With the clock winding down, the fans headed for the exits in disgust. The "fans" that remained began to chant, "Fire Erickson." Clearly, those taking part in the counterproductive jeers did not watch the four quarters that preceded another gut-wrenching result.
Arizona State’s defense played out of this world against the Stanford Cardinal, but once again, it was not enough.
The Sun Devils (4-6, 2-4), held a 13-10 lead until Stanford’s two-way star, Owen Marecic rumbled in for his second one-yard touchdown of the game. Marecic’s run gave Stanford the 17-13 lead and the nail-biting victory at Sun Devil Stadium.
The big stat of the game was time of possession. Stanford had the football for 42 minutes and 25 seconds. ASU held the football for just over 17 minutes.
In the end, the Sun Devil’s defense wore out, following Stanford’s game plan perfectly.
Jim Harbaugh, a former NFL quarterback, called 42 running plays in this game. In the first half, ASU held Stanford to a total of nine rushing yards.
However, in the fourth quarter, Stanford ran the ball 17 times for 98 yards and controlled the clock for over 12 minutes. It was clear that ASU ran out of gas.
Although, once again, when ASU was backed up against the wall, penalties ended any hope of an upset. Whether the calls were validated or not, which they weren’t, ASU was flagged three times for 40 yards on Stanford’s go-ahead touchdown drive.
Believe it or not, Stanford’s Andrew Luck was intercepted twice by Sun Devil safety Eddie Elder, but the second was negated due to a “phantom” holding call.
Five plays later, on a second and five, Vontaze Burfict (10.5 tackles, 1.5 for a loss), was flagged for a 15-yard facemask penalty. Replays revealed the tackle was made with the front collar of the opponent’s shoulder pads.
Bottom line, the flag should not have been thrown.
The emotional outburst by Burfict that followed, received an unsportsmanlike flag on top of the facemask penalty, and the ball was placed at the seven-yard line. Two plays later the Cardinal took a four-point lead and never looked back.
To say that the officials put Arizona State in tough spot is a tremendous understatement. ASU was flagged eight times for 67 yards, compared to Stanford’s two penalties for 20 yards.
But the margin for error for ASU has been extremely slim all year, and the team knew that. Behind a strong defensive effort for 55 minutes, the Sun Devils flustered Stanford for the better part of this contest.
For only the fourth time this season, Stanford gave up a sack. On that same play, the Sun Devils forced a fumble.
ASU’s pass rush was in the face of Luck all night, and even when the ball was released, Stanford’s quarterback was taking the hits.
Andrew Luck was impressive the entire night completing 10 of 18 third down conversions, and engineering time consuming drives.
Luck finished the night with 292 yards, but most of his passes were underneath and into ASU’s tight zone coverage.
Stanford gained 420 yards on offense, but every single yard was hard fought. No team has played Stanford with equal or greater physicality, until Saturday night at Frank Kush Field.
But when ASU’s offense took the field, productivity was lacking.
ASU’s offensive star was running back Cameron Marshall, (125 total yards, 92 rushing), but when a sustained drive was necessary to give the maroon and gold defense a rest, a three-and-out was the result more times than not.
The Sun Devils were one for nine on third down conversions, and punted seven times.
Although many fans will point to ASU’s meltdown defensively or mentally late in the fourth quarter, a major turning point occurred earlier in the contest.
Stanford was backed up against their own goal line with ASU ready for a second and goal play at the three-yard-line.
Sun Devil quarterback Steven Threet, (158 passing yards, two TD, one INT), rolled out to the right, with receivers in the back of the end zone, but opted to try and score his second rushing touchdown of the game.
Threet ended up fumbling into the end zone upon contact, and the Cardinal recovered for a touchback. No points were added to the scoreboard.
Once again, the Sun Devils fumbled away another shot at an upset of a top ten team, and the No. 6 ranked Stanford Cardinal (9-1), began to celebrate.