When the injury lists came out pregame, any sentiment that ASU had an edge in its second straight Pacific Northwest road-test faded.
They were slight favorites in Vegas, had a short edge in the wins column, but Arizona State (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12) fell short in every facet in a 24-10 loss to Oregon State (7-4, 5-3) in Corvallis on Saturday night.
Defensively, the Markham brothers returned from suspension, but captain and linebacker Darien Butler did not make the trip after being questionable at the end of the week. Defensive lineman Shannon Foreman missed his second game in a row, while his counterpart D.J. Davidson was shaken up early, but returned. Evan Fields also was out with an injury.
Regardless, a conference-leading defense was severely crippled after one quarter of play, and Oregon State had little difficulty taking advantage.
B.J. Baylor was as good as advertised. He rushed for over seven yards per carry and totaled 150 yards. The Beaver offensive front controlled the line of scrimmage all night, handling the Sun Devils’ rotating cast of defensive-linemen.
The Sun Devils came into this game third in the conference in rushing-defense at 126.6 yards allowed per game on the ground. The Beavers rushed for 235 yards.
The positives on defense were minimal, but linebackers Kyle Soelle, Eric Gentry, and Merlin Robertson played hard without Butler, combining for 31 tackles.
While he never found the end zone, Baylor’s 86 early yards set up three first-half Beaver scores: a field goal, a 10-yard Chance Nolan touchdown pass, and one-yard touchdown rush from Nolan. OSU rode a 17-0 lead into the locker room at half.
The Sun Devils went into halftime scoreless, but the special teams unit had multiple opportunities for first-half points. Christian Zendejas, who made a 26-yarder in the first drive after halftime, shanked a 32-yard attempt in the first quarter. Logan Tyler, the left-footed long-distance kicker, missed badly on a 49-yard attempt later on.
This week, Rachaad White was not enough to keep the offense afloat. White played well, particularly as a pass-catcher, hauling in six receptions for 86 yards, which led the team. However, one-dimensional teams do not beat good football teams. This year, that includes Oregon State.
“There is no consistency in our offense right now,” coach Herm Edwards said. “That’s what you need, consistency.”
Jayden Daniels continues to operate at a low level, passing neither the eye test, nor the first glance at the stat sheet. Daniels’ first throw, and second play from scrimmage, was an interception. He did not find the end zone for the third time this season, and he did not record a passing touchdown for the sixth time in 2021.
Daniels finished the game with 166 yards in the air, going 16-27, and the one interception. His deep throws were non-competitive, giving Elijah Badger and Bryan Thompson no opportunities to make plays on their few sideline shots.
“We have to move the ball,” Edwards said. “College football allows you to move the ball, you have to move the ball. We have to be better than that.”
ASU was also missing both of its top tight ends in Curtis Hodges and Jalin Conyers, who were involved in a car crash after practice Thursday afternoon.
“Obviously we were down two really good players,” offensive coordinator Zak Hill said. “But we were in the same situation last year with Oregon State...we want all our depth guys to be ready to go. At the end of the day, you’ve got the personnel you’ve got and you have to move forward with it.
The lone Sun Devil touchdown was a gift, a one-yard rush from Deamonte Trayanum that was set up two plays earlier by a muffed snap on a punt by Oregon State deep in its own territory.
The only ASU touchdown drive went four yards on two plays.
Penalties were crippling as usual, with ASU surrendering 64 yards on 10 penalties, including seven false starts. Utah was penalized three times for a total of 40 yards.
“Last week when you looked at Washington, they did the same thing with the shift,” Edwards said. “It wasn’t really a factor. All of a sudden we come here and it becomes a factor. We practiced against it, talked about it, they know it, and for some reason they [found] a way to move [early].”
Edwards is referencing the slight defensive-line shift that both Washington and Oregon State utilized pre-snap against ASU.
Like last week, the Sun Devils found themselves hanging on in a tough road test. Up 17-10 in the fourth quarter, Beaver gadget-back Jack Colletto broke a 47-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-2, putting a dagger in the Sun Devils’ hearts.
With Utah’s 38-7 blowout victory over Oregon, the Sun Devils’ slim shot at the Pac-12 South title are now shot. Herm Edwards’s hopes for a 10-win season are now ruined for 2021, but there is an opportunity for a strong finish with the annual Territorial Cup and a postseason bowl game.