It was a tale of two halves for Arizona State on Saturday night, and despite a furious rally, their battle with Missouri ended in a heartbreaking 24-20 loss. Like they had so many times in year's past, the Sun Devils were their own worst enemy, committing four turnovers and making several costly special teams miscues.
The night started promisingly enough for the Sun Devils. Arizona State appeared to catch a big break when Tigers' starting quarterback James Franklin was ruled out of the game, resulting in Corbin Berkstresser's first career start.
Early on, the Sun Devil offense struggled mightily. The Sun Devils offensive line was overmatched by the Missouri defensive front. Quarterback Taylor Kelly was harassed when he dropped back to pass, and the running game, outside of a few Kelly runs, was shut down. The Sun Devil wide receivers did the team no favors, with three first half drops.
After allowing a field goal on the opening drive, ASU forced a punt on the Tigers' second possession, but Jamal Miles fumbled the ball. Four plays later, Berkstresser ran it in from six yards for the touchdown.
The special teams woes continued in the second quarter. Missouri ran a reverse on a great Josh Hubner punt, and E.J. Gaines ran it 44 yards to the Sun Devil 18 yards line. Kendial Lawrence would run it in four plays later for a 17-0, and the rout seemed to be on in Columbia.
However, the Devils responded late in the half. After being held to 27 yards until late in the first half, Kelly used short passes as the catalyst of ASU's first good drive. He then tossed a screen to DJ Foster, who got a key block from Rashad Ross to run 33 yards for a face-saving touchdown and a reduced 17-7 halftime deficit.
Each team suffered special teams issues in the third quarter. Missouri missed a field goal and later, Easton Wahlstrom launched a high snap to Hubner, who bobbled the ball, and was forced to make a desperation kick under pressure for just 11 yards.
Using that field position, Missouri soon moved to the Sun Devil one-yard line, where Lawrence scored again. to make it a 24-7 game.
All looked lost. But thankfully, another special teams blunder who help ASU.
A bad snap went through the hands of Missouri punter Trey Barrow resulted in a turnover on downs and ASU took over at the 36 of the Tigers. Facing a third and 10 from the Tiger 13, Kelly made a great play, scrambling to his right, stiff arming a pass rusher, and finding Marion Grice for a huge 11-yard game. That was ASU's first third down conversion of the game. Grice punched it in for the touchdown on the next play.
With the momentum in their favor, the Sun Devil defense forced a three and out and Kelly went back to work. On another third and 10, Kelly was again flushed from the pocket and just inches from the sideline, lofted a pass to a streaking Grice, who made a great leaping catch for a 34-yard gain. Rashad Ross, who had three prior drops, caught a 16-yard pass to the Tiger nine on the next play, before Grice took it the rest of the way for the Sun Devil touchdown.
However, holder Ryan Woods dropped the snap on the extra point, and ASU was only able to cut the margin to 24-20. It would prove to be an exceedingly costly blunder.
The ensuing Missouri drive looked to capitalize. They moved the ball 44 yards in 12 plays before Deveron Carr defused a third down pass, forcing a field goal. Thankfully for ASU, Andrew Baggett missed his third field goal of the day, keeping it 24-20.
It didn't take long for the Sun Devil offense to march down the field. A 24-yard leaping catch by Coyle preceeded a 15-yard facemask and defensive pass interference penalty on Missouri to get ASU in the redzone. Perhaps keeping karma in balance, ASU got back-to-back false start penalties to make it a first and goal at the 18. Kelly then hit Miles for 17 to take it to the one. However, two stuffed runs by Eubank forced a fourth and goal. Kelly rolled out to his right , but his pass was incomplete to Ozier.
As they had all game long, the Sun Devil defense held firm, and Osahon Irbaor swatted a third down pass. Miles returned the punt 25 yards down to the Missouri 20. It was now of never for ASU.
It was never.
After two plays went no where, Kelly overthrew his target in the endzone and was intercepted by Kenronte Walker to seal the Tigers' 24-20 win.