TEMPE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 09: Fans of the Arizona State Sun Devils cheer before the college football game against the Missouri Tigers at Sun Devil Stadium on September 9, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Wide receiver Aaron Pflugrad had a game for the ages against the Missouri Tigers in ASU's 37-30 overtime win. The senior had 180 receiving yards and two touchdowns on eight receptions, paving the wave for the Sun Devils with over a third of the team's offensive production (492 total yards). In a game that was defined by its momentum shifts, Pflugrad seemed to be the spark for the Sun Devils every time.
His first score came midway through the second quarter, breaking a 10-10 tie and pumping the crowd up for the rest of the half. He managed to just outpace his defender and pocket a 60-yard bomb from quarterback Brock Osweiler. Pflugrad's score gave the Devils a six-point lead heading into halftime.
It was Pflugrad who came alive again in the second half at a time when ASU was stagnant. The Tigers came out of the half and hit two field goals within ten minutes, tying the game at 16 apiece. The Sun Devils needed to swing things back their way, and the result was a trick play that saw Jamal Miles hit Pflugrad for a 35-yard touchdown. Pflugrad's score sparked a 14-0 ASU run that lasted through the early part of the fourth quarter.
His third defining moment in Friday's game came in overtime. The Sun Devils had barely avoided defeat after surrendering 14 points to the Tigers in the fourth quarter, and the team desperately needed a score in the overtime session to bring back their momentum. After an incomplete pass to Mike Willie on first down and a three-yard rush by Cameron Marshall on second down, the Sun Devils faced 3rd and 7. ASU needed a first down to sustain the drive and expunge the memory of their fourth-quarter collapse from their minds. Pflugrad gave them just that, scooping up a 13-yard pass from Osweiler for his eighth and final reception of the day. He unfortunately had to leave the field with cramps, but his play set up Osweiler's 11-yard game-winning pass to Miles.
The Sun Devils can thank Pflugrad for their big win against No. 21 Missouri, the team's first victory against a ranked team in 11 tries. He made the difference on several occasions and has given ASU the opportunity to do something special this season. The Sun Devils will likely break into the AP Top 25 this week, and could see their stock rise quite a bit more with victories over upcoming foes Illinois and USC. The Sun Devils could be poised for a big season, and a few months from now we may all look back and realize how instrumental Pflugrad was on this Friday night in catalyzing the whole process.