ASU fumbles away hot start in loss to No. 11 Oklahoma State in rainy Stillwater
STILLWATER, Okla. — It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.
The Arizona State Sun Devils (1-1) couldn’t have asked for a much better start in their 34-17 loss to the No. 11 Oklahoma State Cowboys (2-0) at Boone Pickens Stadium on a rainy Saturday night.
For the second consecutive week, ASU took a 3-0 lead into the second quarter after scoring a field goal on its first offensive possession of the ballgame following a defensive stop.
“You learn a little something about your football team when you have to go through something like this,” head coach Herm Edwards said. “Those guys are hurting inside that locker room. It had nothing to do with being competitive because they were competitive. They played as hard as they could play but eventually just wore down.”
Oklahoma State punted on four of its first five drives — two of which were three-and-outs — while also throwing an interception on ASU’s side of the field for linebacker Kyle Soelle’s second pick of the season. The fifth-year senior captain finished the contest with a game-high 16 tackles (eight solo), 0.5 tackles for loss and one QB hit.
But the Sun Devils, in front of 55,509 fans, couldn’t take advantage of its stout defensive play early on, and a Xazavian Valladay fumble in the second quarter completely flipped the game on its head. The Cowboys took advantage of the turnover with a touchdown and proceeded to score a touchdown and a field goal on their next two possessions to take a 17-3 lead into the half.
“Good teams, they capitalize on that when you give them an extra down when you should be off the field,” Edwards said.
In the first half, ASU failed to convert on any of its seven third-down conversion attempts and didn’t run more than five plays on its six drives after the opening score.
The team finished the opening 30 minutes with 158 total yards of offense (88 passing, 70 rushing), 78 of which came on the opening drive thanks to Valladay’s 42-yard run on the first play. The RB finished the night with 118 yards on 21 carries (5.6 per attempt).
The Sun Devils, though, came out in the second half and immediately made it a one-score game at 17-10 on a one-yard touchdown run from Valladay set up by a 73-yard reception from quarterback Emory Jones to wide receiver Gio Sanders.
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“We got some big plays in the passing game, but you can’t play from behind on the road like this against a good team,” Edwards said.
After an OSU field goal, ASU converted its first two third downs on the night which led to a 21-yard touchdown pass from Jones to wide receiver Elijhah Badger to make it a three-point game at 20-17. Jones ended up with 223 yards on 12 of 24 passing and one TD while Badger had a game-high six receptions for 91 yards and a score.
The Sun Devils also finished 2-for-13 on third downs compared to the Cowboys’ 6-for-15 clip.
“We could play better as a team and as an offense and as a whole,” Badger said postgame.
But that would be it for the Arizona State offense, as the Sun Devils failed to score another point the rest of the way en route allowing two more Oklahoma State touchdowns.
OSU’s all-senior defensive line dominated ASU’s offensive line and garnered three sacks on the night, while Arizona State has failed to record a single sack in two games this season.
“I feel like (the pass rush) definitely impacted the game,” Jones said postgame. “I had to speed up some of my reads to make sure I just got through them and I feel like I gave up on a couple plays and just threw it away instead of trying to make a play out of it with my legs.
“That’s something I look back on and try to get better at. … They showed everything that we expected and we repped in practice. We didn’t do the best job of picking everything up. It was all repped out. We just didn’t really take care of business.”
And despite the Sun Devils winning the time of possession battle, the Cowboys won every other offensive category in first downs (30-14), total yards (465-354), passing yards (268-223) and rushing yards (197-131). That’s largely due to Oklahoma State’s fast tempo that saw OSU run 84 plays compared to ASU’s 61.
“It wears on you later on in the game. I felt like we’re a well-conditioned team,” Soelle said postgame. “They just have a really up-tempo. It’s something we’ll look at tomorrow and go from there.
“I think we handled it well the whole game and really competed. … We never feel like we’re out of the game. We’re always going to compete all four quarters. We felt like we were going to win this game. That was our mentality going into it. That was our mentality the whole game. They got the best of us today.”
The Sun Devils lost the penalty battle on the night, committing 10 for 95 yards compared to the Cowboys’ seven for 69 clip.
Arizona State returns to Tempe to host Eastern Michigan (1-1) next Saturday at 8 p.m. on ESPN 620 AM / 98.7 FM HD-2.