Oregon got a break early when Arizona State opened with a dropped pass on second down followed by an overthrown one on third down. N’Keal Harry was open for an easy touchdown but freshman fourth-string quarterback Dillon Sterling-Cole simply missed him.
The Ducks took over after a punt and scored quickly. Justin Herbert tossed an easy pass to Pharaoh Brown in the left flat, then Brown got a key block by receiver Darren Carrington and lumbered 72 yards for a touchdown and an early 7-0 lead.
The defense had an awful series on ASU’s second possession, giving up a big gain on a trick play that they should have recognized from film study. Several missed tackles later the Sun Devils completed an easy 6-play, 75-yard drive for a tying touchdown.
Freeman ran for 10, Herbert hit Pharaoh Brown for another first down, then connected with Jalen Brown on a slant for a first down on 4th and 4.
Herbert rolled right away from a blitz, waited for the play to develop and found Charles Nelson in the end zone for a 31-yard touchdown. Guarded closely, Nelson jumped too early but stayed with the football and snatched it out of the air, great concentration and a great adjustment to the ball.
The true freshman from Sheldon started the game 5-6 passing for 120 yards and two TDs.
Trailing 14-7 ASU’s third drive began with two good defensive line plays by Gary Baker and TJ Daniel, chasing down plays and making sure tackles to force 3rd and 6.
The Ducks forced Sterling-Cole out of the pocket. Jimmy Swain ran him down for a sack, the ball popping out of bounds.
On 4th down the Ducks Kelani Apelu ran into the kicker, making it 4th and 1. The Ducks got a break only getting the 5-yard penalty. ASU elected to punt again with Charles Nelson picking it up on the bounce at the 22.
Herbert calmly hit Darren Carrington for 23 yards down the right sideline.
The Ducks had two false starts in the first quarter, three penalties early, but they seemed to overcome them.
Successive completions to Pharaoh Brown and Carrington got the ball to the ASU 40.
Freeman, running far more effectively than he has all year, ran for another first down. He started the game with six carries for 30 yards.
Herbert has been very effective early hitting his underneath receivers.
The Ducks set up to go for it again on 4th and 4 from the ASU 22. After a Sun Devil timeout, they switched to a field goal, with Aidan Schneider nailing it from 36 yards for a 17-7 lead.
With 2:53 remaining in the first quarter Troy Dye shot a gap to stop a first-down run that gained just two yards. A false start set the visitors back to 2nd and 13, but Jalen Harvey made a sliding catch for a first down at the 43. The Ducks were gashed on four straight plays before Henry Mondeaux stacked up a run, but Kaelin Ballage slung a halfback pass for a first down inside the five. Sterling-Cole kept for an easy touchdown to close within 17-14 just before the end of the quarter. The score held up after replay even though the QB seemed to lose the ball as he extended it for the score at the goal line.
Hoke’s defense did a deplorable job of being ready for trick plays, which they had ample opportunity to review on film. The Sun Devils showed the same stuff last week against Washington State.