(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
With the game on the line in triple overtime, the Sun Devils had a chance to tie things up against Oregon. The team was three yards out from scoring — it was first and goal.
On the first play, redshirt senior quarterback Mike Bercovici threw a pass that was nearly picked off. On second down, Bercovici’s pass was intercepted and Oregon was victorious.
Sun Devil running backs Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage both had rushed over 100 yards, but neither of them were called to during overtime.
On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Mike Norvell explained what the thought process was,
“Both of those were run-pass options,” Norvell said. “The first touchdown we had to Devin (Lucien) earlier in the game was off the first play call. They did a good job of defending it, and then we came back with the second, with D.J. in the slot. We gave a run-pass option, and we just didn’t execute very well.”
Despite the loss, it was still the most impressive all-around performance for the offense this year with their 742 total yards of offense.
“I think we’re continuing to work to get better,” Norvell said. “We’ve had too many games that I don’t know if we played to our what potential is, but I thought last week the guys came out and we had two really good weeks of practice, I’m excited that it’s carrying over to this week.
A large part of the offensive explosion against Oregon came from the sophomore running back duo of Richard and Ballage, who combined for 262 yards and one touchdown.
“(It’s) part of what we’re hoping to have,” Norvell said. “There haven’t been a whole lot of games that we’ve had actually both of them in there or at full speed so to be able to have both those guys readily available, both of them playing at a high level, I thought was good.”
There is plenty of praise to be given to almost everyone involved in the offense’s success, but they still couldn’t find a way to add a tally to the win column. According to Norvell, it was a familiar issue with this Sun Devil offense.
“The biggest thing is I think we’ve had a lot of missed opportunities down there (the red zone),” Norvell said. “When you get down there you’ve got to capitalize on your opportunities… The thing that’s really kind of been frustrating and disappointing is when we have a penalty… You just can’t have those mistakes.”
Bouncing back from 61 points
Both head coach Todd Graham and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson fielded questions on Wednesday (Graham’s first Wednesday media availability of the season). The biggest emphasis from both of them was stopping Washington State quarterback Luke Falk.
“He’s very good,” Graham said. “The big thing is just their offense and you can tell they have a great understanding in the mastery of what they’re doing and he does a tremendous job throwing the football. Great accuracy down the field, got tremendous athletes at those positions, very good player.”
“He does a nice job of spreading the football around,” Patterson said. “Has a very good understanding of what they do.”
Patterson went on to compliment the air-raid system head coach Mike Leach has implemented at WSU, and how they keep finding the right quarterbacks to orchestrate it perfectly.
One change that the Cougars have made this year has been making their running game a respectable threat, and it is something Patterson has been keeping his eye on.
“Most people run the ball to set up the pass, they do just the opposite,” Patterson said. “It’s almost like they run it just to say they ran it 12 times a game… They’re doing a much better job getting the ball on the perimeter, so that’s the difference I see in the run game.”
The Cougars have made their improvements, but the Sun Devils get another chance to win yet another big conference game.
“Let’s go win,” Graham said. “All we can do is control what’s in front of us, and let’s go have some fun. We’re playing a very good football team, I told them (the team) it doesn’t matter what your record is, it’s the same thing as bringing it every week.”