It took an upset win over the sixth-best team in the country to appreciate just how good the Arizona State football team can be.
On paper, ASU is basically a .500 team (6-5). But in reality they are much better than their record indicates. The 31-28 win over the No. 6 Oregon Ducks last Saturday showed what kind of game the Devils are capable of playing.
And they’ve been in every game they’ve played. Three of the five losses were by a combined total of nine points. The one-point loss to Oregon State two games ago could have easily gone into overtime, with a chance to tie the game and maybe go on to win it. But coach Herm Edwards chose to go for two points following the Devils’ final touchdown, a gutsy call by a coach who was willing to roll the dice to get the win and break a three-game losing streak.
In the three-point loss to Colorado (31-34), the Devils had already rolled up three straight wins to start the season, including a victory over then-No. 18 Michigan State. Against the Buffaloes, the Devils climbed out of a 14-0 hole, exchanged the lead four times, and freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels shredded the Buffaloes’ secondary for 345 yards.
In the five-point loss to USC (26-31), ASU rallied from a 21-point deficit and came up just short of the winning score, due to a late-game turnover that killed what could have been the game-winning drive.
Bottom line: ASU could be heading into the final game on the schedule tomorrow, against rival University of Arizona, with an impressive 9-2 record and getting a good look from a major bowl. Then, the upset win over Oregon would likely have elevated them to a high national ranking.
As it is, though, the Oregon win provides huge momentum going into tomorrow’s game with the Wildcats. Their confidence has to be at an all-time high – especially after suffering through a frustrating four-game losing streak.
ASU’s biggest problem all season long has been the inability to put together a complete game, playing solid ball for four quarters. That finally materialized against the Ducks.
The Devils took a 10-3 lead into the second half, held the Ducks scoreless in the third quarter, and then held off an Oregon surge in the final frame to maintain the lead and put a signature win for Edwards into the history books.
Oregon used a couple of quick scores in the fourth to pull within three points of the Devils with just under six minutes to play, but an 81-yard TD pass from Daniels to Brandon Aiyuk sealed the win and gave ASU its third win over a ranked team this season.
Daniels’ 408 yards through the air puts him at the top of the all-time list for true freshmen. He eclipsed the 2,273 yards that Rudy Carpenter put up in 2005 and gives him 2,644 yards, with the season finale and a probable bowl game to pad his lead. The Oregon game marked the fifth time this season that the freshman has thrown for 300 or more yards.
Tomorrow’s annual Territorial Cup game against the Wildcats (4-7, 2-6) will be played in Tempe. Arizona is coming into the contest on a six-game losing streak, while the Sun Devils are riding high off the most significant win during Edwards’ two seasons at ASU.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)