No one inside Sun Devil nation expected much out of Arizona State's visit to Autzen Stadium, but midway through the third quarter ASU was closing in on a potential upset. However, the Oregon Ducks' rushing attack proved to be too much for the normally dominating Sun Devil Defense.
Oregon started the first quarter strong, and showed no sign of a hangover after their loss to Stanford on Saturday. Jeremiah Masoli engineered two scoring drives that combined to chew up only two minutes and twenty-seven seconds of clock.
The Sun Devils' defense could not stop the spread option attack engineered by coach Chip Kelly and mastered on the field by Masoli. Although, the Ducks did jump out to a fourteen point lead, the Sun Devils did not give up, even when the score read: Ducks 31 ASU 7.
But for Sun Devil fans, they were anticipating their first real look at true Freshman quarterback Brock Osweiler. Well Osweiler didn't look any better than what Sullivan's production output would have been. Autzen Stadium was going to be the first look at the raucous crowd in Eugene, but the quarterback that stood out in the performance, was Samson Szakacsy.
Dennis Erickson has been searching for an explosive playmaker on offense, testing out Jamal Myles, Kyle Williams, and Chris McGaha in slot positions, but the touch, the missing link in a high flying offense, was at quarterback. And believe it or not, everyone from the die-hard fans, the students, players, and even coaches knew the difference maker was at quarterback.
Szakacsy was the piece of the puzzle that was missing. In Erickson's spread offense, the quarterback was never a threat to run, with the speedy Szakacsy under center, he was always a threat to make a play with his legs. Even on called pass plays, the long haired, free-spirit was elusive, and smart when picking up extra yardage on his numerous scrambles.
But Szakacsy also showed, his surgically repaired arm is still not one-hundred percent. On Some deep out routes, the painful elbow would not hold up, and nearly turned into points for Oregon. However, Szakacsy was effective leading the Sun Devils back into the game in the third quarter.
With the score 31-7 in favor of Oregon, Szakacsy knew the task at hand was herculean, at the least, but with nearly no experience in practice or in games, he used raw ability to lead a formidable comeback and bring the Sun Devils within ten points late in the third quarter.
Unfortunately, ASU's final firework of the game, occurred with 2:55 remaining in the third quarter. Szakacsy rolled out to his right, extending the play, and found Senior receiver Kyle Williams in the back corner of the end zone for a Sun Devil touchdown.
From that point on, Dennis Erickson and the ASU defense had no answer for the high scoring Ducks. Defensive Coordinator Craig Bray and his defense has held opponents to 87.5 yards per game on the ground heading into this contest. Well, those rushing statistics took a huge hit Saturday night. Oregon rushed for 268 yards on the ground, that same number eclipsed the total yards that Arizona State totaled.
ASU only managed 211 total yards on the night, however, the Sun Devils held the football for over thirty-six minutes. The difference in the contest, was the running game for both teams. Arizona State did not explode on the ground, like Stanford's production last week in their upset of Oregon, but as Stanford proved against the Sun Devils in October, teams can run against the ASU front seven.
Jeremiah Masoli and Lamichael James had big play after big play, through the air and on the ground. James and Masoli combined for all five touchdowns for the Ducks. Masoli with his arm, and LaMichael James with his legs, the Ducks had the Sun Devils out-manned from the start.
However, from this point on the Sun Devils cannot be out-manned in a contests, whether in ability, gameplan, or final result. The Sun Devils' record now stands at 4-6, with two games remaining. Obviously, the scenario is a must win, or lose or go home attitude.The Sun Devils will head to Pasadena next Saturday with to have a virtual playoff with the Bruins, to see which team remains in search of bowl eligibility heading into their rivalry game.
If ASU wins, the Sun Devils will have to beat the Arizona Wildcats at home to hope for an outside shot at earning a bowl birth. If UCLA wins next weekend against ASU, then the Bruins will be bowl eligible. If the Bruins lose to ASU, then a must win situation against their crosstown rival USC looms.
As for the story heading into the UCLA-ASU game, well, unfortunately the headlines in Tempe, will still revolve around the unsettled quarterback spot. And perhaps that is your sign for a struggling 4-6 season. The Sun Devils have major questions at quarterback with two games left in the season. That is a disappointment.