TEMPE - In a season where little has gone right in Tempe, Arizona State (3-8, 2-6 Pac-12) carried that theme all the way through to the end, falling to No. 23 Oregon State (8-3, 5-3 Pac-12) 31-7 at home on senior day.
Like many times this season, the Sun Devils were simply put in front of a more physical football team. This held most accurate on the defensive side, where Arizona State’s entire unit was forced off the line of scrimmage, giving Oregon State plenty of time to make plays on the ground and in the air as they slowly dismantled the Devils in all facets of the game.
“We played very disappointing in all phases of the game,” said head coach Shaun Aguano. “From a defensive standpoint we couldn’t stop them and from an offensive standpoint we couldn’t get anything going.”
Can’t stop, won’t stop (the opposing team’s offense)
This all-around flat performance led to Oregon State gaining 443 net total yards with a near even split on the ground and the air. The Beavers also beat the Sun Devils with the long game, holding possession for more than 34 minutes with three seperate drives taking up five or more minutes.
The lifeless performance was more of a slow and gradual regression, rather than a totally flat line. The Sun Devils came out of the gates somewhat promising on offense following a three-and-out off the opening kick. After Oregon State marched down the field for seven points on nine plays to get on the board, Arizona State moved the ball well along the sidelines before Carter Brown’s 29-yard field goal banged off the far upright, the first of a few missed opportunities on Saturday.
While the drive itself was a letdown, ASU’s promising start on offense figured to indicate a strong day on the ball. Aside from X Valladay’s 109 rushing yards, it would end up making that premonition false.
Seen emotional pregame for his final suit-up in the maroon and gold, Valladay made the most of his last game in Tempe. The Wyoming transfer who quickly became adopted as a Sun Devil favorite rushed for the century mark on 13 carries, including the team’s lone touchdown late in the first half.
“Valladay is special, he’s a workhorse, I’m proud of him,” said Aguano. “He’s the heart and soul of our football team.”
While it was business as usual for Valladay who tallied his seventh 100-plus rushing yard game of the season, it was also another day at the offense for the Pac-12’s fifth-lowest scoring offense. Aside from Valladay’s 117 all-purpose yards, Arizona State gained just 159 total yards and found the end-zone once, late in the first half courtesy of a 39-yard run from Valladay.
While the defensive line got bullied, the protection on the other side resembled that of a revolving door, with Trenton Bourguet being the unfortunate doorman. The Beavers forced five different QB hurries, getting home for a sack once but the pressure was there on nearly every drop back.
“They were doing a good job of taking the deep stuff away and bringing pressure early,” said Bourguet. “It hurt us offensively.”
The third quarter specifically is where all of the struggles finally led to the downfall. In 15 minutes, the Beavers engineered two separate touchdown drives to turn a one-score game into three, holding possession for nearly 11 minutes of the period.
Any chance the Sun Devils had of a miraculous, rise-from-the-dead style comeback was lost in the fourth quarter when D.J. Taylor muffed a punt that the Beavers would recover inside the ASU 10.
By the time Ole Sparky had finished his slow bleed out, the Beavers had defeated the Sun Devils by a final score of 31-7.
“It wasn’t good in all phases,” said Aguano. “Just a huge disappointment.”
With senior day spoiled and a bowl game long gone, Arizona State will look to somewhat salvage a disappointing season with a trip to Tucson next week, in the 96th battle for the Territorial Cup against rival Arizona. Despite having taken home the Cup every year since 2016, the Sun Devils are not underestimating the Wildcats, in a game where only pride is at stake.
“That game means a lot to the local guys, this school, and this program,” said senior captain Kyle Soelle. “They’re a good team down south. If we don’t come prepared they will embarrass us. All my focus is into next week, I know the whole team’s is the same.”
Shaun Aguano, with his future as the head coach of Arizona State possibly on the line on Friday, knows how important a win against Arizona is to a program that has lost eight games for the first time since 2009.
“They have something to prove and we have something to prove,” said Aguano. “We have five days to get ready for a one game season that means a lot to a lot of people. We need to make sure we keep the (Territorial) Cup here.”