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Eno Benjamin carries ASU to upset win over No. 15 Cal

Arizona State's Eno Benjamin (3) jumps over California's Elijah Hicks as he is pursued by Jaylinn Hawkins in the second half of an NCAA college football game, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

It only took five weeks for the last undefeated Pac-12 team to fall.

The Arizona State Sun Devils (4-1; 1-1) went into Berkely on Friday night looking to knock off the No. 15 Cal Bears (4-1; 1-1), the last undefeated team remaining in the conference.

History wasn’t on ASU’s side coming into the contest. Since 2016, Pac-12 teams playing on the road on Friday night’s were an abysmal 2-13.

But history failed to repeat itself, as the Sun Devils defeated Cal, 24-17.

The Sun Devils came into Friday having scored 10 or more points in 123 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in FBS history.

Arizona State would extend that streak with its 24 points, 21 of which came via junior running back Eno Benjamin’s 100 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

It was an astounding performance from the junior running back, who had 31 touches on the night, plenty of which included being hit in the backfield before battling his way forward for positive yardage.

It was also an impressive bounce-back performance defensively by the Sun Devils and defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales despite being without senior cornerback Kobe Williams, who was out due to an undisclosed injury.

After allowing 34 points and going without a sack in last week’s 34-31 loss to Colorado, ASU only allowed 17 points and had three sacks on the night.

The Sun Devils also only allowed 245 total yards of offense and only 140 through the air.

That also may have been due to Cal sophomore quarterback Chase Garbers leaving the game with two minutes to go in the first half. The sophomore would not return and backup Devon Modster would take over duties under center for the remaining of the game.

As a result, Cal’s play-calling would shift considerably in favor of the run game after only mustering 34 yards on the ground prior to Garbers’ departure. The Bears had a whopping 37 rushing attempts compared to going to the air only 26 times on the night.

ASU got the scoring started in the first quarter, as Benjamin’s 11-yard touchdown run capped off an eight-play, 80-yard drive to give the Sun Devils a 7-0 lead.

But Cal would respond on the ensuing drive.

Garbers would take advantage of the missing Williams with a six-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a 16-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 7-7 with five and a half minutes remaining in the opening quarter.

It’s just the second time this year and in as many weeks that ASU has allowed a score prior to the fourth quarter.

Arizona State would have two opportunities to retake the lead via sophomore kicker Cristian Zendejas, but the kicker failed to convert on both of his 37-yard and 50-yard attempts.

With 28 seconds remaining in the half and Cal on ASU’s 20-yard-line, Modster attempted just his second pass on the night. But the junior quarterback was picked off by sophomore safety Aashari Crosswell in the end zone with only 10 seconds remaining, bringing the game to halftime with the score still tied, 7-7.

Cal would rebound by putting the ball into the hands of freshman running back Christopher Brown Jr., who capped off a 12-play, 63-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run.

The Bears didn’t throw a single pass on the opening possession of the second half and nearly doubled their first-half rushing total on the drive.

But ASU showed why Benjamin was named as an AP Preseason All-American on the ensuing drive.

The junior running back would rush for 29 yards on the 50-yard scoring drive that ended in a two-yard touchdown run for Benjamin to tie the game, 14-14.

Following a strip-sack of freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels, Cal would hit a 47-yard field goal to take a 17-14 lead with just under 11 minutes to go in the game.

But as he had all night, Benjamin continued to carry the Sun Devils.

Arizona State would go on a 15-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a three-yard Benjamin rushing touchdown to give ASU a 21-17 lead.

Zendejas would convert from 47 yards out on the Sun Devils’ next possession to give ASU a seven-point cushion with less than three minutes remaining.

It’s Arizona State’s second win over a ranked opponent this year, both of which have come on the road.

Having received five votes in last week’s AP Top 25 Poll, the Sun Devils could very well see themselves as a ranked team for the second time this season as they head into their bye week before returning home to host Washington State on Oct. 12.

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