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Team effort leads ASU football to victory against Oregon

The Sun Devils upset Oregon in front of a raucous crowd


Sophomore wide reciever N'Keal Harry (1) breaks away from the defense over the middle in the second half of the Sun Devils' 37-35 victory over the Ducks on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona.

ASU football used a field goal from freshman kicker Brandon Ruiz and a final defensive stand to upset No. 24 Oregon, 37-35, in front of a raucous crowd at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. 

The Sun Devils (2-2, 1-0 Pac-12) beat Oregon for the first time since the 2004 season, a span of 10 straight defeats, which was the second-longest active losing streak by one conference opponent over another. 

Last week at Texas Tech, ASU had a chance to win the game but could not execute. 

Given another opportunity, junior quarterback Manny Wilkins said the offense was not going to let that happen again. 

“Any win feels great,” Wilkins said. “This one felt really good because you go after two losses and your mindset is a little like, 'Damn, we just need to get one, get this ship rolling'.”

With 6:32 left in the game, ASU started at their own 20-yard line. After two first down runs by senior running back Demario Richard, redshirt junior Jalen Harvey caught two underneath throws, of which the second one put ASU at the Oregon 36. 

A couple of run plays and an incomplete pass stalled the drive at the Oregon 23, but Ruiz connected from 41-yards out and ASU led 37-35. 

Oregon’s offense had an opportunity with 2:25 left, but a six-yard sack from redshirt senior linebacker Alani Latu stalled the latest Ducks’ opportunity. 

ASU’s offense punted the ball back to the Ducks with 46 seconds left. With the Ducks out of timeouts, one more defensive stand sealed a defining win to this point in the season. 

Oregon sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert started the drive with a 12-yard completion. Two incompletions later, it was third down and long. 

The last thing redshirt senior linebacker Alani Latu said the defense was going to do was give up a long third down conversion. 

“All week we emphasized, 'Get off the field, get off the field'," Latu said. “We struggled with that during the first three games." 

Latu and his teammates forced one more incompletion, and with eight seconds left, all ASU had to do was kneel the ball, and the celebration with students and fans in the stands began. 

Entering Saturday, ASU had the worst third-down defense in the country, but Oregon finished 1-for-11. The Ducks also committed 14 penalties, which made it hard for them to establish a rhythm.

After the defense began the game with a stand, ASU’s offense took advantage of great field position and led 7-0 early. 

With the score 14-7 in the first, ASU head coach Todd Graham surprised Oregon with an onside kick and ASU recovered.

“I just wanted to be aggressive,” Graham said.

Sophomore wide receiver N'Keal Harry finished the game with seven catches for 170 yards and a touchdown, and Harvey contributed eight catches of his own for 133 yards, including a 63-yard grab. 

Wilkins finished his day 24-39 with 347 yards and a touchdown. After four games, he has yet to throw an interception. 

The Sun Devils ability to establish the run helped open up big plays in the passing game. Richard carried the ball 21 times for 71 yards and a touchdown. Fellow senior running back Kalen Ballage ran for 50 yards on 12 carries and Wilkins contributed 56 rushing yards on 14 carries. 

ASU dominated time of possession and controlled field position throughout. The offense did not score in the second quarter, but the defense stepped up and only gave up a touchdown to keep ASU in the game. 

On defense, redshirt junior linebacker Christian Sam led the defense in total tackles with 11 (9 solo). Latu contributed a sack and two tackles for a loss. Senior defensive back J’Marcus Rhodes also sacked Herbert. 

Ultimately, Graham said it took a total team effort, and he had a hard time speaking about any individual performances. 

"After the game I didn't say anything about anybody individually," Graham said. "Usually I give game balls. I said, 'Look, there's no way that I'm going to come in here and say anything about anybody else other than our football team' ... we broke the rock, danced, sung the fight song and had a great time." 

Up Next

After a week of practice, ASU will travel to Palo Alto, California to face the Stanford Cardinal (2-2) at Stanford Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks. 

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