Download Full Image
Arizona State vowed to learn a lesson from its disheartening loss to Illinois two weeks earlier.
It sure seemed to take a while to sink in.
Laboring again the week after an impressive win, the 25th-ranked Sun Devils had three of their four turnovers in the first quarter before pulling away for a 35-20 victory over winless Oregon State on Saturday night behind Cameron Marshall's two wrecking-ball touchdowns.
"I wasn't surprised one bit, unfortunately," Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said. "I've been around this game a lot of years and sometimes it just happens; you come off a big win and regardless of what you say or do, sometimes you just come out flat."
Coming off a resounding win over nemesis Southern California - the Trojans had beaten them the 11 previous games - the Sun Devils (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12) were out of sorts against Oregon State, turning it over on their first three possessions to fall into a 13-0 hole.
Unlike two weeks before, when Arizona State fell flat against unranked Illinois on the heels of a win over then-No. 21 Missouri, the Sun Devils fought their way back.
Brock Osweiler overcame a miserable start - two interceptions and a fumble in the first three possessions - to throw both of his touchdown passes in the first half.
Jamal Miles followed with Arizona State's first punt return for a touchdown since 2005 on his way to 249 total yards. Marshall closed it out, spoiling any hope of the Beavers making a comeback by bulling through a team's worth of tacklers on touchdown runs of 37 and 8 yards after Oregon State pulled within one.
Fighting off a winless team with road games Utah and Oregon coming up next, yes, the Sun Devils are feeling relieved.
"We've shown that we can play with the best of them this season, but sometimes in football games there's difficult times, and tonight this football team showed a lot of character to play through that," said Osweiler, who finished 24 for 37 for 258 yards while accounting for all of Arizona State's turnovers. "Obviously, we can't win if we keep doing that."
Oregon State (0-4, 0-2) had Arizona State on the ropes early, thanks to two interceptions by Jordan Poyer, and put constant pressure on Osweiler, sacking him four times. The Beavers rallied after the Sun Devils tried to pull away, getting within one on James Rodgers' 5-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter.
Oregon State just couldn't pull it off again in the end, unable to tackle Marshall on his two touchdown runs or overcome Sean Mannion's four interceptions to fall just short and prolong its worst start since 1996.
"Under these circumstances, a tough loss, you really can't feel good about too much," said Mannion, who set school records for completions and attempts while throwing for 341 yards and a touchdown on 40-of-66 passing.
Arizona State was hoping to avoid another letdown after dropping out of the rankings following the loss to Missouri.
Back in the polls after the win over USC, the Sun Devils again looked flat against an 18-point underdog.
Osweiler was picked off by Poyer on the Sun Devils' first drive, then lost a fumble scrambling from pressure on the second. Arizona State's defense did its best to make up for the two miscues, holding Oregon State to field goals of 34 and 21 yards by Trevor Romaine.
The Sun Devils couldn't stop Oregon State after Poyer came up with his second pick; Terron Ward put the Beavers up 13-0 by breaking three tackles on his way to a 10-yard touchdown run.
Arizona State finally found some life early in the second quarter, with Osweiler hitting A.J. Pickens for his first career TD, a 17-yarder on a crossing route that cut Oregon State's lead to 13-7.
Osweiler then hit Gerell Robinson on a 24-yard touchdown pass midway through the second quarter on a drive that started with Poyer's muffed punt and included a fumble by Marshall that was overturned by video review.
Miles followed with a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown, juking two defenders at the point of contact before bursting up the middle to put Arizona State up 21-13 at halftime.
"At the half, I was frustrated because it didn't have to be like that," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. "We had given them some stuff in that first half that got them not only back in it, but the lead. I just wanted the team to know that what Arizona State had gotten was kind of a gift from us."
Seemingly in control, the Sun Devils still weren't done with the mistakes.
Osweiler opened the second half by throwing into triple coverage and Oregon State's Anthony Watkins snatched it, returning the interception 40 yards to the 11. Mannion threw on the run to hit Rodgers on a 5-yard touchdown pass two plays later, pulling Oregon State to 21-20.
That was it for the Beavers, though.
Marshall answered with a did-he-just-do-that touchdown, bouncing off and dragging at least five tacklers on the way to a 37-yard score. He capped it off by bulling through Oregon State's defense again on the next drive, scoring from 8 yards out to make it 35-20 and send the Sun Devils to a tougher-than-expected win.
"It felt good," said Marshall, who had 80 yards on 14 carries. "I just kept moving my feet and kept getting guys to bounce off me until I got into the end zone."
It's a good thing for the Sun Devils that he did.