It’s been a slow start for the Arizona State Sun Devils, who trail the California Golden Bears 24-10 following one half of play.
The lethal connection between Cal quarterback Davis Webb and receiver Chad Hansen—the nation’s leading receiver entering the week—tormented the ASU secondary throughout the first two series.
In the first half, the Sun Devils had pinned the Golden Bears on their own two-yard line, pushing them back a yard before Webb connected with Chad Hansen on a third-down play. Hansen (8 catches, 104 yards, one touchdown) leaped into the air and stretched out over cornerback Kareem Orr, before curling his left toe inbounds. The play was ruled a catch after review.
Later during the series, ASU had a chance to force Cal off the field on a third-and-five, but Webb found Melquise Stovall for a six-yard gain to move the chains. On the next play, Webb hit Stovall again, this time in stride over the middle of the field, and he darted 40 yards to pit the Golden Bears at the Sun Devils’ 23-yard line.
Three plays later, the Golden Bears tallied the first score of the contest on a five-play, 98-yard drive which was capped off with a 19-yard touchdown catch by Demetris Robertson to take a 7-0 lead.
Manny Wilkins threw his third interception of the season on the ensuing drive placed Cal at the ASU 40-yard line. However, the Golden Bears’ drive stalled after two impressive plays by safety Armand Perry, who knocked down a pass and stuffed a draw play on third-and-17.
The stop brought on Cal kicker Matt Anderson for a 42-yard field goal attempt, which he pushed wide right, snapping his field goals made streak of 17, keeping the Sun Devils within one possession.
The Sun Devils were unable to capitalize on the Golden Bears’ misfortune. On third down, running back Kalen Ballage caught a pass over the middle of the field, and was crunched by two defenders, rolling his left leg beneath. He didn’t return to the field after the play.
The three-and-out drive resulted in 57-yard Matt Haack punt which pinned Cal on their own 10-yard line.
The Sun Devils defense managed to force a three-and-out, returning possession to the offense at its own 42-yard line. A 29-yard reception by Tim White keyed a series which led to Zane Gonzalez knocking in a 35-yard field goal to cut Cal’s lead to 7-3.
Cal would extend its lead to 14-3 when Webb hit Hansen for a 20-yard touchdown, finishing a drive during which the Golden Bears were able to complete both a third and fourth-down conversion.
The Sun Devils defense began find its footing when it nearly forced a turnover twice a couple of Golden Bears possessions later.
Linebacker Koron Crump nearly caused the first turnover the game, on the next play when he knocked the ball out of Webb’s hand, but a Cal offensive lineman recovered.
Facing third-and-goal, Crump hit Webb as he released the ball, and it fell into the hands of Kareem Orr. It was called back because of an offsides call against Edmond Boateng, allowing Cal to come away with a 20-yard Anderson field goal to extend its advantage to 17-3.
The Sun Devils rallied on their next possession.
ASU started its next possession on its own 25-yard line, but a roughing the passer penalty advanced the Sun Devils to the Golden Bears’ 42-yard line. Two shifty runs by Wilkins placed the ball at the 21-yard line.
After connecting with White for a 14-yard gain, Wilkins took an option run to the boundary side of the field. Tight end Kody Kohl set the edge of the field for his quarterback to turn the corner for a eight-yard touchdown, bringing ASU within one score with 1:24 remaining in the half.
Cal responded quickly, as running back Khalfani Muhammad reeled off rushes of 27 and 11 yards on the drive to push the Bears offense into Sun Devils territory.
Three plays later, Webb found receiver Brad Singleton for a 23-yard score, capping off a six-play, 82-yard drive which only took 1:02 to complete as Cal took a 24-10 lead with 0:18 left in the half.
Entering the second half, the Sun Devils offense hopes to get things going, having rushed for 76 yards on 21 carries (3.6 yards per gain). Ballage’s status remains unknown, however the assumption is he won’t be returning to the contest.