ASU battered by No. 25 Oregon State 31-7

The Devil defense couldn’t hold up to the Beavers
Oregon State wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey (1) runs with the ball as Arizona State defensive...
Oregon State wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey (1) runs with the ball as Arizona State defensive back Jordan Clark (1) closes in during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Tempe, Ariz., Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. Oregon State won 31-7. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)(Ross D. Franklin | AP)
Published: Nov. 19, 2022 at 6:19 PM MST
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TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- It’s not what anyone wanted to come home to. It’s not how anyone wanted to go out. And it definitely was not what senior linebacker Kyle Soelle wanted to talk about.

“I’m not talking about today,” he said after Saturday’s loss to Oregon State. “I’m talking about next week.”

Saturday afternoon was both Arizona State’s Homecoming game and Senior Day, the final chance for the team’s 16 outgoing seniors to get a win for the home crowd. Unfortunately for them, the 25th ranked Beavers dominated along both lines, rushing for 222 yards and holding ASU to a single score in their 31-7 win.

“We played very disappointing in all phases of the game,” said interim head coach Shaun Aguano. “Our kids still played, and they played hard. It was disappointing on all side.”

For an emotional Soelle, a Scottsdale-born player and team captain, the loss was the latest blow in a difficult season marked by coaching changes, disappointing losses, and fan unrest.

“The way the season has gone, you never want your last year to go like that. It is what it is,” he said. “You don’t get to pick the cards you’re dealt, you just get to pick your attitude towards it.”

While the loss drops ASU to 3-8, the program’s worst mark since 1994, there is one notable goal that can help to salvage something of the season. ASU heads down to Tucson next week to face archrival Arizona, and the Sun Devils will look to beat the Wildcats for a sixth straight year, keep the coveted Territorial Cup, and keep the bragging rights across the state.

“It’s Hate Week,” Soelle said. “That’s my focus right now.”

The Ohana

A huge disappointment.” - Shaun Aguano

The Result

After a quick three-and-out by ASU to open the game, the Beavers put together a physical and balanced drive. Opening with three straight passes, including an 18-yard play-action pass to tight end Jack Velling that fooled the Sun Devils, Oregon State ended the nine-play drive with a bruising 5-yard Damien Martinez touchdown run.

“They do a great job with their play action,” said Aguano. “The run the stretch really well, and when you’re effective running the stretch plays, all the boot stuff comes out. They’re effective doing that. When you get dirty eyes trying to stop the run, they did well with their tight ends. They game planned us pretty well.”

Trailing 7-0, the Sun Devils appeared on their way to an answer. Over seven-and-a-half minutes of game clock, ASU put together a 15-play drive that featured a key fourth down scramble for a first down by Bourguet, only for a 29-yard field goal attempt by Carter Brown to bounce off the right goal post. Oregon State then responded with a 10-play drive that ended with their own missed field goal.

Late in the first half, ASU finally broke through. As they have for the entire year, the Sun Devils rode the legs of running back X Valladay, who reeled off a 39-yard run to get inside the redzone, and he finished the drive off with an 11-yard touchdown run two plays later.

“We were able to run the football well,” said Aguano.

The momentum was very short-lived. A 35-yard pass to a wide open Velling got Oregon State jumpstarted, and three plays later, Gulbranson connected with Velling again for a 21-yard touchdown to give the Beavers a 14-7 halftime lead.

Mirroring their first drive of the game, the Beavers battered the Sun Devil defense to open the third quarter. With a combination of quick passes, powerful runs, and a defensive pass interference call on Ed Woods, Oregon State found the endzone again with a 12-yard run by Martinez.

Feeling the pressure of the 21-7 deficit, ASU moved into Oregon State territory on the next drive, but immediate pressure on a fourth down pass attempt forced Bourguet’s throw to be incomplete, giving the ball back to the Beavers. Oregon State took advantage while continuing to dominate in the trenches. The Beavers converted three separate third-and-long situations on the drive, the last being an 8-yard touchdown run by Gulbranson.

“When it’s third-and-15, and they get 16, it’s a heartbreaker,” Aguano said. “You work so hard, and you get them to third-and-16, and they run an out route and get 17. What’s next? They extend plays. We get them pinned in a third-and-6, and no contain, quarterback runs around the corner. Just not good football.”

After an ASU defensive stop early in the fourth quarter, Beaver punter Luke Loecher unleashed a booming kick that sailed over the head of returner D.J. Taylor, whose attempt to field it over his head was muffed. The Beavers recovered, and tacked on a field goal soon after to extend the lead to 31-7.

The Beavers nearly closed the game with a drive that ate up over eight minutes, but Everett Hayes’ 23-yard field goal attempt was shanked off the left goal post with 27 seconds left. One final Valladay run gained three yards and closed the book on ASU’s 2022 home slate.

The Critical Moments

Oregon State had been in firm control of the first half, but with 1:53 left before halftime, it was a 7-7 game after Valladay’s touchdown run. If the ASU defense could keep things squared into the break, the Sun Devils had to count that as a win.

But they couldn’t.

Gulbranson hit Velling for 35 yards. Gulbranson ran for seven. Gulbranson to Silas Bolden for 12 more. Then Gulbranson found a wide open Velling again for a 21-yard score.

It took less than one minute of game clock to get the Beavers in the endzone and dash any of ASU’s upset ambitions.

The Offense

Slow starts have now moved from being a bug to a feature of the Sun Devil offense. Unlike last week, however, there was no second half surge. In fact, it got worse as the game went on. Oregon State held ASU to just 276 yards of total offense on the day, with 70 coming in the second half.

Even with several key Oregon State defenders out of the lineup, ASU was unable to generate a consistent offensive attack. When they could, they failed to capitalize. ASU had drives of 15, nine, eight, and seven plays that combined for zero points.

“They are a real sound defense,” said Bourguet. “They were doing a good job of taking the deep stuff away and bringing some pressure early, which hurt us offensively.”

Bourguet and the passing game was held in check. He completed 20 of 32 throws for just 122 yards against the Pac-12′s top passing defense. ASU’s offensive line, down starting left guard LaDarius Henderson and center Ben Scott, struggled throughout the day.

“Protection was a big one,” Bourgeut said of the passing game issues. “They were able to get some pressure early. It made me get off my read a little bit faster. They do a good job of bringing exotic looks and just staying deep.”

“(Oregon State) squatted a couple of times on stuff and gave us a chance to hit those,” Aguano said. “We have to have our feet under us when we throw the football. From a fluidity standpoint, we weren’t getting it done.”

ASU continued to try and get the downfield passing game going, but the combination on the Beavers’ pass rush and coverage schemes held the Sun Devils in check. The Sun Devils’ had just one pass, a 21-yard catch by Conyers, go for over 20 yards. Conyers led the team with 49 yards on six catches. Wide receiver Elijhah Badger, who entered today as the third-leading receiver in the Pac-12, was held to 16 yards on four catches.

“They did a good job of dropping into zone coverages and getting underneath our deep crosses,” Bourguet said.

The lone offensive highlight continued to be the running of Valladay, who tallied his seventh 100-yard game of the season and crossed 1,000 rushing yards on the season.

“Valladay is special,” Aguano said.

ASU was also plagued by untimely penalties and execution errors. Multiple times on third or fourth down situations, receivers ran routes shy of the first down marker and were tackled short. Those are errors that simply can’t happen.

“A couple of drives, we didn’t get to the sticks,” Aguano said. “When you’re in third-and-5, those plays are stick plays, then it’s fourth-and-6 and you’re half a yard short because you’re not past them, it’s just awareness.”

The Defense

After shutting out Washington State in the second half last week, the Sun Devils hoped to carry that momentum into this week. Instead, they were blown off the ball early, often, and decisively.

When the defensive line wasn’t being pushed around to open running lanes, the defensive backs were too far off in coverage and allowed repeated easy catches to move the chains. As they have been all season, the Sun Devil defense was too predictable and too passive.

Unlike last week, ASU could not blame their failings on key absences, as linebacker Kyle Soelle and cornerback Ro Torrence returned to the lineup. Whether through the air or on the ground, the Beavers continually picked up yardage in chunks. On the day, they amassed 15 explosive plays (passes gaining 15+, runs gaining 10+), nine of which came on the ground. ASU didn’t help their cause with another game marked by poor tackling.

“We’re not following through on our tackles,” said Aguano. “We get them pinned up, and they’re running right through our tackles.”

On the afternoon, ASU allowed 443 yards of offense, 222 on the ground, and surrendered 6.7 yards per play. They did manage two sacks and five tackles for loss, but the passive nature of the scheme rendered the impact of many of those plays moot.

As they have done for much of the season, the overall defensive production came in well below the sums of the unit’s parts.

The Top 3

Here are three Sun Devils who played well against Oregon State.

RB X Valladay: The Wyoming transfer continues to put together one of the best seasons by a one-season Sun Devil. He crossed the 1,000-yard mark rushing for the third time in his career. “He is the heart and soul of our football team,” Aguano said.

P Eddie Czaplicki: It’s not a great sign when the punter ends up in the Top 3 in consecutive weeks, but that’s both an indictment of the overall play and Czaplicki’s consistency. He averaged 50.5 yards on his four punts, with a long of 56.

TE Jalin Conyers: While he’s not been able to reach the heights of his breakout game against Colorado, Conyers continues to be a key weapon for the Sun Devils.

The Question: Is this a team that can keep the Cup?

It’s been a historically bad 2022 season in Tempe. In Tucson, coming off a historically bad season in 2021, things have trended better but are still not good. There will be no bowl bids, division titles, or national recognition on the line on Friday afternoon.

“Now, it’s all for pride,” Aguano said. “They have something to prove, and we have something to prove to make sure that we keep the Cup here. Now, it’s mano a mano. Who’s going to be the best team?”

For five years, beginning with ASU’s improbable 19-point fourth quarter comeback in 2018, the Sun Devils have owned this rivalry and kept possession of the Territorial Cup. But with an improved Arizona team and and a reeling Sun Devil squad, the Cup could change hands. That prospect has the Sun Devil players and coaches on high alert.

“That game every year means a lot to me,” Soelle said. “It means a lot to the local guys. It means a lot to this school. This program. Anyone who is a Sun Devil, it means a ton. All my eggs are in that basket next week.”

“There’s not going to be a lot of sleeping for our coaches, and our kids deserve that,” said Aguano.

It’s a rivalry that has become defined by hate, ambition, and absurdity. The better and more talented teams very often do not win. Weird things happen. Often.

Buckle up.

The Next Step

ASU concludes their 2022 with a trip to Tucson to face archrival Arizona. The Wildcats lost to Washington State on Saturday 31-20, ending their hopes of bowl eligibility. Kickoff in Tucson is set for 1 p.m. with the TV broadcast on FS1.

The Extra Points

  • X Valladay’s 1,000-yard rushing season is the 27th such occurrence in program history.
  • Kyle Soelle became the first Sun Devil with over 100 tackles in a season since Christian Sam in 2017.