Tempe -- In a game that seemed to be dominated by turnovers and penalties, Oregon persevered and…
Ducks Holds On To 42-31 Win
"Giving up the big plays," said Dennis Erickson. "We gave up way too many big plays on defense and it just really hurts in the first half. Then we started the second half and we had the turnovers, the fumble that gave them the go ahead in the second half and then all the interceptions that we had. There were a lot of things happening in that football game I haven't seen in a long time."
The Duck headman was very humble about the win and he clearly has admiration for the Sun Devils.
"That team (ASU) is a good football team, they could easily be 4-0 right now," said Chip Kelly after the tough contest. "That's what the league is all about. There is a lot of parity. We're 1-0 in the league right now and that's big for us."
The game was a seesaw affair that saw momentum switch back and forth. In the first quarter the Sun Devils scored first on a 53-yard run by Deantre Lewis but the Ducks answered back on a long run of their own by LaMichael James that covered 40 yards. The Ducks seemed to grab control of the game when John Boyett intercepted a soft-floating pass from Steven Threet and ran it back into the endzone. The good vibes for the Ducks didn't last long as Threet sliced up the Duck defenders and led two scoring drives that found Mike Willie in the endzone after a 10-yard throw and Kerry Taylor scoring on a pass play cover 28 yards. Field goal kicker Thomas Webber added a 34-yard field goal With 3:36 left in the half it looked like Oregon might be headed home knocked out of the Top-10 (Ducks currently ranked No. 5.) But in just 93 seconds Oregon Darron Thomas it Jeffery Maehl for 12-yard scoring play then on the next possession ran the ball into the endzone from 4-yards out. Score at halftime, Oregon 28, ASU 14.
Threet had a big night finishing up with 387 yards passing on 30-of-53 passing, three touchdowns and four interceptions. In the first half he had 232 of those yards and two TDs but only one pick. At halftime the Ducks made some adjustment on Threet. In the second half, Oregon picked Threet off and also recovered three crucial fumbles.
"We had to get bodies on people," said senior linebacker Casey Matthews. "We let too many people run around (in the first half.) We just fixed it."
Thomas finished up the night throwing for 260 yards on 19-of-33, two touchdowns but gave up one interception. Oregon went ahead 35-24 in the third quarter when Thomas faked everybody out and hit Josh Huff on a long 61-yard explosion play. It looked like the party was over later on in the third quarter when Boseko Lokombo picked up an errant lateral and ran it back 32 yards for a score.
However, the Sun Devils were not finished and scored 2:25 left in the third on a 15-yard pass from Threet to Willie to cut the score to 42-31 after the PAT.
The fourth quarter seemed to drag on with miscues, reviews and TV commercials. It was clear the teams were becoming more fatigued but perhaps the hero of the final stanza was Oregon's punter Jackson Rice, who consistently booted the ball well all night. Especially the final quarter when the Ducks needed to keep the Sun Devils as far away from the goal line as possible. Rice had a total of 11 punts that averaged 46.2 yards, with five landing inside the 20 and a long of 56. One of his punts was out the Duck endzone.
"I had my ups and downs out there today," said Rice, "but I was really able to find my rhythm at the end when it was most needed."
Defensively, the Ducks played a lot of player in the heat of the desert. Boyett was the leading tackler with 11 tackles (nine solos) and the interception. Spencer Paysinger had eight tackles and a forced fumble. Terrell Turner had six tackles (five solos) and was given credit of a sack and a half. Brandon Bair also had a sack as did Lokombo and Eddie Pleasant was given the other half sack. Matthews recorded six tackles (four solos) and had an interception and recovered a fumble that would likely have been returned for a touchdown, but the play was called dead. The officials determined that ASU's Lewis had fumbled the ball when he awkwardly went down after making a pass reception. Although Matthews picked the ball up and ran toward the ASU goal line, the officials blew the play dead. After reviewing the play, Oregon given possession of the ball.
"I'm very proud how my players performed," said Defensive Coordinator Nick Aliotti. "Anytime you can get a win on the road it is good."
ASU finished the game with 597 yards of total offensive including 210 rushing and 387 passing. ASU held the advantage in time of possession 34:26 to 25:26. Oregon had 405 yards of total offense (145 rushing and 260 passing.) The Ducks lost one fumble on a botched return.
The mood of the Ducks following the game was relief that they had managed to get out of town with a win but they also recognized that there is plenty of work for them to do next week. One thing they would like to clean up is the number of penalties. Oregon was flagged eight times for 82 yards. ASU was caught nine times for 90 yards. Part of the reason for penalties was that the Ducks play only six players on the offensive line against the Sun Devils with starters Jordon Holmes, Bo Thran, C.E. Kaiser, Mark Asper and Carson York. Ramson Golposhin was the only other Duck offensive lineman to play.
The Ducks will need to fix those problems, as next week they will face the only team to defeat them in conference play – Stanford.
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