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October 26, 2008

Sun Devils flattened by Ducks

The start of the Arizona State football team's "new season" looked a lot like its old one.

In the two weeks leading up to ASU's match up against Oregon, the Sun Devils talked about wiping the slate clean and starting over for the second half of the season.

There was even talk about winning the final six games of the year and finishing with a respectable 8-4 record.

But when the scoreboard at Sun Devil Stadium read 0:00, and Oregon had thoroughly beaten ASU 54-20, those thoughts had vanished.

Coach Dennis Erickson called the game "inexcusable."

"They kicked our rear ends pretty much in all aspects of the game," Erickson said. "To play at home like that, regardless of how good of a team they were, is embarrassing to me and I know embarrassing to our team.

"We didn't play very well."

The players and coaches did not think the game would turn out like this.

The team practiced well in the two weeks leading up to Saturday's game and ASU thought it had a good game plan.

The problem was, as it has been for the past five games, lack of execution.

"Going into that game I really thought we were prepared," Erickson said. "I thought we would play much better than we played… We didn't come out and perform like I thought we would.

"We just didn't execute."

Now the Sun Devils find themselves at 2-5 and 1-3 in the Pac-10, somewhere they never thought they would be.

"I was actually surprised that we are 2-5 right now," said wide receiver Mike Jones, who finished the game with six catches for 50 yards and a touchdown. "I'm surprised that we can only score 20 points in [two] weeks. I thought we were going to have a great offense.

"It's very disappointing. I get embarrassed sometimes when we go out there and we get outscored like we just did. It's very frustrating."

And while the ASU offense was inept all night, the defense was only serviceable at best and the special teams were far from special.

Oregon racked up 537 yards compared to the Sun Devils' 333.

ASU committed three turnovers and the defense had trouble tackling all game.

"You've really got to soak this in," linebacker Mike Nixon said. "You've got to feel the bad feeling. It feels terrible right now. We've got to let this soak in. We can't just brush it off. We've got to know what it feels like to get embarrassed at home.

"Tomorrow we have to come back. We have to learn from our mistakes. And after that it's all Oregon State."

The ASU offense has seemingly regressed every week throughout the team's losing streak, and Saturday against Oregon was no different.

Quarterback Rudy Carpenter had a rough outing, completing 17 of his 33 pass attempts for 146 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The two picks came on ASU's second and third possessions of the game.

"That [ankle] continues to bother him," Erickson said of Carpenter. "That's something he's going to struggle with. He has trouble pushing and throwing off of it. But really he practiced pretty well during the week so I don't think it was all injury."

The Sun Devils struggled to run the ball too.

Running back Keegan Herring got his first start of the season and carried the ball eight times for 15 yards.

Perhaps the only bright spot for ASU's offense was true freshman Ryan Bass, who ran the ball 10 times for 56 yards, all in the second half.

Defensively, ASU allowed a quick touchdown on the Ducks' first possession and Oregon didn't look back.

Erickson said his team underestimated Oregon's speed, and ASU had trouble tackling all night.

"To beat a team like that you really have to eliminate the big play," Nixon said. "We obviously we didn't do that tonight."

Even the special teams did not execute well.

Kicker Thomas Weber missed an extra point and ASU only averaged 34.5 yards on its six punts.

Oregon's first touchdown came less than three minutes into the game on a 43-yard run by running back Jeremiah Johnson who was untouched on his way to the end zone.

Then following a Carpenter interception, linebacker Morris Wooten recovered a fumble on the Oregon 8-yard line. But Carpenter threw another pick just three plays later to end the scoring threat.

The Ducks' next score came near the end of the first quarter on a 3-yard run by quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.

Masoli, who is very mobile, torched ASU all night. He finished the game with 147 passing yards and one touchdown while also leading the Ducks in rushing with 85 yards.

"He's perfect for that offense," Nixon said of Masoli. "He's able to run the ball and make the passes he needs to make. We were hoping to come into the game and get into a situation where we were going to make him throw it a little more and take away what they're so good at which is running the ball."

Oregon rushed for 304 yards against ASU.

The Sun Devils didn't get on the scoreboard until Carpenter got into the end zone on a quarterback sneak with 2:01 left in the first half. However, Weber missed the extra point, which made the score 23-6 at the time.

Carpenter's touchdown run was set up by a 24-yard interception return by Wooten who brought the ball back to the Oregon 1-yard line following the pick.

Oregon added two more touchdowns, one on a 6-yard run by Johnson and the other on a 19-yard run by LeGarrette Blount, before ASU scored next score, a 15-yard pass from Carpenter to Jones.

Oregon added another touchdown before the third quarter ended, making the score 44-13 heading into the fourth quarter.

ASU backup quarterback Danny Sullivan saw some playing time in the fourth quarter and he was seven-for-12 for 80 yards and one touchdown.

His touchdown came on a 4-yard pass to wide receiver T.J. Simpson.


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