Arizona State raced to a huge early lead, withstood a couple of Oregon State rallies, and pulled away to 52-24 win Saturday night, led by Eno Benjamin, who ran for 312 yards and 3 touchdowns, and caught 3 passes for 27 more yards, and another score.
Oregon State was uncompetitive until the middle of the second quarter in the 98 degree heat at kickoff in Tempe (which was still in the mid 90s at game’s end). Arizona State scored on their first 3 possessions, facing only token isolated resistance, and built a 17-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter, on Benjamin’s second score of the night, below. Meanwhile, Oregon State quarterback Conor Blount fumbled on 2 first quarter possessions, and was taking a pounding.
The Sun Devils extended the lead to 24-3 by midway in the second period, on a 47 yard Benjamin scoring run, before the Beavers finally got going.
The Beavers finally put a touchdown on the board, but lost wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins in the process, after Hodgins injured his right leg while making a 44 yard catch. Initially diagnosed as a hamstring problem, Hodgins’ status probably won’t be known until after Oregon State returns home, and likely not until later in the coming week.
Oregon State appeared poised to make a game of it after all when they pulled within 1 score a minute before halftime when freshman Jemar Jefferson hit the 100 yard rushing mark in the process of scoring his second touchdown of the quarter, especially given that the Beavers would receive the second half kickoff, possibly with a chance to tie the game.
That would not come to pass though, as Arizona State scored 14 seconds before the break when Manny Wilkins found Kyle Williams for an uncontested 19 yard touchdown pass, after Oregon State suffered one of a number of total coverage failures on the evening, which made it 31-17 at halftime.
With twice injured starting quarterback Jake Luton not even along for the trip to Tempe, there was no replacing the battered Blount, so Oregon State trainers put some additional padding on his shoulder, and sent him out to try to turn things around in the second half.
But the Sun Devils’ 4th sack of the game of Blount led to a 1-2-3 punt first possession of the 3rd quarter, and a short punt that set Arizona State up near mid field. A Wilkins passes to N’Keal Harry after a pass interference penalty led to Harry’s touchdown on a direct snap in the Sparky formation, and Arizona State was back up 3 scores, taking a 38-21 lead.
Oregon State got a touchdown on a Blount to Noah Togiai pass on 4th down, Togiai’s first of the season, and incredibly, by late in the third period, was in position to make it a one score game again, with a 3rd and inches opportunity.
But an ill-conceived pass that was nearly picked off and a penalty left Oregon State facing a 4th and 6 situation. With the game still within reach with over a quarter to go, the correct play would have been to kick a field goal, but Coach Jonathan Smith opted to go for it. Which failed on an incompletion.
Arizona State pulled away, with a pair of 4th quarter scores, and Oregon State finished the game with 4th string quarterback Aidan Willard fumbling.
Jefferson, above, was Oregon State’s main bright spot on the evening, finishing with 254 yards on 31 carries, the second most in Beaver history, behind only Bill Enyart’s 299 night against Utah 50 years ago Friday. Jefferson also became only the third Beaver in history with multiple 200 yard rushing games in the same season, joining Ken Simonton and Steven Jackson.
About the only other notable performance was by Timmy Hernandez, who had 7 catches for 61 yards.
The problem was the Oregon State defense, the worst in FBS, was again allowing not only another career night, but a program night, something they are doing consistently. Benjamin’s 312 yards is the most ever by an Arizona State back, this just a week after allowing Arizona’s JJ Taylor to set a Wildcat team rushing record. . Its also the most anyone has ever run for against Oregon State in a game.
The defensive problems are multiple, as the Beavers are young, generally out-sized, and slow.
“We’ve got to be able to tackle someone to get them off the field,” Smith said.
On multiple occasions, big plays (Benjamin had 7 runs of 20 or more yards) came as a result of multiple broken tackles. This can be attributed to being out-sized.
On other occasions, Oregon State had defenders in place, and they were simply out-run or all blocked. This too is a size & talent issue.
Inexperience compounds the problem with numerous mis-alignments and mis-reads.
Arizona State Coach Herm Edwards picked up his first Pac-12 win, while Oregon State extended their already worst in the country road losing streak to 22 games, only 2 of which have even been competitive, with this the 20th double digit in the streak.
The 1-4 Beavers, 0-2 in conference, return home to host Washington State (4-1, 1-1) next Saturday night. The Cougars came from behind to pull out a 28-24 win over Utah earlier today, on an 89 yard touchdown pass with 4 minutes left in the game.
(AP Photos by Matt York, via ASU)