(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
Arizona State’s 4-0 start seems like a distant memory at this point.
The Oregon Ducks (3-5) handed the injury-riddled Sun Devils (5-4) their third straight loss on Saturday, a 54-35 defeat at Autzen Stadium after the team’s late-game comeback effort fell short.
It was established in the days leading up to the game that head coach Todd Graham would again be without starting quarterback Manny Wilkins, linebacker Christian Sam and safety Armand Perry. Once Saturday hit, the injury report was far more extensive – the Sun Devils also played without linebacker Salamo Fiso, guard Sam Jones, running back Demario Richard and wide receiver Cameron Smith.
Defense was again the Achilles’ heel for ASU. Oregon freshman quarterback Justin Herbert continued the other-worldly start to his collegiate career, throwing for 489 yards (a school record), four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Two of his touchdowns came courtesy of wide receiver Pharaoh Brown, who dissected the Sun Devil secondary for 129 receiving yards on seven catches.
For most of the game, ASU’s rushing defense bottled up the Oregon rushing attack. It became obsolete after a James Brooks 58-yard touchdown opened the floodgates.
The Ducks rushed for 246 yards on 45 carries and scored two touchdowns.
ASU freshman quarterback Dillon Sterling-Cole fared well for most of the contest in his first career start, posting two total touchdowns and 302 yards. His stat line was overshadowed by three interceptions, however, including one late turnover that dispelled all hope of a comeback.
Much of his success paralleled Kalen Ballage’s resurgence out of the backfield. Ballage touched the ball 24 total times for 167 all-purpose yards and three total touchdowns, including one through the air.
Given the fact that Richard was unavailable for the game, Nick Ralston (who’s third at the position on the depth chart) got some extra work. He carried the ball 10 times for 54 yards and finished as the team’s second leading rusher.
The Sun Devils cut the Oregon lead to five with 6:39 remaining in the game, but Oregon continued to take advantage of ASU’s inconsistency on defense and answered all of its late touchdowns.
In the midst of a three-game losing streak, the Sun Devils will have a chance to get back on track in front of a home crowd on November 10 when Utah travels to Tempe for Arizona State’s last home game of the season.
The game will be one of ASU’s last three chances to win its sixth game of the season and, in the process, become bowl eligible – something that once felt like a foregone conclusion to many Sun Devil fans.