils must be up to the task or risk a blowout loss in Autzen Stadium. If Osweiler can get time, he should have plenty of options downfield against a young and inexperienced Oregon secondary.
4th - Rattle Darron Thomas
Since Oregon's opening day loss to LSU, Duck quarterback Darron Thomas has thrown 14 touchdowns and only one interception and has been maturing into one of the top quarterbacks in the Pac-12. He has not run nearly as much as he did last season, but that may change with LaMichael James out of the lineup.
ASU's defense needs to attack Thomas. While that may not mean getting sacks-Oregon has only allowed three all year-they must be a disruptive force, as they did a week ago against Utah's Jon Hays. Despite a modest sack total, their consistent pressure led to several key errors by Hays, and they will need to replicate that effort once again in Eugene.
Goal - No Margin for Error
Oregon is one of the few teams in the country that has more top-to-bottom talent than ASU, and more importantly, the Ducks' execution is second-to-none.
The Sun Devils proved in last season's 42-31 loss that they can beat the Ducks. They outplayed them for most of the game, but were done in by three interception in the fourth quarter.
They can not commit those same mistakes and have a chance to pull off the upset win, whether the culprit is turnovers, penalties or poor execution. Oregon can and will take advantage of those blunders.
ASU must play a near-perfect game in order to win this game.
Prediction: Oregon 38, ASU 34
Vontaze Burfict has had a strong start to his junior season and is a leader on a team on track for the Pac-12 championship game. His reputation of being one of the hardest hitters in college football has garnered exposure from the national media, but has it improved his draft stock?
According to Ted Miller, Mel Kiper of ESPN does not think so and he has lowered Burfict a few slots on his big board:
Burfict has a showcase game at Oregon on Saturday. The Ducks' speedy, high-tempo running game will provide him plenty of opportunities to throw his 250 pounds around.
"Huge game in Eugene for Burfict. He has great instincts, makes plays sideline to sideline and is far more disciplined than he gets credit for. Has a ton of experience since landing at ASU."
A big game against Oregon's high-flying offense would be huge for Burfict. With recent reports indicating he may elect to return to ASU in 2012, all eyes will be on the linebacker this Saturday evening.
For more on Arizona State, check out House of Sparky.
The Arizona State Sun Devils are headed to Oregon to take on the ninth-ranked Ducks in a game that coach Dennis Erickson sees as an opportunity for his underdog team. Vegas has the Ducks as 14.5-point favorites and history tells us that ASU hasn't beaten Oregon since 2004 back when the Ducks only had multiple and not unlimited uniform combinations.
"For us to get to get this program down the road to the elites, you have to win games like this," Erickson said. "This is really our first opportunity to have that in a while. It's going to fun, our players know that."
The team is definitely excited about the opportunity and claim to have had a great week of preparation. That included fake crowd noise to prepare the offense for operating in loud Autzen Stadium.
Having the game featured by ESPN's College Game Day doesn't hurt either. Brock Osweiler claims the team is focused and ready for the game on Saturday.
Asked why this time will be different than the last seven failed attempts to beat the Ducks, Osweiler rattled off a list of reasons his team can win. ASU has won on ESPN. ASU has won on the road. ASU has beat ranked teams. And of course, ASU hadn't beaten USC in 11 years before trouncing them at home a few weeks ago.
"We expect to win." Oswieler said. "We don't pay attention to what outsiders outside of this football program predict, write about, talk about. We're just concerned with our football team and our football team's goal is to win every football game so we treat it the same way."
Erickson, perhaps calling on a few more years of experience in such matters, had a slightly more subdued prediction, "We'll go up there and play as hard as we can and see what happens."
Arizona St. Sun Devils running back Cameron Marshall has been doing his best to be effective the past few weeks, but he isn't fully healed. He might never be fully healed. Ankles of running backs are a fragile thing.
ASU running back Cameron Marshall has a full season of starting behind him. His assignments have become reactionary rather than process. He knows the offensive line's tendencies.
It feels like he is on the cusp of his total package, if only his feet could move as fast as his eyes see the holes. Marshall's right ankle, sprained in preseason, still is not right.
"Week to week, it definitely gets better and better," said Marshall, leaving practice favoring the ankle Wednesday night. "Football is a week-to-week thing. You're never going to get three weeks to chill but my body's coming back to me now. Like every college athlete, I'm feeling pain. It hurts but I have a job to do."
The Sun Devils offense might not need Marshall to blow things open on offense--Brock Osweiler does plenty in the pass game to keep ASU moving down the field--but Marshall's health is of paramount importance for every important game the Sun Devils play from here on out. There just aren't many options for the Devils to rely on besides Marshall in the run game, and no run game means an extra defender outside who can defend against the potent ASU pass attack.
The No. 18 ASU Sun Devils will play the No. 9 Oregon Ducks this weekend in a top 25 match-up. The Ducks will likely be without star running back LaMichael James, who suffered an injury to the right elbow against the Cal Golden Bears last week. According to safety Eddie Elder, the Sun Devils would keep James in check this weekend if he were to play.
Courtesy of Craig Morgan of CBS Sports, Elder said the following about James when asked whether or not James would make an impact in Saturday's game: "No, because he didn't do nothing against us last year, so he wouldn't do anything against us this year."
The stats support Elder to some extent. When the two teams met in Tempe last season, James posted 98 rushing yards on 28 carries, including a 40-yard touchdown run in the game's opening quarter. The Ducks went on the beat the Sun Devils 42-31.
That stat line (98-1 on 28 rushes) may be relatively tame by James' standards, but ASU certainly doesn't want to mess with James this time around given his recent hot play. James has posted over 200 rushing yards in each of his last three games (204 against Missouri State, 288 against Arizona and 239 against Cal) and has the potential to give ASU's defense trouble.
Elder's comments exude an admirable sense of confidence in his team, but his statement about James is optimistic. The Sun Devils will catch a lucky break if James does not play on Saturday. If, by some chance, James does get on the field, Elder will get a chance to live up to his bold claim.
The injury to Oregon Ducks tailback LaMichael James has not been confirmed to take him out of action for Saturday night's game against the Arizona St. Sun Devils. But hints from players like Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas seem to indicate that James won't be a factor, and that ASU can game plan for other parts of the offense.
The focus turns to Kenjon Barner. Barner is speedy as well, but doesn't quite have the instinct on the football field that makes James so deadly. But if Oregon blocks well, you'll hardly tell the difference when he gets into open field. Then there's De'Anthony Thomas. Thomas has proven he can play quite well in open space, but he isn't quite as suited to be an inside runner.
The X-factor could be Tra Carson. Brought into be the next power back for Oregon, he could be the player that helps bring Oregon that added dimension that busts open defenses. Carson, Barner, and the Black Mamba won't be quite the same without James carrying the load, but the dropoff shouldn't be too considerable.
Thomas has yet to prove to be an elite passer this season, so the Oregon rush attack must open things up against an ASU run defense that has generally kept their opponents in check. Otherwise Darron will have to throw a lot, and there's no guarantee that'll be enough to lead the Ducks to victory.
For more on the game from an ASU perspective, House of Sparky should be your destination. For more from the Oregon side of things, go to Addicted to Quack.
The Arizona State Wildcats will be featured on one of the biggest stages in college football at the moment as this weekend as Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and the rest of the ESPN College Gameday gang will be at the Eugene campus this Saturday to cover the Sun Devils matchup with the Oregon Ducks.
Oregon, currently is ranked ninth in the AP college football rankings, finds itself on ESPN College Gameday for the second time this season, with the last time coming in the first week of the season when they played LSU at Dallas Stadium. The Sun Devils on the other hand have recently cracked the top 25, moving up to 18th in the AP Poll, making this one of their most important games on the schedule all year.
Arizona State nearly beat the Ducks last season when they put up 567 yards of offense against them, though the difficult Oregon defense intercepted 4 passes and scored twice, eventually sealing the Sun Devils fate. Hopefully they can get some payback this Saturday.
For more on Arizona State football, head over to House of Sparky.
In somewhat surprising news, the Arizona State Sun Devils will head north to Eugene this weekend as 16-point underdogs. This may seem somewhat like a smack in the face to ASU, especially when one considers how dominant the team looked over Utah last weekend, but the odds makers apparently feel Autzen Stadium will be too much to handle for the Pac-12 north leaders.
While it is still early in the week and those odds could change at any moment, the status and progression of LaMichael James' injured elbow could greatly affect the betting lines by the time Saturday evening rolls around. Should the star running back not be able to go, it would be a great boost to ASU's chances against the highly-ranked Ducks.
Regardless of what those in Las Vegas say, fans should prepare for a wild ride as the two teams face off Saturday evening. A sellout crowd is always expected at Autzen and the atmosphere will be incredible with College Game Day in town. With BCS implications riding heavily on the game, this is a matchup the entire country will be watching.
The Oregon Ducks' recent mastery over the rest of the original Pac-10 (now 12) schools includes six wins in a row over Arizona State.
Last year at Sun Devil Stadium, the Devils had a 24-14 lead in the second quarter before the Ducks took flight and scored 28 unanswered points in a 42-31 win. This year, the game is at wild and noisy Autzen Stadium, where Oregon hasn't lost since September of 2008.
The 11-point loss represents the closest game in Oregon's six-game win streak, as the Ducks have won every other game in the series by 12 or more points beginning in 2005.
In 2011, the Ducks are currently ranked No. 9, and even without running back LaMichael James, injured in last week's win over Cal, Oregon has the depth and speed on both sides of the ball to cause the Sun Devils fits.
This will no doubt be Arizona State's biggest test of the season. ASU (5-1) is in command of the Pac-12 South while Oregon will have to go through Stanford to win the North, but that's for down the road. The Sun Devils will have their hands full on Saturday night trying to keep pace with the Ducks and win what very well could be an offensive shootout.
ASU coach Dennis Erickson said Monday that his team needs to "learn how to go at warp speed" to match the Ducks (4-1).
"They are what they are. They do it week in and week out and year in and year out since Chip (Kelly's) been there," Erickson said. "I don't know that I've ever seen a team as fast offensively. It's unbelievable watching them, I mean, people stop and stop and stop them and all of a sudden they go 70 yards, missed tackles."
Erickson said watching Oregon's up-tempo offense operate, headed by quarterback Darron Thomas, is fun. In fact, Arizona State does some of the same things on offense, trying to increase the tempo, and like the Ducks has quick and athletic players on the defensive side of the ball.
"You can think you're doing OK and then all of a sudden, they put 28 points up so fast it'll make your head spin," he said.
The Ducks feature speed in Thomas, running back Kenjon Barner, RB-WR types in super freshman De'Anthony Thomas and sophomore Josh Huff, a quality tight end in David Paulson and solid receivers who while perhaps lacking in ASU's talent, are very good downfield blockers.
Not missing tackles will be the biggest key for the Sun Devils. The Ducks have the speed to break out into the open field and run the misdirection and quirky plays to do it, so ASU's linebackers and secondary will be under pressure to make stops and keep containment.
The Sun Devils do have confidence going for them, however daunting the task this week. Their offense has explosive capability, their defense dominated on the road at Utah and quarterback Brock Osweiler has played (and lost) at Autzen Stadium before.
"They believe in each other," Erickson said of his team. "They have a strong belief that their teammate is going to do what he's supposed to do."
Oregon can afford to gamble on defense because of the quick-strike capability of its offense. That means the Sun Devils could see a lot of blitzes, especially with injuries on the offensive line, and some coverages that Osweiler isn't used to.
"My first up trip to Autzen (in 2009) didn't go how anybody would hope for it to, but... we're a different football team now, I'm a different football player and I'm really looking forward to the opportunity," Osweiler said, promising that his team will be prepared after a good week of practice.
Brock Osweiler and the Arizona State Sun Devils will try to score the biggest victory of the Pac-12 season up to this point when they tackle the Oregon Ducks in Eugene.