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ASU Football: Critical mistakes cost Sun Devils in triple overtime loss to Oregon

The Sun Devils made too many mistakes Thursday night and fell to the Oregon Ducks in triple overtime.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona State Sun Devils gained 742 total yards. They racked up 37 first downs and lit up the scoreboard with 55 points. In a season characterized by offensive ineptitude, the ASU offense rushed for 344 yards, ran over 100 plays and thrilled a near capacity crowd Thursday night.

But it still wasn't enough. A late breakdown defensively and a game-ending turnover sunk the Sun Devils in a 61-55 triple overtime loss to the Oregon Ducks. Since 2000, teams were 95-4 when gaining at least 700 yards of offense and scoring at least 55 points.

"That one hurt as bad as anyone that I have been here for," Todd Graham said. "We did some things that were uncharacteristic of our football team."

The Sun Devil defense surrendered rushing touchdowns of 64 and 62 yards and Oregon scored on a 100-yard kickoff return following an ASU touchdown. However, the one breakdown that may hurt the most is the one that sent the game to overtime.

On fourth-and-goal from the ASU nine-yard line, Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams was pressured and as he was falling backwards at the 25-yard line he released a prayer to the back of the end zone where -- because of a blown coverage -- two Oregon Ducks were wide open and the ball fell in the hands of receiver Dwayne Stanford to tie the game  at 41 with 12 seconds left in regulation.

"We had him (Adams) dead to rights in the backfield, the guy bounces off us, scrambles around and throws up a prayer," Graham said about Oregon's final play in regulation. "One guy comes off his man, you have to stay on your man. That was pretty disheartening."

The Sun Devils won the toss and elected to go on defense to begin overtime. From then on, the offensive shootout that was the second half, continued. Both Oregon and Arizona State each scored touchdowns in the first and second overtimes. With neither team electing to go for two, the game went to a third extra period.

On the second play of triple overtime, Adams found Bralon Addison for a 20-yard touchdown to give Oregon a 61-55 lead. However, the Ducks botched the shotgun snap on their two-point conversion attempt and ASU tackled Adams in the backfield to keep the within six.

On ASU's first play of triple overtime, Bercovici found Tim White for 22 yards to set up ASU with a first-and-goal on the Oregon three-yard line. With Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage both over 100 yards on the night, the Sun Devils elected to throw the ball on first-and-goal and it was nearly intercepted.

On second-and-goal, Oregon sealed the game as sophomore cornerback Arrion Springs intercepted a pass in the end zone intended for Tim White.

"As a quarterback it is on myself to make sure that the ball gets completed or thrown away," Bercovici said.

Arizona State struggled offensively to begin the game. On their first four drives, they punted twice and Zane Gonzalez missed two field goals, from 26 and 52 yards respectively. ASU put together back-to-back impressive touchdown drives in the second quarter and trailed Oregon 17-14 at the half.

In the second half, ASU scored points on five of its first six drives, including a rushing and receiving touchdown from running back Demario Richard. The sophomore back tallied 135 yards on just 19 carries Thursday night against the Ducks. Richard and fellow sophomore Kalen Ballage combined for 286 yards from scrimmage.

Neither player touched the ball on ASU's final 23 plays from scrimmage.

Every time ASU landed a punch in the second half, Oregon countered right back. When Bercovici found Richard for a one-yard touchdown pass to put the Sun Devils up 31-20 in the third quarter, Oregon returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.

Two minutes after that, Phoenix native Kani Benoit broke off a 62-yard touchdown run to give Oregon a 34-31 lead late in the third quarter. Six of Oregon's eight touchdowns were plays longer than 20 yards, three were longer than 60.

"We busted more coverages tonight than we have all year," Graham said. "There was just a lot of undisciplined play. I was disappointed with our discipline on defense today. That was the difference."

The Sun Devils committed 10 penalties Thursday night (nine counted), the most in the Todd Graham era. ASU lost despite holding Oregon to just 3-for-14 on third down and limiting the Ducks to only 68 offensive plays.

Despite two costly turnovers and a play call in triple overtime that will be discussed at length in the coming days. Graham felt the offense deserved a victory.

"Mike Novell and Berco came out tonight with that offense and put up 742 yards," Graham said. "They ran 107 plays, I am really proud of their effort. They deserved to win. But, at the end of the day, we just made too many mistakes to win."

There were some positives that came out of Thursday night's defeat. The Sun Devils had two players tally over 100 yards rushing for the first time since the Holiday Bowl in 2013. Bercovici threw for 398 yards and five touchdowns and ASU had four receivers who totaled at least 70 yards receiving.

However, in the end there is little to show for it. Through eight games, the Sun Devils site at 4-4 and are now 2-3 in conference play. They must split their final four games -- against Washington, Washington State, Arizona and Cal -- to become bowl eligible.

Graham said before the season began that this was his best team at ASU. He was asked if he could explain how they are 4-4 through eight games.

"I can't," he responded. "(I'm) disappointed."