With all the determination of a drowning man holding on to a floating piece of driftwood, the Arizona State football team held on to its winning record through seven periods of play last night.
But after four hours and three minutes, their hopes finally sank beneath the surface when a sophomore defensive back intercepted a Mike Bercovici pass to end the Sun Devils’ final drive in the third overtime period and wrap up a 61-55 Oregon victory.
And with the loss, any desperately thin hopes for a Pac-12 South title also sank as ASU tacked a third loss on to its conference record.
With four games left to play in the regular season, the Devils are now a .500 team with an overall 4-4 record, and underwater in the Pac-12 at 2-3 – and have few opportunities to correct that situation. They need to win half of those final games to even be bowl-eligible.
Left to play are the two Washington schools, Arizona, and California. The Wildcats are the only South Division team left on the schedule. Washington State is sitting in second place in the North and California is fourth.
Getting back to that winning record and six wins overall for bowl eligibility won’t be a walk in the park.
Last night’s game may have lost some viewers early since it didn’t wrap up until 11:40 p.m. local time. But those four hours were packed with a lot of football excitement. The Sun Devil offense piled up 742 yards of total offense, the highest total in almost 20 years. The ground game accounted for 344 of those yards as two running backs each rushed for more than 100 yards: Demario Richard with 135 yards and Kalen Ballage with 127.
But there was balance to this attack as Bercovici finished just two yards shy of hitting the 400-yard mark passing, completing 32 of his 53 pass attempts.
After the teams traded scoring through four quarters to end regulation at 41-41, there was plenty of excitement to spread out over three overtime periods.
Oregon stunned the Devils by scoring on the first play in overtime, but it didn’t turn out to be the knock-out punch. ASU was able to recover and tie it again at 48-48 when wide receiver Tim White scored on a two-yard pass play.
In the second overtime, it was ASU’s turn to draw first blood. Bercovici put together a couple of 25-yard runs, scoring on an 18-yard scramble on a third-down play. But the Ducks answered when their conference-leading running back Royce Freeman punched across a score from the one.
Oregon took its turn at scoring first in the third period on Bralon Addison’s 20-yard TD catch, but failed on the two-point conversion to make it 61-55. That gave the Devils an opportunity to win with a touchdown and PAT.
But the Sun Devils were out of comebacks. Bercovici’s final pass of the game was intercepted in the end zone.
“Our fans were incredible tonight. I know that was disappointing,” ASU’s fourth-year head coach Todd Graham told reporters after the game, paying particular tribute to the student section that hung around to cheer their team for their efforts as they exited into the tunnel.
“That one hurt as bad as any one I’ve had since I’ve been here.”
(Photo: ASU Athletics)