Arizona State's eligibility for the College Football Playoff ran dry on Saturday, as the Sun Devils lost on the road at Oregon State. The loss came as a shock to many Sun Devil fans, and there aren't many positives to be found in the defeat. Still, there were a couple of Sun Devils who played up to expectations, and their performances are noteworthy. Here are the Arizona State players who earned game balls.
Every week teams gameplan specifically to stop Jaelen Strong, and every week Strong finds a way to rack up receptions regardless of double coverages. Strong continued his remarkable year, with another nine catches for 109 yards. Strong didn't reach the end zone in Corvallis, but he helped set up multiple Arizona State scoring plays. Trailing in the second quarter, Taylor Kelly found Strong on three straight passes for a total of 37 yards, setting up a 46-yard strike to Kody Kohl. Arizona State's only score of the second half, a Zane Gonzalez field goal, was set up by yet another pass interference call drawn by Strong. Arizona State's passing attack is fairly one-dimensional with Strong being the only true consistent option for Kelly, but defenses have yet to find a way to stop the 6-foot-3 receiver.
A highly-touted JUCO recruit, Hardison struggled to really assert himself in his first year in Tempe. But as a senior this season, Hardison has quietly turned into one of the best pass rushers in the Pac-12, and his stellar campaign continued against the Beavers. Hardison was responsible for both of Arizona State's only two sacks on the evening, and he forced a Sean Mannion fumble that Antonio Longino returned for a touchdown. Hardison totaled four tackles on the day, with three of them going for losses. One week after recording his first career interception, Hardison has continued to develop into a game-changer at defensive end for Todd Graham and Arizona State.
Foster's performance Saturday was by no means his best production, as the junior running back only totaled 51 yards on his 14 rushes. However, as always, Foster's influence was not limited to rushing the ball, and he produced once again. Foster totaled 65 yards receiving on eight catches, and his 17-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the second quarter pulled the Sun Devils back within four points of the Beavers at 14-10. Foster's involvement in the offense is always in constant flux, as his versatility allows the Sun Devils to use him all over the field. His contributions in the passing game against Oregon State helped keep Arizona State afloat.