Oregon (4-3) at ASU (4-3)
When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe
TEMPE, Ariz. — Remember Arizona State’s last victory over Oregon? No worries if you don’t. It’s been 11 years and eight straight losses since the Sun Devils tasted victory over what has become the Pac-12’s benchmark program.
The last time ASU beat Oregon was Oct. 2, 2004, when the Sun Devils posted a 28-13 victory at Autzen Stadium in Eugene to stretch their winning streak over the Ducks to three games under coach Dirk Koetter, who had served as Oregon’s offensive coordinator under head coach Mike Bellotti from 1996-97.
Oregon’s current winning streak against ASU is its longest against the Sun Devils in school history. In those eight wins, Oregon has not scored less than 31 points and has won each game by at least 11 points.
“Everything we did last time we’re trying not to run,” ASU coach Todd Graham said, eliciting laughter at his weekly press conference at the Carson Student-Athlete Center.
Graham has actually only faced the Ducks once. In his first season, 2012, Oregon won 43-21 at Sun Devil Stadium to start a four-game ASU slide to .500 before a late season receiver.
There is no denying the Ducks have talent. Oregon played for the national championship last season and there are plenty of holdovers, but with the Ducks struggling on defense and out of the AP poll for the fist time since 2009, this may be ASU’s best chance to break the streak.
A win over Oregon wouldn’t mean as much since the Ducks have already dropped games to Michigan State (31-28), Utah (62-20) and Washington State (45-38), but it still be a feather in ASU’s cap after so many disappointments. It would also keep ASU’s slim hopes for a Pac-12 South title alive with four games left to play.
“We’ve got some pretty young guys who might be playing, and they’re still fresh to being a Sun Devil, so they might not even remember that type of game,” senior quarterback Mike Bercovici said of the Ducks’ win in 2012. “But for the few that are still here, we do remember that game. We have a little bitterness in our mouth. The last time that they came here and they took care of business against us.”
3 KEYS TO VICTORY
Play faster: Graham has complained all season that his high-octane offense has been stuck in second gear. There are a myriad reasons, including an average receiving corps that lacks a consistent deep threat and fails to get consistent separation, and a pair of offensive tackles who have not been adept at pass protection. Graham said the Devils have tried to simplify things so that ASU can get back to its identity. Oregon’s scoring defense ranks 105th in the nation, allowing 36 points per game. Oregon’s passing defense has allowed more yards (306.6) than all but six of the FBS’s 127 teams. This would appear to be a good opportunity for the Sun Devils to get well.
Limit Oregon’s big plays: Oregon may be struggling on defense, but the Ducks are still scoring 39.3 points per game. ASU’s secondary has shown some susceptibility to speed, particularly on crossing patterns, and Oregon will use those often. The fans may like it, but ASU doesn’t want a shootout. It’s important for the Devils’ secondary to keep players in front of them and ASU must get big plays from its blitz-happy defensive front.
Jail Freeman: Oregon running back Royce Freeman leads the Pac-12 in rushing yards (997) and leads all Pac-12 offensive players with 11 TDs. After a rocky start, ASU’s rushing defense has risen to second in the Pac-12 and 31st in the nation at 129.3 yards per game. ASU has held four straight opponents under 100 rushing yards. This is a critical matchup.
ASU INJURY REPORT
Out: WR Cameron Smith (knee); OL Dillon Faamatau (knee); TE Dan Vear (unknown). Limited: WR Jalen Harvey (collarbone); FS Armand Perry (ankle); TE Grant Martinez (ankle); FB Nick Ralston (unknown); QB Brady White (unknown).
3 QUICK FACTS
— The game will represent the Sun Devils’ annual Salute To Service contest, which honors veterans and active military. ASU will wear new uniforms from Adidas that pay homage to Sun Devil legend Pat Tillman, who was killed in military service. The Sun Devils will also unveil a new midfield logo of Sparky.
— A win would improve the Sun Devils to 8-0 in regular season games following a loss since a 38-21 loss at USC late in the 2012 regular season.
— ASU’s D.J. Foster has at least one reception in 47 consecutive games, the longest active streak in FBS and one shy of the Pac-12 record.
“If it’s a shootout, it’s a shootout… we just want to be one step ahead.” ASU quarterback Mike Bercovici on facing the high-powered Ducks