Upset: Arizona State football defeats No. 6 Oregon on national TV
TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona State Sun Devils’ game against the No. 6 Oregon Ducks on Saturday night was on national television, probably with the intention that the world could see the Pac-12’s top-ranked team try to fight its way into a College Football Playoff spot.
There was also the appeal of Justin Herbert, a projected first-round pick in the NFL Draft who plays quarterback for Oregon. But it was the Sun Devils instead who stole the show, reminding everyone of the ASU team that was ranked No. 17 in the nation at one point this season.
ASU (6-5, 3-5 Pac-12) upset Oregon (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12) in Tempe by a score of 31 to 28.
The upset, obviously, was significant. Some fans stormed the field. Frank Darby, for at least the second time this season, rushed into the postgame press conference to interrupt in a fit of excitement.
“Ain’t no playoffs!” Darby and another player could be heard yelling. “Playoffs?! Talking about playoffs?!”
Oregon’s playoff hopes are likely over. ASU’s hopes of getting into a top-tier bowl game were already gone, as the Sun Devils’ 5-1 start was spoiled by a four-game losing streak. That streak is over now, though, and ASU is bowl eligible once again.
“I kept telling them: I said, ‘Hey, when you get tired of losing, when you finally get tired of losing, you’ll figure this thing out,'” head coach Herm Edwards said. “And tonight was the night. They got tired of losing. Good for them. ‘Cause I got tired of watching it myself, to be quite honest.”
The Sun Devils’ great start to the season was followed by losses at Utah, at UCLA, versus USC and at Oregon State. But just like ASU did in upsets over No. 18 Michigan State and No. 15 Cal earlier this season, it rose to the level of its opponent to break the streak and beat the playoff-hopeful Ducks.
“We should be playing like that all the time, really. But we had something to prove,” quarterback Jayden Daniels said. “We lost so many games in a row. So this one just felt different, just going out there, they just happened to be the No. 6-ranked team.”
Daniels finished the day 22-of-32 on passing for 408 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. Herbert was 20-for-36 for 304 yards, two scores and two interceptions. Oregon also got two touchdowns on the ground from sophomore back Cyrus Habibi-Likio.
“They have a quarterback that’s probably going to be a first-round pick,” Edwards said of Herbert. “And I said, ‘Who’s going to play better?’ That was my challenge to [Daniels]. He said, ‘OK, coach, I got you.’ He done good.”
In particular, Daniels faced a third and 16 situation on one of the final drives of the game after Oregon scored to make it 24-21 ASU.
Daniels connected with Brandon Aiyuk for an 81-yard touchdown pass that made it 31-21 Arizona State.
“I had talked to him the series before he went out, I said, ‘Hey man, it’s real simple now. If you make three first downs in this series in five minutes, the game is over,'” Edwards said. “But I said, ‘But you can throw a touchdown, too, if you want.’ He threw a touchdown. I didn’t expect it to be on third and 16, or whatever it was.”
Aiyuk finished with seven catches for 161 yards and a touchdown. Darby had four catches for 125 yards and two scores.
One of Darby’s touchdowns was a 57-yard catch-and-run that made it 7-7 in the first quarter. That was a key for the Sun Devils, who gave up the game’s opening score to Oregon and have dug early holes for themselves this year. That’s been a costly trend.
“We knew coming into this game that the only way we could survive it was to make it ugly early and possess the ball,” Edwards said. “And we were able to do that. We had the ball for almost 37 minutes. So we tried to slow the game down and really just not get into one of those games where we were playing from behind.”
Even after giving up a late Ducks touchdown to make it 31-28, ASU ran the ball, got a first down on the final drive and ran out the clock to end the game. It was loud. The goalposts folded down in preparation for fans rushing the field.
“I can’t say enough about our fans, too,” Edwards said. “They were fantastic. They were into the game. It was an electric atmosphere for us tonight.”
— Sophomore safety Khaylan Kearse-Thomas and Jack Jones each had interceptions, while the former also had a key tackle-for-loss. They were both big parts of the Sun Devils’ win, and Jones’ pick led to a touchdown drive for ASU.
“We’ve seen in some of the film, when he gets pressure, he gets a little rattled,” Kearse-Thomas said. “And he can throw you the ball. So I feel like that’s what we did today.”
— Another notable defensive performance for ASU: redshirt sophomore linebacker Kyle Soelle, who made a big tackle for a loss on a drive in which Oregon had to punt in the second quarter. On the next Ducks drive, Soelle had a pass breakup to force a three-and-out, the first of the day for either team.
— The Sun Devils had 535 yards of offense to Oregon’s 458.
— One negative: ASU had a lot of penalties, especially early on but really throughout the game. They were flagged 12 times for 90 yards. Oregon was called for three flags, 21 yards.
— ASU kicker Cristian Zendejas was 3-for-3 on field goal attempts. Punter Michael Turk made five punts for an average of 40.0 yards each and a long of 53.