Arizona State will take a trip up to Corvallis this Saturday to take on one of the Pac-12 North's consistent darling, the Oregon State Beavers. Head coach Mike Riley has done a great job in his tenure with Oregon State, having piled up three 9-win seasons and one 10-win campaign in a Pac-12 conference dominated by Oregon and USC.
And RIley's success in Corvallis has been accompanied with good long-distance matchups between the Beavers and Sun Devils. Under Riley, who left Oregon State in 1998 after two seasons at the helm before returning to Corvallis in 2003, sits at 6-7 in his 13 games against Arizona State. The Sun Devils have a much wider margin of success against Oregon State all-time, holding a 27-12-1 advantage in the schools' history as Pac-10 and Pac-12 foes.
Heading into Saturday night's showdown in Corvallis, the circumstances surrounding the game are awfully similar for the Sun Devils to last year's matchup between the two schools. Arizona State is riding a five game winning streak and with three conference games left in the regular season, the Sun Devils are in position to repeat as Pac-12 South champions. If Arizona State beats the Beavers and wins at home next week against Washington State, it'll likely set up a play-in game to the Pac-12 Championship when the Sun Devils attempt defend the Territorial Cup in Tucson against Arizona.
Parallel to this season, the Sun Devils came into the 2013 Oregon State game riding a monumental wave of momentum. Four straight wins had Arizona State at 7-2 and peaking, with their sights on clinching the Pac-12 South title. A victory over the Beavers in Sun Devil Stadium would set up a Pac-12 South title game of sorts the following week at the Rose Bowl, where UCLA was slated to host Arizona State.
Unlike this year's 4-5 Beavers, the 2013 Oregon State team came into Tempe with a 6-3 record. However, Riley's Beavers had dropped their last two games, losing both of their home games against No. 8 Stanford and USC. Having won six straight games against non-ranked foes after dropping its season opener to FCS school Eastern Washington, Oregon State was beginning to be exposed as a team not quite as good as its record would indicate.
Receiving the opening kickoff, redshirt junior Taylor Kelly drove the Sun Devils 75 yards down the field in 9 plays, completing four passes to Jaelen Strong on the drive for 66 yards. It would be Marion Grice who would get the touchdown however, as the senior running back plunged in for a one-yard score and 7-0 Sun Devil lead. Arizona State immediately did a strong job of shutting down the potent Oregon State passing attack, as star quarterback Sean Mannion was under duress all night. Mannion's first turnover of the evening came late in the first quarter, when a 4th and 1 prayer down the field was met with a Robert Nelson interception and the Sun Devils took over on their own 15. Arizona State orchestrated another scoring drive, as Grice's 40-yard run served as the catalyst for an 8-yard D.J. Foster touchdown scamper. Foster's score was followed by a blocked extra point, but the Sun Devils led 13-0 at the conclusion of the first quarter.
Arizona State continued to stymie Mannion in the second quarter, and the Sun Devil offense took advantage en route to extending their lead. However, it was the special teams that gave the offense its opportunity, as Nelson extended the Sun Devils' drive, falling on a Brandin Cooks fumble of Arizona State's punt. Nelson recovered the ball at Oregon State's 15-yard line, setting up Grice 1-yard score to up the lead to 20-0. Damarious Randall picked off Mannion later in the quarter, but Arizona State couldn't tack on any more points and after a Beavers field goal, the Sun Devils held a 20-3 halftime advantage.
Safety Alden Darby joined the pick parade of Mannion, intercepting the Oregon State quarterback to bring Oregon State's first drive of the second half to a close. While maintaining its control over the Beavers attack, Arizona State's offense hit a brick wall in the third quarter. The Sun Devils embarked on three offensive series in the third quarter and all three ended in punts, allowing Oregon State to climb within ten points on Mannion's 6-yard touchdown pass.
Arizona State's offense managed to produce a field goal in the fourth quarter to put themselves up 23-10, but the high-flying Oregon State offense had begun to click and fans in Sun Devil Stadium were nervous. But as they had done all night, the Arizona State defense made a game-changing play, and who else to continue Mannion's dreadful night than the man who started it? On the first play of Oregon State's first drive after the Sun Devil field goal, Robert Nelson picked off Mannion and strutted 15 yards into the end zone for the clinching touchdown. Oregon State would score another touchdown but it'd be in vain as the Sun Devils walked away with a 30-17 victory, having clinched the right to play for the Pac-12 South title.