Oregon went into the desert expecting a hard fought game, and got just that. The Sun Devils fought for 60 minutes, but Oregon took advantage of ASU's mistakes, made a few big plays of their own, and after falling down 24-14 with 3 1/2 minutes left in the first half, outscored the Sun Devils 28-7 the rest of the way.
It could have been a much different story early, as ASU started moving the ball very well in the first quarter. ASU has 209 yards of offense, but managed just 7 points. ASU missed a field goal, turned the ball over on downs, and threw an interception for a touchdown to give the Ducks the lead after one.
The second quarter was a different story. Oregon's offense started to struggle, going three and out twice and throwing an interception, and ASU took advantage, taking a 24-14 lead.
But just as they did against Tennessee, Oregon stormed back just before haltime. In three in a half minutes, they drove for a touchdown, forced ASU to punt, and scored another touchdown to take a 28-24 lead at the break.
Though the Ducks fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half, they continued to use big plays to stretch their lead. They recovered an ASU fumble in the red zone. Josh Huff caught a long pass for a touchdown, and Boseko Lokombo picked up a dropped backwards ASU pass and ran it in for 6.
And then it was time to hold on for dear life. ASU never gave up, and continued to move the ball, but Oregon got 4 more turnovers to seal the game.
This was definitely one of the most bizarre games I've seen, and while the Ducks were able to pull out the W, a lot of weakness was exposed that is already giving Duck fans worry for next weeks game against Stanford.
After the jump, lets dive a bit deeper into the game and try to figure out just what happened.
First, let's take a look at the defense. They were like Dr. Jeckl and Mr. Hyde all night, giving up big plays over and over, yet making even bigger plays whenever it was needed. The secondary allowed open men all night long, but also made some great plays on thrown balls to break up passes or take the ball away. They were also flagged for numerous pass interference calls, though one was an abomination of a call against Talmadge Jackson where he had made a great break to intercept yet another Threet pass. Jackson had issues all night long, giving up some big plays in coverage, but he also had one interception (plus that one that shouldn't have been called back).
Oregon's linebackers and line failed to contain the run adequately most of the night. ASU runners were continually getting into the secondary. Pressure was good at times, and the line was tantalizingly close to sacking Threet multiple times, but failed to contain and Threet took off on a number of good runs.
It's lucky that Oregon worked so hard to develop depth over the first few games, because they needed it last night. ASU ran 99 plays on the night in 95 degree heat. A ton of Ducks saw action on the defensive side of the ball, and though they were run ragged, they made the plays when it mattered. ASU was 9/20 on 3rd down conversions, but scored only 2 touchdowns and one field goal on 6 trips to the red zone.
But the big disappointment of the evening was the offense. The last time we saw a performance this bad by the offensive line was the BSU game last year, though to find such thorough domination you may have to go back to the USC game of 2008. Oregon was simply pushed around all night long. While many fans were screaming for Thomas to take the ball, he was making the right reads most of the night as ASU was having men spy on Thomas, which forced him to hand the ball off over and over again.
And while it was frustrating to see James run into the line over and over again (we'll get to playcalling in a minute), this is simply one of the disadvantages of having Darron Thomas at QB. Jeremiah Masoli likely would have taken some of those reads, as he had a belief that he could have beaten that linebacker, and would have adjusted his read after watching James fail a few times. Thomas, obviously, does not have that belief. If he sees a man guarding him on the read, he will be handing it off. He doesn't have the speed or strength to beat linebackers (especially ASU's linebackers) one-on-one.
Back to the offensive line, there's no other way to say it, they were manhandled. For a line that is this talented and experienced, this is simply unacceptable. James had no room to move all day long, and Chip Kelly dialed up the same read option play for most of the 2nd half, and we saw James plow ahead for now gain over and over.
When Oregon did get a little creative, good things happened. Play actioned seemed to be successful. One of the most successful plays of the game was a fake throw to the flat which the ASU safety bit on hard, and allowed Josh Huff to get open by a good 15 yards.
But these plays were few and far between. After Oregon took an 18 point lead, the offensive play calling got very conservative, and it seemed like the Ducks were playing not to lose. While frustrating, it worked.
Lastly, Jackson Rice had a spectacular game, as usual. He punted the ball 11 times, with an average of 46.2 yards per punt (and a net of 44.1). 5 of those punts were downed inside the 20. Rice gave the Ducks a big edge in field position throughout the day, something that was desperately needed when the offense was not clicking.
In the end, Oregon walked out of Sun Devil Stadium with its first Pac-10 win of the season, and the Ducks now have a lot to work on as they prepare for Stanford.