Having lost his defender and begun a streak along the far sideline, Elijhah Badger called for the ball.
There was no deep safety on the scene and the closest defenders were yards behind the sophomore wideout. Already enjoying his best game at Arizona State, the Sacramento-native was moments away from cementing himself in Sun Devil lore in his own backyard.
With one hand, Badger saved an errant throw from going out of bounds, and secured possession through the ground collision deep in the Stanford red-zone. It was the catch of the year, until Badger’s right foot brushed up with the out of bounds marker mere feet from the pylon.
ASU Football: Sun Devils lose 15-14 in a death by kicking at The Farm https://t.co/wIkKzSKrM6— House of Sparky (@HouseOfSparky) October 23, 2022
Trailing 15-14 with 88 seconds to play, Arizona State (2-5, 1-3 Pac-12) found themselves without their previously held 11 point lead, having gone without a score since early in the first half. Elijah Badger had been a major part of the Sun Devils two early scores, having visited the end zone himself early in the second quarter on a 39 yard catch and run. Badger’s fourth touchdown of the season would be just one reception of his eventual six for 118 receiving yards in total, setting a new career high.
Extra attention had been put on Badger by Stanford (3-4, 1-4 Pac-12) in the second-half, which hindered the full potential of his play on Saturday.
“They were playing me different (in the second half),” Badger said. “They were bracketing me a little bit.”
Still though, ASU was in a position to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat as the clock winded down. When Badger took off out-wide, he proved his own statement true as he did the entire game.
“I just don’t feel like anybody can guard me one-on-one,” said Badger earlier this week.
Stanford defensive back Kyu Blu Kelly sure learned that the hard way, when Badger went right by him on the game’s fateful play.
On 4th-and-19 from the Stanford 43, Emory Jones found Badger on a go route, with an overthrown back shoulder ball. Miraculously, Badger stuck his right hand out and made the grab inside the Stanford five-yard-line with his right foot down. The officials ruled him in bounds before prompting a review as the Sun Devils nearly snapped the ball before the stripes could get involved.
“After further review, the receiver was out of bounds resulting in an incompletion.”
When those words rung out at Stanford Stadium, the Cardinal faithful went nuts and the sophomore receiver who had just had his signature performance in maroon and gold shuffled to the sideline, dejected in defeat.
This. Close.— zach woolley (@WoolleyZach) October 23, 2022
An unreal effort from Elijhah Badger. pic.twitter.com/IYcAVKd9i8
“I thought I was in fully,” said Badger postgame regarding the final play. “At first I didn’t even know they were replaying it, that’s how much I thought I was in. End of the day, I wasn’t.”
Despite Badger’s heroic efforts, at the end of the day, the Sun Devils would take their fifth loss in seven games of the 2022 season. While the Stanford defense can take much of the credit, the ineffective second-half offensive play-calling of Arizona State might’ve played a role as well on Badger’s performance.
“Honestly I think the playcalling was just a little different in the second half,” Badger said. “I have no clue. I just did my job.”
“I didn’t think we dominated the line to get ahead of the sticks,” interim head coach Shaun Aguano said. “I wasn’t happy with us playing from behind and not being efficient on first downs. We made some big plays but we never finished.”
Badger posted just one catch for 20 yards after halftime.
Like his second half performance, It’s been an underwhelming season for Badger and the Sun Devils’ pass game overall. Prior to their 15-14 defeat on the farm, ASU had managed just 217 yards through the air per game, ranking 91st in FBS.
Individually, Badger had reeled in 31 catches for 372 yards (12 yards per reception) along with three trips to the end zone following a disappointing freshman campaign in 2021. As a former 4-star recruit from the class of 2020, Sun Devil fans wouldn’t be blamed for feeling underwhelmed by the now sophomore pass-catcher.
But with Elijhah Badger’s career-high of 118 receiving yards and nearly securing an all time one-handed grab at the death, he may finally be living up to his potential in Tempe.