Cal pulls late game trick on ASU

After being blown out by Stanford last week, the Sun Devils returned home on Halloween looking to get back on track against California, unfortunately Cal edged out a last minute victory in what was a back-and-forth game from start to finish.

Coming into the game against Cal, ASU knew to have a chance to win they needed to stop one of the top running backs in the nation in Jahvid Best, and they did just that, holding Best to his third lowest rushing output of the season with 63 yards on 18 carries.

Best did manage to make his mark early though, catching an 11-yard pass from Kevin Riley and taking into the end zone for the first score of the game, putting Cal up 7-0.

Cal then wasted no time in adding to their lead when Marvin Jones caught a 12-yard pass from Riley pushing the score to 14-0 before the first quarter had even ended.

Just when things began looking bleak for the Sun Devils the defense stepped up in a big way as Lawrence Guy sacked Riley on Cal's 2-yard line, forcing a fumble that Vontaze Burfict recovered for the Devils. On the ensuing play, back-up quarterback Samson Szakacsy got his first career attempt, completion, and touchdown all on one play when he connected with Jovon Williams for what was his first career touchdown as well, making the score 14-7.

Things got even more interesting when Cal missed a field goal on their next drive, giving the Sun Devils the ball at their own 20-yard line. On their first play, Danny Sullivan faked the handoff, and launched the ball down the middle of the field to a wide-open Kyle Williams for an 80-yard touchdown, tying the game at 14.

"Their safeties parted like the red sea, and he was wide-open," Sullivan said of the play. "You've just got to make sure you don't miss him. We've been given some looks where we could've gotten that play, and it was new play we put in this week."

Cal kicked a field goal before the end of the half, and added another midway through the 3rd quarter, giving Cal a 20-14 lead.

After a couple of punts by both teams, ASU gave Cal a heavy dose of true freshman running back Cameron Marshall and a lot of two tight end sets to start the 4th quarter, a strategy that resulted in a 6-yard touchdown for Marshall, and a 21-20 ASU lead.

"It (moving to a two tight end set) was an adjustment we made especially because we had a couple of guys get hurt. I think T.J. (Simpson) got hurt, and Kyle (Williams) was banged up so we had to go two-tight ends and go under center, and for a time period there we were doing a good job of it too. We moved the ball right down the field and got a touchdown, so it paid off in that regard, but it didn't win the game."

After the kickoff, Cal promptly marched down the field, setting up a 39-yard field goal attempt for place kicker Giorgio Tavecchio who missed wide-right giving ASU the ball back with 5:46 remaining and a one-point lead.

ASU again went with Cameron Marshall and their power set, and it appeared to work out well as Marshall gained 6 yards on the first carry of the drive, but the drive didn't last much longer. Marshall was then stopped for gains of 1 and 2 yards on the next two plays, setting up a 4th and one for ASU, who had to punt it away, and put the game in their defense's hands with 3:16 to play.

"Getting it to 21-20 and with about three and a half left to put our defense on the field," Sullivan said of the situation, "If we get that first down the game is over, so it's pretty tough to take."

At that point Cal began their march, as Riley carved up the ASU secondary on his way to getting his team down to the ASU 7 yard-line. Cal then put the ball in the hands of their back-up tailback Shane Vereen who took the direct snap, faked a run, and threw the ball into the end zone where it was tipped and almost intercepted by Burfict who couldn't quite get to the ball. Tavecchio then put in his third field goal of the game, putting Cal up 23-21 with :17 left on the clock.

Though the game seemed over, memories of two weeks ago against Washington had to be on everyone's mind watching the game.

On the first play, Sullivan completed a pass 25 yards down the field to Chris McGaha, who surpassed 150 career catches and 2,000 career yards in the game.

McGaha got down at the Cal 42 with: 05 left on the clock, but with Thomas Weber not at 100 percent strength, ASU had no choice but to attempt a last second Hail Mary that was unsuccessful, ending the game.

"I don't think Thomas could've gotten it there because he leg isn't fully healthy," Sullivan pointed out. "Might as well take our chance to throw it up if we find some time to get in the pocket and make the throw.

"I think there was only five seconds left. I just tried to find somewhere where I could step up and get it there, and they collapsed it, and there it is."

Sullivan ended the day 16 of 29 for 244 yards with one touchdown, and 2 interceptions.

Sullivan drew "boo's" from the crowd on his first incomplete pass attempt of the day, but they weren't in the festive spirit of Halloween.

A bright spot for the Sun Devils was running back Cameron Marshall who had 71 yards on 16 carries with a touchdown, and averaging 4.4 yards per carry.

The Sun Devils now look to next weekend's game against USC, which is a tough matchup to bounce back from a loss on for any team.

One personnel moved to be watched the rest of the season is how much more playing time quarterback Samson Szakacsy will receive. Szakacsy has been hurt, but brings athletic ability to the quarterback position, something that the Devils may need to get their offense going.

The Sun Devils are now 4-4, and have three games left to get two wins if they want to make a bowl game, possibly setting up another make or break game against the University of Arizona Wildcats.

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