Playing in front of a sparse crowd for an early afternoon kickoff at Sun Devil Stadium on senior day and homecoming weekend, ASU football closed out its final home game of the season quietly as the Sun Devils lost 31-7 to No. 23 Oregon State University on Saturday.
In the first half, it appeared ASU was going to keep the game close as the Sun Devils trailed only 14-7 at the half. In their past two games, the Sun Devils have fallen behind in the first half, but have managed to claw their way to closer margins in the second half. This Saturday, a strong second half performance from the Beavers put the game out of reach again. It was ASU's fourth loss of the season at home.
"We played very disappointingly, all phases of the game," said interim head coach Shaun Aguano during a postgame press conference. "Our team still played, they played hard. But it was disappointing on all sides. From a defensive standpoint, we couldn't stop them. From an offensive standpoint, we couldn't get anything going. We had to play catch up. We miss a field goal, muff a punt. It wasn't good in all phases. A huge disappointment."
Graduate student running back Xazavian Valladay was the best player on the field for the Sun Devils, tallying 109 yards and one touchdown on 13 rushing attempts.
With Saturday's performance, Valladay surpassed 1,000 yards on the season marking a milestone for Valladay. It is the third time he has reached that number in his college career.
"Valladay is special," Aguano said. "He's a workhorse. He's going to do whatever it takes. He is the heart and soul of our football team. I'm proud of the way he goes about playing. He'll never give up and he'll keep fighting."
The Sun Devil defense had difficulty containing the Beavers' freshman running back Damien Martinez, who rushed for 138 yards and two touchdowns on 22 rushing attempts. Martinez found room with ease the whole game with the Oregon State offensive line paving the way.
As a team, the Beavers rushed for 222 yards and averaged 5.3 yards per carry.
Oregon State found success in the air as well as on redshirt freshman quarterback Ben Gulbranson putting together an efficient game, going 15 of 21 passing for 188 yards and one touchdown.
On offense for ASU, redshirt junior quarterback Trenton Bourguet particularly struggled to connect with wide receivers down the field. The vertical passing game was nonexistent as Bourguet was able to complete only one pass more than 21 yards. He finished 20 for 32 passing with only 122 yards.
"They were able to get some pressure early, it made me get off my read," Bourguet said. "They do a good job of bringing in exotic looks and just staying deep. Their defensive backs are pretty lengthy, I think their corners are both 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3. They did a good job of dropping into their zone coverages and getting underneath our deep crosses."
ASU drops to 3-8 overall and 2-6 in the Pac-12 with the loss.
The Sun Devils are already looking ahead to next week's rivalry game, the Territorial Cup against UA. Redshirt senior linebacker Kyle Soelle answered his first question in the postgame press conference with a terse, six-word response.
"I'm just focused on next week," Soelle said.
The turnaround is very short for ASU as the team travels to Tucson next Friday, giving them just under a week to prepare for the season finale. Aguano said players will be in tomorrow right away to get ready for the game.
Despite the tough year for the Sun Devils, the in-state rivalry game is highly anticipated with bragging rights and the Territorial Cup on the line. Aguano wants the team singularly fixated on the Wildcats. With both teams out of bowl contention, something else is at risk.
"Now, it's all for pride," Aguano said. "They have something to prove and we have something to prove. Make sure we keep the cup here. Now it's mano a mano. We're going to go down there and try to do our best and put out the best product we can. We got five days. We got to get ready to go."
ASU travels to Tucson to take on UA in the Territorial Cup, one of college football's oldest rivalries, on Friday, Nov. 25. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. MST.
Edited by Kathryn Field and Piper Hansen.
Logan Stanley is a senior reporter at The State Press. He previously served as the managing editor of the school newspaper at Eastern Washington University. He has four years experience as a freelance journalist and is a graduate student in the master of arts of sports journalism program.