EUGENE, Ore. — It's been an abnormal year for Oregon football, but five consecutive games worth of frustrations were enough to fuel the Ducks (3-5, 1-4 Pac-12) in a 54-35 thumping of ASU that was competitive up until the final few minutes.
Oregon got the scoring started with a 72-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Justin Herbert to redshirt senior tight end Pharaoh Brown. The Ducks led 7-0 after deciding against a two-point conversion.
The Sun Devils (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) responded with an impressive drive of their own as offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey reached into his bag of tricks. After a reverse flea-flicker that resulted in a 35-yard reception by junior running back Kalen Ballage, the Sun Devils tied it up 7-7 thanks to Ballage's 12-yard run up the gut.
Herbert went back to work on the next drive with a 31-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Charles Nelson, a play in which ASU junior defensive back Maurice Chandler whiffed on his attempt to bat the ball down and Nelson adjusted in midair. The play put the Ducks on top 14-7.
After a 36-yard field goal by junior kicker Aidan Schneider extended Oregon's lead to 10, another trick play in the form of a 25-yard pass by Ballage set up another Sun Devil score.
Freshman quarterback Dillon Sterling-Cole dove into the end zone from one yard out, extending the ball beyond the goal line just before an Oregon defender punched it out of his grasp. The touchdown and extra point made it 17-14 Ducks.
A pair of field goals by Schneider made it 23-14 before a pivotal play that proved costly for the Sun Devils. As the half wound down, Sterling-Cole was intercepted at the ASU 32 and Oregon ended up cashing in with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Herbert to Brown.
At the half, the Ducks led 30-14.
The second half began with a missed field goal by Schneider and was immediately followed by a scoring drive for the Sun Devils. After marching down the field and executing better than it had all game, ASU got back within one score on a 15-yard touchdown run and 2-point conversion — both by Ballage.
Schneider tacked on a 23-yard try in the latter stages of the third quarter and the Sun Devils headed into the final frame trailing 33-22.
The ASU offense ignited once again at the beginning of the fourth as they utilized more trick plays to keep the Duck defense on its heels, setting up a 9-yard touchdown catch by freshman wide receiver N'Keal Harry. After failing to convert on the 2-pointer, ASU trailed 33-28.
Oregon gave itself a healthy lead again on the very next drive as Herbert found senior tight end Johnny Mundt for a 53-yard touchdown — another breakdown by a defeated Sun Devil secondary that ranks among the worst in the country in passing yards allowed. The play gave Herbert 489 yards through the air, tying a single-game school record. He also finished with four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
The Ducks are also among the worst teams in the country in passing yards allowed, and they displayed that on the following drive as they allowed Sterling-Cole and company to pick up 52 yards on five plays before a failed fourth down attempt bailed them out.
Then, just as it seemed all might be lost for the Sun Devils with Oregon driving, redshirt junior linebacker Marcus Ball recovered a fumble and returned it deep into Duck territory.
After the fumble recovery, Chip Lindsey's offense displayed its versatility once again as Ballage threw a 3-yard touchdown to redshirt senior tight end Kody Kohl out of the Sparky formation, narrowing the gap to 40-35.
That gap was right back at 12 just moments later when redshirt sophomore running back Tony Brooks-James turned on the afterburners and burst for a 58-yard rushing touchdown, putting Oregon on top 47-35 with just over six minutes to go.
And that's when it all came unraveled for the Sun Devils.
Sterling-Cole threw a pick on the goal line that was returned 85 yards, effectively ending the game as junior running back Royce Freeman added insult to injury with a 10-yard touchdown run that gave the Ducks a 54-35 victory.
The win ended a five-game losing streak for Oregon and marked three losses in a row for the Sun Devils. ASU's next opponent will be Utah on Thursday, Nov. 10 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.
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