High octane. Explosive. Dynamic. Fast tempo.
All are acceptable antonyms to describe ASU’s offense in Saturday’s 36-26 loss to No. 11 Oregon State.
An offense that was supposed to exhibit “left lane, hammer down” was low on fuel, cruising in the right lane 20 miles below the speed limit.
Following a 16-point first quarter — nine of which scored on a defensive touchdown and a safety — the Sun Devils (5-4, 3-3 Pac-12) scored just 10 points in the final three quarters on offense.
The Beavers (7-1, 5-1 Pac-12) held ASU to 303 offensive yards. It’s well below ASU’s average this season (457.8 yards a game) and the second lowest total this season behind a 296-yard total offense performance at Missouri.
“There’s not much you can say other than we got our butt whooped,” coach Todd Graham said. “Their defense is the real deal. We weren’t able to really establish anything most of the night. They kept us under pressure.”
ASU’s most successful drive was its first drive of the game. The Sun Devils ran the ball well with senior running back Cameron Marshall, who gained 20 yards on four carries. He capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown to put ASU on top 14-3.
The offense was stagnant after that drive, particularly on the ground. The Sun Devils had 150 rushing yards against a tough Beavers defensive line. They ran the ball five times in the second quarter despite gaining 59 yards in the first.
With its struggles to run the football, ASU had a difficult time gaining positive yardage on first and second down. The Sun Devils were one-dimensional for most of the game, averaging 3.7 yards per pass. They were 4-of-17 on third down conversations, which three of their conversations were three yards or less. The Sun Devils also had six three-and-out drives in the game.
“I think they’re a very sound defense,” Graham said. “You’ve got to spread them out, and I think we were doing that. We didn’t stay consistent about what we were doing. They obviously are very good. They’ve been in their system a long time. I thought they did the best job at defending what we do offensively.”
ASU had a chance to trip the 29-19 deficit in the third quarter by three but failed to score in the red zone. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly overthrew redshirt junior wide receiver Kevin Ozier, who was wide open, on first down. The Sun Devils couldn’t convert on third-and-11, which led to junior kicker Jon Mora’s missed 37-yard field goal.
“I got pressured a little bit,” Kelly said. “I got to be better with my reads and I missed a few of my underneath routes. I just got to be better with those.”
The Beavers defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage and made it tough for ASU to operate its high-octane offense. Kelly finished 22-for-41 for 153 yards, one touchdown and an interception. It’s far from his typically efficient game, but hardly anything ASU did at Reser Stadium offensively screamed efficiency.
“We anticipated moving the ball better than we did,” Marshall said. “We’re going to have to go back, see our mistakes and find out how to correct them.”
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