( GAME RECAP ) ARIZONA STATE STUNS NO. 6 OREGON WITH 31-28 LOSS – Valiant Comeback Effort Comes Up Short Giving the Ducks Their First Conference Loss
Sun Devil Stadium
Early in the practice week it was labeled as a ‘trap game.’ And it certainly ended up being just that.
The No. 6 Oregon Ducks ( 9-2 / 7-1 ) traveled to Tempe to take on a 5-5 Sun Devil ( 6-5 / 3-5 ) squad that just lost to Oregon State a week earlier and sent the Ducks packing with a 31-28 loss. Sun Devil quarterback, true freshman, Jayden Daniels threw for 408 yards and tossed three touchdowns to give the Devils the win. The loss gives the Ducks their first conference defeat of the season and will drop them out of contention for the college football playoff.
HOW IT HAPPENED
No. 6 Oregon came into Tempe as the prohibitive favorite by more than 20 points but found themselves down at halftime by a score of 10-7.
After failing to move the chains past midfield on their first possession of the game, the Ducks offense found their rhythm on their second possession and drove the ball 80 yards in 11 plays and scored on a 5 yard run up the middle by Cyrus Habibi-Likio. The scoring drive was set up by a nice 28 yard pitch and catch between Justin Herbert and Johnny Johnson III who beat his Chandler high school teammate Chase Lucas. The Ducks would take a 7-0 lead with 6:32 remaining in the first quarter.
On the ensuing possession by ASU, it took just four plays for the Sun Devils to find the end zone. Quarterback Jayden Daniels found receiver Frank Darby on a stop and go pattern for a nice 57 yard touchdown to tie the score at 7. A normally reliable safety Jevon Holland, bit on the stutter step, and Daniels laid the pass right into the arms of Darby who beat Holland by a few steps.
While the Ducks offense consistently moved the football on the ground they simply couldn’t take advantage of their good field position. With :59 seconds remaining in the opening quarter and on their next possession, the Ducks failed to convert on a 4th and 1 from the six yard line and turned the ball over on downs.
The Ducks failure there would prove to be a crucial point in the opening half. If Oregon coach Mario Cristobal chooses to take the three points the score would be tied at the half.
Instead, the Sun Devils and Daniels put together an 11 play – 69 yard drive and kicked a 25 yard field goal to take the 10-7 lead with 3:40 remaining in the half.
The Sun Devils had an opportunity to add to their lead late in the first half however Daniels was sacked for an 8 yard loss to the 38 yard line driving them out of field goal range.
The story in the first half was Sun Devil quarterback Jayden Daniels who completed 12 of 14 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown.
In the second half the Ducks gave up a quick ten points to allow the Sun Devils to extend their lead to 21-7 at the 12:43 mark of the fourth quarter.
The Devils knocked in a 28 yard field goal by Cristian Zendejas early in the third quarter and then scored on a 26 yard touchdown pass from Daniels to Darby to give ASU the fourteen point lead. On the touchdown ASU would convert the two-point conversion to give them the fourteen point lead.
Before the ASU touchdown, Herbert threw his fourth interception of the season when corner Jack Jones stepped in front of a quick out pattern to give the Devils the ball at the Oregon 32 yard line. It would only take ASU 4 plays to score for the 21-7 lead.
On the very next Oregon possession it went from bad to worse for Herbert. Herbert looked for tight end Spencer Webb on an in cut, but Webb stopped on the route and the ball was picked off at the Oregon 20 yard line. It was the first time this season Herbert would throw multiple interceptions in a single game.
Three minutes later the Sun Devils would add another three points to the scoreboard with a 22 yard Zendejas field goal extending the Devils lead to 24-7 with 8:42 remaining in the game.
It appeared the Ducks were done for the evening, but Herbert would lead his offense on two consecutive touchdown drives taking less than three minutes off the clock to close the gap to 24-21 with 5:24 to play. The first touchdown was a 3 play – 75 yard drive that ended with a 10 yard scoring run up the middle by Cyrus Habibi-Likio.
Two minutes later, Herbert navigated another three play drive over sixty six yards which ended with a 24 yard touchdown by Johnny Johnson III. The Ducks were suddenly down by three points with five minutes to play.
But the ASU three point lead would be short lived.
The Oregon defense had been solid most of the evening however when it counted the most the Ducks faltered and allowed an 81 yard touchdown.
On a 3rd and 16 from the Arizona State 19 yard line Daniels found receiver Brandon Aiyuk for the long score beating Oregon corner Deommodore Lenoir on a stop and go route. In the category of ‘what could’ve been’ that would prove to be the biggest play of the game because if the Ducks were able to hold on the long third down and force an ASU punt, it’s likely the Ducks would have scored the go-ahead touchdown since taking back all of the momentum in the game.
ASU led 31-21 with 3:24 to play.
But still, it wasn’t over. Oregon would fight back again.
On the very next Oregon possession, Herbert navigated a 9 play – 61 yard drive that ended with a well blocked 17 yard screen pass to Johnny Johnson who somehow found the end zone dragging defenders with him. The Ducks once again closed the score to 31-28 with 2:04 to play.
With plenty of time and two timeouts remaining, Cristobal decided to attempt an on-side kick which failed.
All Arizona State had to do was get one first down, which they did.
The Sun Devils would run out the clock and give the Ducks their first conference loss of the season, and second loss overall.
“Against a good team, you have to be at your very best from start to finish,” said Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal. “And we were not.”
But most importantly, Oregon is certain to drop from contention for the college football playoff after entering the game ranked at No. 6.
“Obviously a tough night, a physical battle,” Cristobal said.
“They made a lot of big plays. We came back and started rolling the latter half of the football game, but certainly got going too late.”
The game by far was Herbert’s worst performance of his Oregon career. Herbert completed 20 of 36 passes for 304 yards, but had two untimely interceptions – both of which led to points.
The Ducks rushing attack was moving the ball well during the second half of the game, however when the down and distance necessitated the Ducks would throw and just seemed off.
“When we are a good offense is when we have balance,” said Cristobal.
“That’s always been the key to it. We were running the ball well, so we figured we could throw it too. We were just, we were off.”
Conversely, freshman Jayden Daniels had his best game when it mattered most for the Sun Devils.
Daniels completed 22 of 32 passes for 408 yards and three touchdowns.
MOST VALUABLE PERFORMANCE
For the Ducks, wide receiver Johnny Johnson III had the best performance of the game and certainly was credited with being responsible for the Ducks comeback bid. Johnson caught 10 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns. Johnson now has five touchdowns on the season two behind Jalon Redd who has seven.
The Oregon defense had been the best in the Pac-12 at limiting long pass plays through the last ten games, however Daniels and the Sun Devils had receptions of 81, 57 and 46 yards, all of which ended in or set up touchdowns.