Arizona State reports card: Sun Devils struggle in all facets in loss to Oregon State
The Arizona State Sun Devils rounded out their home schedule with a 31-7 Pac-12 loss to No. 23 Oregon State on Saturday afternoon.
The game was tied 7-7 early and the Sun Devils only trailed 14-7 at the half. However, they failed to muster enough of an offense to challenge the injury-plagued Beavers who outscored them 14-0 in the third quarter and coasted from there. Interim coach Shaun Aguano's team dropped to 3-8 for the first time since 1994 when it had that same record under Bruce Snyder.
"We played a very disappointing game in all phases of the game," Aguano said. "Our kids still played, and they played hard, but it was disappointing on all sides. We couldn't, from a defensive standpoint, stop them. From an offensive standpoint, we couldn't get anything going and we had to play catch up. It was just a huge disappointment."
It marked the sixth game against a nationally ranked opponent for ASU, with the lone victory being a 45-38 win over Washington five weeks ago.
The Sun Devils only managed 276 yards on 57 plays (4.8 ypp) for their third-worst yardage total on the season. The only worse games come against Stanford (227) and Utah( 261). The 7 points also marked the fewest in any game this season. ASU had 154 yards rushing with senior Xazavian Valladay managing 109 on 13 carries for his the seventh game in which he has rushed for more than 100 yards. That showing also boosted him over 1,000 yards in a single season for the third time, the first two of those seasons coming at Wyoming, the school from which he transferred. He scored ASU's lone touchdown on an 11-yard run for his team-high 14th rushing touchdown of the season. QB Trenton Bourguet completed 20 of 32 passes but that only amounted to 122 yards. He was under constant pressure and didn't have a lot of time to look deep. The offensive line, missing three starters due to injury, gave up just one sack but didn't hold up well for the balance of the day. The Sun Devils were called for just four penalties but two of those were on the offensive line and one negated a 20-yard passing gain that took the ball into the red zone. The Sun Devils got nothing out of that drive and ended up punting. ASU converted only 5 of 14 third downs and 2 of 4 fourth downs. It was the Beavers finishing with a sizable advantage in time of possession 34:17 to 25:43. ASU got into the red zone just twice on the day, once getting its lone score and missing a field goal on the other trip.
It was another poor performance for the Sun Devils, who gave up 443 yards on 66 plays (6.7 ypp), evenly split between the rush (222) and the pass (221). Damien Martinez rushed for 138 yards and two touchdowns and Ben Gulbranson, subbing for the injured Chance Nolan, threw for 188 and ran for 36. There were a lot of issues — missed tackles, blown coverages, missed assignments. The most notable example of that coming early when Gulbranson threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jack Velling, who didn't have a defender within 15 yards of him. The Sun Devils were lucky to give up just 31 points. It could have been worse as the Beavers missed two field goals. Oregon State converted 5 of 11 third downs as well as the only fourth down it attempted. S Khoury Bethley had a team-high nine tackles while LB Kyle Soelle had seven. There were two sacks, one by Merlin Robertson and one by Omarr Norman Lott, but the Sun Devils had just one breakup and two quarterback hurries. For the second straight week ASU did not force a turnover.
This is an area that had been pretty solid most of the season, but not so this time. The bright spot was punter Eddie Czaplicki who averaged 50.5 yards on four kicks with one touchback. He also handled kickoff duties. True freshman Carter Brown had one field goal attempt and missed from 29 yards, the ball striking the upright. When ASU scored its lone touchdown it was Jace Feely, not Brown, called upon for the PAT kick. It was the first PAT try of the season for Feely. Brown is now 11-for-14 on the season on field goal tries. There was a crucial mistake on the return unit in the fourth quarter as D.J. Taylor muffed a punt return and it was recovered by the Beavers at the ASU 11 The Sun Devils were lucky the Beavers didn't fully capitalize, settling for a field goal that made it 31-7. ASU had just one kick return with Daniyel Ngata getting 19 yards on that. ASU's coverage teams did not give up big yardage with the Beavers totaling nine yards on its lone kickoff return and 35 yards on three punt returns.
There was reason to believe this might be a closer game because Oregon State was playing without at least six starters and had others not at full strength after a physical game against California the previous week. Sill the Beavers pretty much had their way. The Sun Devils didn't seem to make any adjustments at the half that were able to turn their fortunes around, particularly on defense. The Sun Devils went on fourth down four times with some calls good, particularly late when the Sun Devils were playing catch up. There was a fourth-and-9 that proved costly though because it backfired, turning a 21-7 deficit into a 28-7.
The most notable change was at center as redshirt sophomore Ben Bray replaced the injured Ben Scott. It marked the first career start for Bray, a local out of Red Mountain. It also snapped a team-high streak of 27 straight starts for Scott which dated back to last season. The absence of Scott also meant ASU was missing three starters on the offensive line with LG LaDarius Henderson (hand) out for the fifth straight game. The most veteran player in the lineup was senior linebacker Merlin Robertson who was making his 48th start — third most in school history behind Chase Lucas (49) and Dexter Davis (50). The game marked the last at Sun Devil Stadium for 16 athletes, who were honored before the contest as part of "Senior Day." Ten of those players were in the starting lineup.
The Sun Devils conclude the season with the Territorial Cup game against rival Arizona (4-7, 2-6) at 1 p.m. Friday in Tucson. The Wildcats (4-7, 2-6) were eliminated from bowl contention after a 31-20 loss to Washington State on Saturday afternoon.
ASU has won the showdown the last five years, including a 38-15 win last season in Tempe. The largest margin of victory in the series came in the 2020 game, also in Tucson and won by ASU 70-7.