ASU falls 3 pts short of making history against Notre Dame

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                </div>Close…but no cigar. Arizona State’s football team came within one minute and eight seconds of becoming the first team in college football history to beat USC and Notre Dame in […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Close…but no cigar.

Arizona State’s football team came within one minute and eight seconds of becoming the first team in college football history to beat USC and Notre Dame in back-to-back games.

When Dan Fox intercepted a Taylor Kelly pass with 1:08 remaining in last night’s game and returned it 14 yards for a touchdown, the Irish were already ahead, 30-27.  The 10-point advantage off the pick six was just too much for the Sun Devils to overcome, despite scoring one last touchdown with 11 ticks left on the clock, and the 37-34 loss dropped the Devils to 3-2 on the season.

After the first quarter, it didn’t seem there was any way these two teams would be able to put a combined 71 points on the board.  Notre Dame couldn’t score and even missed a field goal, and ASU managed just a couple of field goals in front of a crowd of fans at Texas Stadium that had expected much more in this latest edition of the Shamrock Series.

And this was an ASU team that put up 62 points against USC the week before.  Go figure.

It wasn’t until a few minutes remained before halftime before there was any real excitement to breathe some life into what was turning into a real yawner.  And, when it did start, it made up for lost time.

The 4-2 Fighting Irish, which had fallen out of the national rankings this week, scored off a 72-yard drive with 3:35 left in the half to go up 7-6.  ASU, which just entered the rankings at No. 22, responded with a gutsy call on fourth-and-four 32 yards away from the end zone.  Kelly hit Jaelen Strong in stride with pinpoint accuracy and Strong crossed the goal line with an Irish defender draped all over him to re-take the lead.  The redshirt sophomore wide receiver would finish the night with a team-high 136 yards in receptions, his fourth consecutive game with 100-plus yards.

But Notre Dame, which was the designated home team for the game in Texas, marched back down the field, taking seven plays to cover 71 yards and score with 10 seconds left to go into the locker room with a 14-13 lead.

ASU’s second-year head coach Todd Graham said at halftime that he felt his team didn’t play fast enough in the first half and would need to speed the game up a little in the second half to get up to the 80-plus plays he likes to see each game. There was a slight bump to 38 plays in the second half, but the Notre Dame defense just wasn’t going to let ASU do what it wanted.  They kept the pressure on Kelly all night long, recording six sacks and hurrying countless pass attempts.

Both teams made adjustments at halftime and ASU struggled offensively throughout the third quarter, working through six possessions without finding the goal line.  At the same time, however, Notre Dame added a field goal and another score to run the tally to 24-13 going into the final period.  The 53-yard field goal by Kyle Brindza tied a school record that was set 37 years ago.

However, the Devils wasted no time getting back into the game, scoring off an interception by Osahon Irabor just 14 seconds into the fourth quarter.  The 5’11’ cornerback ran the ball back 37 yards to make it 24-20 and then, six minutes later, Kelly found De’Marieya Nelson with a 21-yard pass to tie the game at 27-27.

But it was the next 10 Notre Dame points that doomed the Devils, despite the last-minute effort by Marion Grice, who scored off a 16-yard pass with 11 seconds left.  ASU had run out of time in its effort to secure what would have been one of the biggest victories in program history.

The game was not characteristic of the take-care-of-the-ball philosophy that Graham preaches.  ASU fumbled three times, losing it once, and was intercepted twice.

“It was difficult to swallow, turning the football over that many times,” Graham said in his post-game comments. “That was the difference in the game.  Can’t turn the football over three times against a good football team and win.”

Despite the two interceptions, Kelly threw for 362 yards on 33-of-47 passing and ran for another 51 yards.”

He was optimistic in looking ahead to the rest of the season:  “All of our goals are still open… to get to the Pac-12 championship and the Rose Bowl.  So we’ve got to come ready to work.  We have Colorado this week and then Washington.

“It’s Pac-12 game play now.”

(Photo: ASU Athletics)