Arizona State's chances of making the college football playoff died in Corvallis, Oregon, on Saturday night. The No. 6 Sun Devils lost 35-27 to the Oregon State Beavers, thus shutting the door on any top-four finish in 2014.
Down a point, 28-27, late in the fourth quarter, ASU was driving for the potential game-winning score. With all three timeouts and a little under three minutes to play, the Sun Devils had more than enough time to get within field-goal position.
On the fifth play of the fateful drive, Oregon State linebacker Michael Doctor intercepted a Taylor Kelly pass and returned it 35 yards for the touchdown, giving the Beavers a 35-27 lead with only 1:38 remaining.
Grantland's Matt Hinton wonders if Doctor would've been better off running around and killing seconds off the clock rather than picking up the quick score:
As CBSSports.com's Tom Fornelli highlighted, the Sun Devils were still within a score of tying the game:
In the end, it didn't matter. Beavers linebacker sacked Kelly on a 4th-and-2 on the next drive, giving the ball to Oregon State to end the game.
Kelly had his worst performance of the season, throwing for 264 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He completed just 50 percent (22-of-44) of his passes. Jaelen Strong did his best to help out his quarterback, catching nine passes for 103 yards, but he looked to be hobbled late in the game.
While Kelly's interception proved pivotal, Arizona State's loss won't be traced back to the offense.
Earlier in the season, defense was a major issue for ASU. After making some improvement on that side of the ball in wins over Stanford, Washington and Utah, those issues reared their ugly head on Saturday night.
The Sun Devils had no answer for the Storm Woods and Terron Ward, who combined to gain 273 yards on the ground. Together, they averaged nearly a first down (9.1 yards) every time they touched the ball.
This is the first time OSU upset a top-10 team in Corvallis since 2008, per ESPN Stats & Info:
According to ESPN.com's Brett Edgerton, five top-10 teams have lost at Oregon State this millennium:
Oregon State didn't have any sort of early game jitters, quickly jumping out to a 14-3 lead in the first quarter courtesy of rushing touchdowns from Woods and Ward. Both players broke out for big runs, with the former going 78 yards and the latter scampering 66 yards.
A 17-yard touchdown run from Kelly to D.J. Foster got ASU to within four points, 14-10, with 1:13 left in the first.
The Sun Devils dominated the second quarter, adding two more touchdowns to take a 24-14 lead going into halftime. Kelly was responsible for the first score, hitting tight end Kody Kohl for a 46-yard touchdown pass. ASU linebacker Antonio Longino picking up a fumble and returning it 36 yards to the house:
Pac-12 referees have built a rather poor reputation over the years, and they didn't cover themselves in glory on Longino's fumble return, per NFL.com's Bryan Fischer:
Arizona State should've had a 27-14 lead, but Zane Gonzalez missed a 30-yard field goal 1:23 from the half. Still, having any sort of lead was good news. The Sun Devils came in unbeaten when leading at halftime under Todd Graham, per ASUDevils.com:
Despite giving up 21 unanswered points, Oregon State didn't wilt. The Beavers recovered in the third quarter, keeping ASU out of the end zone. Sean Mannion and Victor Bolden connected for a 20-yard touchdown pass, closing the deficit to three points, 24-21.
Gonzalez corrected his earlier mistake, hitting a 29-yard field goal to help Arizona State maintain a 27-21 lead in the fourth quarter.
But the Beavers got yet another big play, with Mannion hitting Jordan Villamin with a go-ahead 67-yard touchdown with 10:55 to play:
Arizona State failed to move the ball for much of the last 10 minutes, with Kelly's interception a dagger in the Sun Devils' comeback attempt.
With the defeat, ASU falls into a three-way tie for second in the Pac-12 South. USC has a half-game lead at 6-2.
Even in the event the Sun Devils win the division and beat Oregon in the conference championship game, the selection committee won't send a two-loss Arizona State into the playoff. As quickly as ASU rose up the standings, it will fall equally as fast.