The Oregon Ducks proved they could beat even the best teams without their best players. But they couldn't have done it without help from their opponents. The Arizona St. Sun Devils committed error after error after error, and it was enough to nudge Oregon over their opponent.
The brainfarts didn't come only from the players. They came from the coaching staff too.
Vontaze Burfict committed a horrid personal foul when he knocked David Paulson after he was already out of bounds. Set up first and down and the inevitable touchdown for the Ducks.
- Oregon looked like they were about to be forced to punt from the shadow of their end zone when Bo Moos went high to the helmet on the pass rush against Darron Thomas to give the Ducks an automatic first down. Three plays later Oregon was in the end zone. Seven point swing there (at least)
- Probably the worst errors came before halftime, when Gerell Robinson knocked around the helmet of his Oregon defender getting up from a big catch, and drew a 15 yard personal foul penalty. Instead of being in the red zone with a minute left, ASU was backed up to the 34 with under a minute left.
- ASU thus had to travel deeper down the field, and with only a minute left before halftime they decided to take a shot to the end zone--Oregon was ready for it. Brock Osweiler threw an interception right into the pocket of Cliff Harris, who then turned it into a virtual punt return back to midfield. The Ducks went right down the field in just over 30 seconds to take their first lead. Seven point swing there (at least)
- ASU drove down the field trailing by two touchdowns, got Jamal Miles on a swing pass, who walked into the end zone, but an ASU wide receiver unnecessarily held on a block to seal for Miles, and it forced the Devils back. Trailing by two touchdowns in the 4th quarter, Dennis Erickson quizzically sent in the field goal unit, which made a two-score game a two-score game.
- ASU faced 4th and 2 on their own 32 with 8:45 left trailing by 14, and Erickson sent out the punt team. Might as well have sent out terms of surrender to Chip Kelly.
- Osweiler hit Miles in the end zone on the final drive with still :50 left, and it looked like the Devils would at least have a chance to get that onside kick off. The ball bounced off Miles's jersey and into the arms of Anthony Gildon for the game-sealing interception. Not as important, but seven points lost there too.
If you're counting, ASU mistakes--player or coaching--swung the result against Oregon by at least 21 points--and potentially even more, depending on the outcome of other events above. (It could also be less depending on the competitive response of Oregon, but some of these mistakes were absolutely extreme.) One or two less errors, and you might be looking at the Sun Devils making a definitive statement that they were the conference's best.
But as seems to always be the case with a Dennis Erickson-coached team, the Devils can't seem to get out of their own way.