Coming in to Thursday’s “game of the century”, ASU knew they had one goal: stop the Oregon rush. If The Sun Devils could make Redshirt Freshman QB Marcus Mariota throw the ball, they would have a chance. They did not, and they lost. Oregon RB Kenjon Barner treated the Sun Devil defense like a turnstile, racking up yards on the ground with ease. Through the first quarter he rushed for 131 yards. That’s not the first half, first quarter. He finished with 143 and 3 touchdowns. Even Mariota got in on the rushing parade, racking up 135 and a touchdown. As a collective unit, Oregon rushed for 406 yards, compared to only 46 in the air.
There was not one play that decided the game, as Oregon was utterly dominant in all facets of the game. Any hope of a game-changer would drop with a Marion Grice pass on a 2nd and 3 at the Oregon 21-yard line early. ASU looked poised to match Oregon score-for-score when a perfect Kelly pass slipped through Grice’s fingers. That play was followed by a sack and a missed field goal, and Oregon went on to score a touchdown in each of their next 5 possessions.
If there is any justification for the defense’s absence, it is that their top defender, Junior DT Will Sutton took an early exit form the game. After forcing a fumble on the Ducks’ second play from scrimmage, Sutton fell to the ground grasping his right leg and was unable to leave the field on his own power.
On the very next drive, Barner ran on 2nd and 10 right up the middle, past Sutton’s replacement Jake Sheffield and all the way to the end zone for a 71-yard touchdown run. It can only be speculated what would happen had Sutton played, but Oregon made the most of his departure. In addition, there was virtually no pressure on Mariota, which Sutton would have provided. If Sutton is to miss an extended period of time, it will be catastrophic to ASU going forward.
Going forward, ASU needs to build off their momentum that they gathered late in the game. They were able to score two touchdowns and give the team the tiniest iota of life. They outscored Oregon 14-0 in the second half, but it was far too late, and against a team on cruise control. Next week they face an easier, albeit still tough opponent in UCLA at home. Tonight, the Devils were blacked out by the Ducks. Final score: Oregon 43, ASU 21.