TEMPE, AZ – The Arizona State Sun Devils (6-5, 3-5) played spoiler to the No. 6 Oregon Ducks (9-2, 7-1) delivering fans the 31-28 upset on homecoming, and dashing the Ducks’ hopes for a College Playoff berth.
It was one heck of an evening for freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels and the Sun Devil outlasted Oregon in their, 31-28 win, officially becoming bowl eligible.
Coming into this one fresh off the 35-34 loss to Oregon State, and losers of four-straight games, Herm Edwards message to his team coming into this one was simple, “we knew coming into this game, that the only way to survive it, was to make it ugly early” head coach Herm Edwards said.
However, it wasn’t going to be easy.
Oregon had all the hype. The Ducks were in play for a potential College Playoff Berth, quarterback Justin Herbert is in possible contention for the Heisman Trophy, it seemed like everything was setting up for a big evening for Oregon.
Things looked especially ominous early on, as the Ducks drove the field on just their second drive of the game to make it 7-0 after a Cyrus Habibi-Likio touchdown run from five yards out.
Trailing 7-0, responded in a big way by going 75 yards on four plays to even the score at 7-7 after a Daniels to Frank Darby touchdown from 57 yards away tied this one.
Using a stifling defense, ASU would generate a lot of pressure on the Ducks for much of the first half, forcing Oregon out of its groove, and more importantly on Herbert.
The key to Herbert’s struggles was to “just getting pressure,” said senior Devils’ linebacker Khaylan Kearse-Thomas, “when he gets pressure, he gets a little rattled.”
Luckily for ASU, they were able to capitalize after getting the in the second quarter and driving 69 yards on 11 plays, before finally settling on a 25-yard field goal from Christian Zendejas to make it 10-7.
Oregon would have one more chance to get points, but the Ducks came up short, punting it right back to ASU, before the half ended with the Sun Devils leading 10-7.
Coming into this one, Edwards’ attitude was to defer the ball, and hopefully steal a possession. “You always defer,” he said. “You steal a possession, especially if it all works out in the first half, you’ll have the ball before the half ends… then you’ll get it in the third quarter.” Well, with such a risky strategy against a talented team like Oregon, it seemed like the gamble paid off big time in this one!
The second half would certainly lead to some fireworks in this one. Starting with the ball, ASU would drive the field on their first drive, scoring on a 28-yard field goal again from Zendejas to make it 13-7.
A few series later, an interception by Herbert would set-up a Sun Devils’ touchdown, this time on a pass from Daniels to Darby from 26 yards out. After a successful two-point attempt, ASU would go up 21-7.
Two plays later, Herbert would throw his second pick of the game, setting up ASU for yet another field goal to make it 24-7 with 8:42 left in the game!
However, that’s when the drama would begin to set-in!
Oregon would come right back, marching down the field in three plays to score a touchdown, followed by another three-play drive to only trail 24-21 with 5:24 to play.
Before taking the field again, Edwards would chat with his fresh quarterback, trying to help him, “I told him hey man, it’s real simple, if you make three first downs in this series, the games over… but you could throw a touchdown too if you want.”
Needing some big plays on that drive, the freshman Daniels would come up big for the Devils again, this time finding Bradon Aiyuk over the top on an 81-yard touchdown to make it 31-21, essentially putting this one away for good!
Oregon would get the ball back with 3:46 to go, and would find the endzone again, this time on a Herbert pass to Johnny Johnson to make it 31-28 after the extra point.
However, an unsuccessful on-side kick gave ASU the ball and the eventual victory, as the Devils ran out the clock to deliver the win!
For Edwards, the win comes at perfect timing, as his team got tired of losing. “Losing ain’t no fun for anybody,” he said. “For the fans, the student body, the coaches and the players… I told them, when you get tired of losing, you’ll win again.”
And that they did! With the win, the Devils become bowl eligible again under coach Edwards. The win is especially important to the seniors who get “another game,” said running back Eno Benjamin. “Some play go on and don’t play football anymore, so just being able to grant those guys another game, it’s a huge opportunity.”
As for the Devils, they will have the next few days off before preparing for rival Arizona and the Territorial Cup. For Oregon, the will still compete for a Pac-12 Championship, but their playoff hopes are likely to be officially over.