ASU vs. Oregon State: Sun Devils hold 20-3 halftime advantage

Gene Sweeney Jr.

The Arizona State Sun Devils looked strong in the first half against Oregon State.

The Sun Devils have dominated at home all season, and that didn't change in the first half of their Saturday night showdown against Oregon State. Arizona State holds a 20-3 halftime lead after capitalizing on three first half turnovers from the Beavers.

Arizona State opened the game on offense after winning the coin toss and electing to receive. Todd Graham has mentioned how he's only willing to take the football if he knows his offense will score, and the Sun Devils made Graham a believer.

Taylor Kelly and Jaelen Strong marched the offense right down the field and connected on four separate occasions including a 29-yard catch that helped push the Sun Devils into the red zone. Running back Marion Grice finished off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run for his 19th touchdown of the season.

The Sun Devil defense hit the field with authority and forced its sixth straight three-and-out. Arizona State picked up right where it left off in Utah as Will Sutton and company finished the game with five consecutive three-and-outs to help solidify the late win.

The offense started on the Beavers' 40-yard line, but Kelly and Co. were on the field for just a single play as the Sun Devil gunslinger tossed an interception on a deep pass down the middle intended for Rick Smith.

Oregon State couldn't take advantage of the turnover, and punted the ball back to the Sun Devils after picking up a first down. Though Kelly looked great on the Sun Devils' first drive, he threw his second interception of the game on the next series as Rashaad Reynolds picked him off around midfield.

The Beavers offense still lacked rhythm, but Mike Riley elected to go for it on fourth and short in Sun Devil territory and instead of sticking to the ground game, he let Mannion air it out. Mannion's ensuing pass was intercepted by Robert Nelson, who should have batted the ball down as the Sun Devils actually lost about 20 yards of field position when Nelson caught Mannion's pass.

Kelly was able to shrug off his troubles and engineer another Sun Devil scoring drive when Arizona State took over. A series of short and intermediate passes helped set up a 40-yard rush from Marion Grice that gave the Sun Devils the ball inside the 10-yard line. With the entire defense expecting Grice to carry the football in the red zone, Arizona State gave the ball to D.J. Foster who cut through the middle of the defense for an 8-yard scoring run.

The Sun Devils took a 13-0 lead on the touchdown and Zane Gonzalez had his extra point blocked to keep Arizona State from taking a true two-touchdown lead.

Arizona State continued to build upon its lead when the second quarter rolled around. After a drive stalled and the Sun Devils were forced to punt, Oregon State returner Brandin Cooks muffed the punt and Robert Nelson recovered inside the red zone.

A few plays later, the Sun Devils were inside the 1-yard line and they decided to impose their will on the Beavers. With Marion Grice lined up at tailback, Arizona State once again gave the ball to its leading scorer and he had no trouble finding the end zone for his 20th touchdown of the season.

The Beavers began to string a nice drive together on their next series as Mannion found Cooks for a 42-yard completion up the left sideline. But when Mannion looked for Cooks again, his pass was overthrown and intercepted by Sun Devil safety Damarious Randall.

Arizona State couldn't muster a scoring drive and Oregon State took over with just under two minutes left to play in the half. The Beavers displayed excellent clock management and methodically drove the ball inside the sun Devil 10-yard line with just 20 seconds left in the half.

With five seconds left to play, the Beavers faced a third and goal situation and took a gamble by throwing a swing pass out of the backfield. The Sun Devils snuffed the play out and Oregon State coach Mike Riley called his third and final timeout with just one second left on the clock.

That timeout allowed Oregon State to get on the board with a field goal to cut its deficit to 17 heading into halftime. The Beavers will get the ball out of the break and they'll hope to improve upon the 127 yards of offense they mustered in the first half.

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