RECAP: Complete performance fuels ASU’s upset win over No. 24 Oregon
By Harley Yearout // Football Reporter for Blaze Sports
The Arizona State Sun Devils (2-2, 1-0) outlasted and upset the No. 24 Oregon Ducks (3-1, 0-1) by a score of 37-35 on Saturday night in Tempe.
It was freshman kicker Brandon Ruiz who knocked through the 41-yard field goal with 3:59 remaining in the game to give ASU a lead that it would not surrender.
“We needed a win,” Arizona State head coach Todd Graham said. “We needed a big win like this.”
Graham’s touch was evident in this win. He made some notably big, some would even say risky, coaching decisions early in the game.
One such play was in the first quarter when the ball was on the Oregon 42-yard line, and ASU was facing a fourth-and 2. Sun Devil redshirt junior quarterback Manny Wilkins found sophomore wide receiver N’Keal Harry for a 16-yard reception, and it would set up a 3-yard touchdown strike to Harry moments later to give ASU the 14-7 lead.
Graham gutsily called for an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff. The gamble paid off because ASU recovered, and pushed its lead to 17-7. The stolen position would prime Ruiz’s first of three field goals.
“It was so important to be aggressive like that,” Graham said of the decision.
Despite missing senior linebacker Koron Crump due to injury, the Sun Devils were strong defensively.
ASU held Oregon to just 27 plays offensively in the first half.
“We played a hell of a game on defense,” Wilkins said.
The Ducks senior running back Royce Freeman came into Saturday’s game with at least 150 yards in every game this season. Tonight he totaled 81 yards on the ground.
Oregon’s has also racked up at least 42 points in the first half of each of its first three games this season, but tonight ASU held the Ducks to 35 points total. Couple that with the Ducks 1 for 11 on third downs proves just how efficient the Devils were on defense.
“That’s what we emphasized (all week in practice) was getting off the field on third down,” redshirt senior linebacker Alani Latu said.
It wasn’t just Arizona State’s defense that came to play tonight. The Sun Devils racked up 489 yards of offense too. Wilkins continued his stellar start to the year by throwing for 347 yards and a touchdown. He did some damage with his legs as well, adding 35 yards on the ground and two rushing touchdowns.
It was hard expect N’Keal Harry to top his 13 receptions for 148-yard game against Texas Tech last week coming into tonight but he did. Harry had a monster game, and finished with seven receptions for 170 yards and a touchdown.
“Him [Wilkins] and N’Keal have a feel for each other that’s really neat,” Graham said.
The connection sure set up a heck of a finish.
Harry ‘s biggest reception was on a third-and-27 as the third quarter was expiring. Harry won a one on one coverage battle by securing a jump ball for a 52-yard completion. The catch set up a Ruiz field goal that would extend the Sun Devils lead to 34-28 early in the fourth quarter.
“I just wanted to make sure I came down with it,” Harry said.
“50-50 balls to guys like N’Keal, they’re not 50-50 balls,” Wilkins said. “In my mind, they’re 100% balls.”
The Ducks would snag a one point lead on a 4-yard Herbert rushing TD with 6:41 left, but ASU would answer with a 11 play, 71 yard drive to set up the game winning Ruiz kick.
The Ducks would fail in multiple attempts to counter. Oregon squandered two possessions in the last three minutes of the game.
The win for ASU marked the first time ASU defeated Oregon since 2004.
The Sun Devils continue PAC-12 play next week against Stanford. Kickoff is set at 1 p.m. Saturday in Palo Alto, California.
Harley Yearout is a reporter for Blaze Sports. You can reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow Harley on Twitter @HarleyYearout