Devils cannot overcome first half struggles

ASU couldn't have asked for a better start to their road game at Oregon State, scoring a touchdown on their opening drive. Alas, that score was anything but an indication of things to come. The Beavers scored 17 unanswered points following that score and held off a Sun Devil second half rally as they prevailed 31-28.

"It's getting old it really is," said ASU head coach Dennis Erickson. "We play well at time and then we don't play well at times. I thought defensively we didn't play very well. We didn't tackle very well, we didn't get pressure on (Oregon State QB Ryan) Katz very much and they ate up the clock.

"Offensively we did some decent things but we got ourselves in some down and distance situations that we very difficult. They were able to pin their ears and pass pressure is pretty good. We're moving the football but not moving in with enough consistency. Our production down (in the red zone) as we know isn't very good." Arizona State (2-3, 0-2 Pac-10) marched 68 yards down the field in a drive that culminated with Gerell Robinson's first career touchdown as he hauled in a 39-yard catch from Steven Threet. Alas, Oregon State (2-2, 1-0) forced the visitors to punt four times in the first half, and took advantage of Threet's first half interception to tilt the game's balance and pad their lead in the first half.

The Sun Devils were able to cut down the deficit to 17-14 with a 4-yard scamper by Deantre Lewis, but despite forcing the Beavers to punt on their next two possessions the offense wasn't able to move the chains themselves. The hosts scored with 20 second left in the stanza, on 19-yard touchdown catch by Joe Halahuni and momentum was clearly on Oregon State's side going into the locker room with a 24-14 edge.

ASU started the second half just as strong as they did the first, halting Oregon State on fourth down and scoring on the ensuing possession on a 45-yard field goal by Thomas Weber. But once again several minutes elapsed between scores for the Sun Devils, while the Beavers dealt the backbreaking play of the game, a 74-yard run by Jacquizz Rodgers within the first minute of the fourth quarter to increase their lead to 31-20.

Although this was the host's last points of the game, once again red zone struggles came back to rear their ugly head and doom the maroon and gold.

A 1st and goal situation from the host's 3-yard line only netted just another Weber field goal, and Threet's pass on the Oregon State's 13-yard line was intercepted. Nonetheless, when the Sun Devils' Mike Callaghan blocked a Beavers' punt and ASU scored on the ensuing drive, a 21-yard run by Cameron Marshall, and converted a two-point attempt the visitors were in striking distance of tying the score let alone reclaiming the lead.

ASU's special teams faltered allowing a 47-yard kickoff return, and the Beavers' punt pinned the Sun Devils on their own 12-yard line with 2:42 left in the game and no time outs. ASU's last possession ended with Threet's third interception of the day effectively ending any hopes for an improbable win.

Threet completed 14 of 29 passes for 203 yards and one touchdown and was sacked three times. Lewis led ASU in rushing with 104 yards on 20 carries, while Robinson came close to eclipsing his career highs established just a week ago with four catches and 73 yards. The Beavers' Ryan Katz notched a personal best with 260 passing yards as he completed 19 of 29 passes and completing two of them for scores. Rodgers led all players with 145 yards on 24 carries.

While one can surely make the argument that they were some positives to take away from ASU's losses versus Wisconsin and Oregon. However, the same cannot be said about what took place in Corvallis today.

The ASU defense definitely played better in the second half, giving up just one touchdown. Yet, their first half performance grossly paled in comparison, as often the case this season and giving up three scores or more in the first half is a trend that has to be reversed if the Sun Devils hope to break a three-game losing streak.

On the other side of the ball unless the ASU offense can cut down on its incapacities in the red zone and second half turnovers, the path for victory turns from difficult to virtually impossible, especially with two consecutive road games awaiting the maroon the gold.

Up next for the Sun Devils is a visit to Seattle where they will meet the University of Washington who upset USC in Los Angeles 32-31 on a last second field goal. It's anyone guess whether the Huskies will suffer from a big victory "hangover" this Saturday, but regardless of Washington's potential mindset ASU has quite to worry about the state of their own psyche.

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