For the second time in four games, ASU fell behind in the first quarter. On Saturday night, the Sun Devils stormed back from a 19-point deficit to beat the Oregon State Beavers, 44-32, to get their first Pac-10 win of the season.
Now comes the difficult part: winning on the road. The Sun Devils cushy schedule has given them four home games to get into a groove. So ASU's frustrating road record in California (they've lost 14 in a row) will be the next hurdle for Dennis Erickson and company. The Sun Devils last conference road win in Cali was at USC, 26-16 in 1999. It was that dubious distinction that played a big factor in the downfall of Dirk Koetter as ASU head coach.
As was the case in the first three games, Saturday's win against the Beavers showed some positives and some glaring negatives.
On the bright side, quarterback Rudy Carpenter played brilliantly, completing 25 of 36 for 361 yards and four touchdowns. This was done without any help from the running game, which was stagnant all night. Every time the Sun Devils needed a big play, Carpenter delivered. And the play of the receivers was spectacular as well, especially Mike Jones
Once again, the Sun Devils displayed poise and toughness in coming back from a large deficit. And this time it was against a quality opponent in Oregon State, a program that has bowl aspirations this season. I was quite impressed with the Beavers overall team speed, and their defensive line looked fast and strong.
As far as negatives, the play in the trenches again was mediocre. Of major concern are the struggles of the offensive line, which was supposed to be a strength of the Sun Devils this season. ASU gave up four sacks, and it could have been more had Carpenter not performed his best Jake Plummer impersonation. Oregon State defenders were in the backfield all night. And the O-line opened up few holes for Ryan Torain, who was stuffed all night.
"Our offensive front didn't play like we're capable," Erickson said. "We didn't protect the passer very well. We're better than that."
As was the case in the first three games, the pass rush was non-existent. Defensive end Luis Vasquez has yet to show what all the hype was about. He looks overmatched right now. Perhaps the ankle injury is bothering him more than we know.
The rest of the defense, though not highly effective, was opportunistic, coming up with five interceptions and several big third-down plays. There is still room for improvement against the run and too many blown pass coverages.
So with a few warts, the Sun Devils take to the road. Fortunately, it's Stanford and not Cal or USC. This Erickson-coached team seems to take baby steps. And what better opponent to break the streak then the Cardinal, 0-2 in the conference under first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Let's just hope the Sun Devils come out quick in this contest, because a road win by the Sun Devils will only add to the team's swelling confidence.
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