Defensive lapses costly as ASU football falls to Oregon State

Redshirt junior defensive tackle Will Sutton (90), redshirt sophomore linebacker Carl Bradford (52) and junior defensive end Junior Onyeali (5) stand at the line in ASU’s 36-26 loss to Oregon State on Saturday night. (Photo courtesy of Neil Abrew/The Daily Barometer)

CORVALLIS – ASU coach Todd Graham strives to have an explosive, “high octane” offense, but in the Sun Devils’ (5-4, 3-3 Pac-12) 36-26 loss to No. 11 Oregon State, it was the Beavers’ (7-1, 5-1 Pac-12) offense making the big plays.

“Defensively, we just gave up the big play and that was the story there,” Graham said. “We just got beat.”

Oregon State had three touchdowns of 49 yards or more, which were results of blown coverages and miscommunication in the ASU secondary.

The Beavers’ offense got off to a horrific start, as junior quarterback Cody Vaz fumbled the ball on the second play of scrimmage and ASU recovered it in the end zone for an early 7-0 lead. However, the Oregon State offense responded later in the first quarter with a 50-yard touchdown pass from Vaz to senior receiver Markus Wheaton.

Sophomore running back Terron Ward and sophomore receiver Brandin Cooks added the other long touchdowns. Ward’s score came in the form of a 53-yard run, while Cooks caught a 49-yard pass  wide open from Vaz along the ASU sideline.

While the lapses in the secondary and throughout the Sun Devils’ defense stand out, the effect redshirt junior defensive tackle Will Sutton has on his teammates is also significant. After missing most of ASU’s loss to Oregon and all of the team’s loss to UCLA, Sutton returned against the Beavers and finished the night with two tackles, a sack and two pass breakups.

Sutton was limited in practice leading up to the game and did not appear to be near 100 percent during warmups. Graham felt his starting defensive tackle would only be able to play minimally, but Sutton’s performance ended up being a pleasant surprise.

“He was a factor early in the game and something happens to our guys when he’s in there,” Graham said. “We just play better (with Sutton in the game).”

Offensively, things were not much better for ASU.

Despite an impressive opening drive that resulted in a one-yard touchdown run from senior running back Cameron Marshall, the Sun Devils were never able to establish an offensive rhythm.

“Their front, their interior d-line and front seven were doing a good job of stunts and twists,” redshirt sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly said. “We could not really get the run game going. They did a great job of scheming for us.”

ASU’s offense was limited to 303 yards and did not score in the last 42 minutes of the game. The Sun Devils were forced to punt nine times and Kelly — who entered the game as the Pac-12 leader in passing efficiency — struggled from the very beginning. Kelly finished the night with 143 yards passing on 22 completions. He also added a touchdown and an interception.

“The big thing is the three-and-outs,” Kelly said. “They are hard for us, and we can’t have them. It’s frustrating when you go three-and-out, three-and-out, but I have great confidence in my guys and we will be better at that next week.”

 

Notes

Marshall’s first-quarter touchdown run was the 35th of his ASU career. Marshall is now No. 2 on the school’s rushing touchdown list.

Junior defensive end Junior Onyeali’s fumble recovery in the end zone was ASU’s third defensive touchdown of the season. The Sun Devils have also scored first in eight of their nine games this season.

 

Reach the reporter at william.boor@asu.edu