In what was supposed to be Arizona State's final chance at fine-tuning before their appearance in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship game instead became the humiliating finale to one of the most epic collapses in the university's history at the hands of the Golden Bears. Cal totaled 247 yards and four touchdowns on the ground including 149 from Isi Sofele. Cameron Marshall did his best to give his team a chance to win with 157 rushing yards and two touchdowns of his own but ultimately four turnovers were too much to overcome in an game in which both teams were matching each other score for score till the clock hit three zeros.
And from the opening kickoff it was clear that there wouldn't be many defensive highlights in this affair. After a quick field goal by Cal, the Devils answered with an uncharacteristic 11-play scoring drive that consisted of 10 runs, the last of which by Marshall who punched it in from one yard out.
From there though, Cal would score 14 unanswered points in only seven plays. The Golden Bears got their first TD on an 18-yard run from the little burner, Sofele. The second touchdown was a bit of a gift from the Devils. Following a costly fumble from Kyle Middlebrooks, quarterback Zach Maynard took the ball in himself on a 16-yard run in which he displayed his impressive wheels.
Osweiler then took the Devils offense on their second 80-yard scoring drive of the night, capped off by a passing touchdown to Aaron Pflugrad from 17 yards out on the senior receiver's final collegiate game. The Devils weren't awarded much time for celebration though with Cal extending the lead to a game-high 13 with a one-yard touchdown from C.J. Anderson on the ground then a 27-yard field goal from Gior Tavecchio that was setup by an Osweiler interception deep in Devil territory.
With the boo-birds beginning to emerge, Osweiler and the offense picked an excellent time to recapture the momentum. Scoring 14 points in half a minute, Osweiler found Rashad Ross for a 35-yard passing touchdown on fourth and ten then was rewarded with a Davon Coleman forced fumble on the subsequent kickoff, which he turned into another passing touchdown to tight end Trevor Kohl from four yards away.
The momentum wouldn't be the Devils for long though. After the opening drive resulted in a 47-yard Alex Garouette field goal, Cal bounced back with two more touchdowns, both of which from C.J. Anderson (one rushing and one on a 74-yard catch and run after Maynard extended the play yet again with his feet).
Down 41-31, the Devils gave the rock to Marshall four straight times following a 27-yard catch from Gerell Robinson. On his fourth carry, Marshall busted an impressive 24-yard touchdown run that put him over the 1,000 yard mark on the season and also tied him for the most rushing touchdowns in a single season by a Sun Devil with 18 (Woody Green and Terry Battle also had that number).
At the start of the final quarter, Dennis Erickson sent a powerful message of discipline to his team in perhaps his last home game as ASU's head coach, benching star linebacker Vontaze Burfict after two personal penalties. The defense responded magnificently-or at least as magnificent as a defense can respond in a game in which the teams combine for nearly 90 points-holding the Golden Bears to a field goal after an inspiring goal line stand.
Unfortunately, that inspiration would be short-lived with Marshall coughing up the ball on the ASU's second play of the drive. Cal turned Arizona State's third turnover into another field goal with another solid red-zone stand by the Devil's defense. But with a nine-point lead and five more minutes ran off the clock, there wasn't much that the boys in maroon and gold could do to salvage one final win for their seniors. Osweiler tried his best at one last comeback but the drive ended with his second interception of the night when he was absolutely annihilated on his release (Osweiler finished 21-37 with 264 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions).
With the loss, the Devils drop to 6-6 on the season, the same record as the previous year. But there isn't nearly as much hope in Tempe as there was this same time last December after the upset over the Wildcats. Finishing with four straight losses and dropping five of their last six, this team will most likely look vastly different with both its biggest superstar (Burfict) and longtime head coach (Erickson) in all likelihood moving on. And as this team looks to rediscover it's identity while ushering in a new regime, it's looking more and more like being a long nine months in the valley of the sun.