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.
Before that, Arizona State did manage to re-take the lead, after a 51-yard swing pass to Jamal Miles was capped by a touchdown run by Cameron Marshall to put the Devils ahead 24-21.
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.