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Beavers rumble, then stumble in the desert

Sun Devils rally for 35-20 win over Oregon State

TEMPE, Ariz. - Arizona State made enough mistakes Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium to leave the door open for an upset victory by Oregon State.

On a record-setting night by Sean Mannion, the Beavers responded with too many muck-ups of their own, the result a 35-20 win by the 25th-ranked Sun Devils.

Oregon State (0-4 overall, 0-2 in Pac-10 action) had five turnovers, 13 penalties for 139 yards and enough special-teams blunders for Arizona State (4-1, 2-0) to escape with victory.

'It's tough,' said OSU cornerback Jordan Poyer, who had two interceptions but also a muffed punt that led to an Arizona State touchdown. 'This was a game that came down to a few plays.

'There are no words you can use to pretty it up. A loss is a loss. We'll see what we can do from here.'

It's Oregon State's first 0-4 start since 1996, Jerry Pettibone's final year as coach. But as OSU coach Mike Riley said afterward, this one 'didn't have to be.'

The Beavers forced four Arizona State turnovers - three on the Sun Devils' first three possessions - and led 13-0 early in the second quarter. That turned around in a hurry, though, as the Devils scored three quick touchdowns and went into intermission ahead 21-13.

Riley lit into his players at halftime.

'It was frustration,' he said. The score 'didn't have to be like that. We had given (the Sun Devils) some stuff that got them not only back into the game, but into the lead. I wanted the team to know that they had gotten some gifts from us.'

On a night when the Beavers didn't attempt to establish the run, Mannion set school single-game records for pass completions (40) and attempts (66), throwing for 341 yards and a score. He also served up four interceptions - three in the fourth quarter as the Beavers tried in vain to get back into the game.

'Under these circumstances, (the records) mean nothing,' the 6-5, 220-pound redshirt freshman said. 'I turned the ball over several times. There were a lot of plays I could have made.

'You can't feel good about too much after a loss like this. You remember the good, you learn from the bad, keep working and become a better team.'

Oregon State won the battle in total offense (388-367) and time of possession (31:14 to 28:46) and forced ASU quarterback Brock Osweiler into four turnovers, including a fumble.

'Both defenses made a lot of plays,' Riley said. 'The special teams plays they made and we didn't make ended up being the two-score difference in the game.'

To wit:

• An out-of-bounds kickoff by Trevor Romaine - his second in two games - to give Arizona State the ball at its 40-yard line after Oregon State had scored a touchdown to go in front 13-0 early in the second quarter. It led to the Sun Devils' first touchdown.

• Poyer's fumbled punt in the second quarter, which the Devils recovered at their 47-yard line. It led to a TD and ASU's first lead at 14-13.

• A 78-yard punt return for a score by Arizona State's Jamal Miles for a 21-13 advantage 1:45 later.

• A holding penalty on the ensuing kickoff, leaving Oregon State to start its next drive on the 12-yard line.

• A 19-yard Johnny Hekker punt to give Arizona State the ball at the Oregon State 38 late in the third quarter. It led to the Devils' final touchdown.

'It's just little plays here and there,' Poyer said, 'that hurt us.'

Big ones, really.

With true freshman tailback Malcolm Agnew out of the lineup for the third straight game with a strained hamstring, Oregon State came out throwing. And throwing. And throwing.

When it was over, OSU had passed 66 times and run 14. And three of the runs were sacks of Mannion.

'This is one of the best defenses we will see all year, or any year,' Riley said. 'I felt like we'd do whatever we had to do to win it. It appeared to me it was throw.'

Minus the sacks, the Beavers ran 11 times for 74 yards.

'It's a hard thing for us right now,' Riley said. 'We're not balanced. We hit a few runs that were pretty good, but not consistently.'

Mannion was effective through the air and did a nice job avoiding pressure, moving around the pocket and releasing the ball quickly. Too quickly, at times, for Riley's liking, though the coach wasn't blaming the quarterback.

'Sean made some great plays and some very rough ones,' Riley said. 'He was really rushed tonight. He hung in there tough - physically tough.

'Rarely did Sean have much time to get to the second progression. That's the hardest thing about our offense right now. He doesn't have time to look at the next guy. Especially in the red zone, that hurts you.'

Oregon State struggled again inside the opponent's 20-yard line. The Beavers got field goals on their first two visits Saturday, then missed a field goal, and finally scored a touchdown after an Anthony Watkins interception gave them the ball at the ASU 11.

Osweiler completed 24 of 37 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns, but he was under heavy duress, too. For awhile, it seemed the Beavers had an answer for everything he tried.

'Oregon State schemed us pretty well,' the 6-8, 240-pound junior said. 'At times it seemed as if (the Beavers) almost knew exactly what was coming, so that's a credit to them. I was making errors I can't make.

'They ran their base coverages like we expected, but at times they would drop a lineman instead of rushing him. We knew on third down they're a big man- (to-man coverage) team, but they were playing a lot of games, and on third down as well. That was the biggest thing we weren't prepared for. We struggled a little bit with the mind games.'

'Our defense came out to play,' Poyer said. 'We had a good gameplan coming in. We felt confident with what their offense was trying to do to us.'

OSU drew first blood on Romaine's 34-yard three-pointer with 10:50 left in the first quarter after Poyer gave the Beavers the ball with an interception on a pass intended for Aaron Pflugrad at their own 47-yard line. The Beavers drove to the Arizona State 17, but settled for three points and a 3-0 lead.

Oregon State got another chance on Arizona State's next possession when Scott Critchton sacked Osweiler and his fumble was recovered by Dylan Wynn at the Sun Devil 25. But the Beavers sputtered in the red zone again, getting to fourth-and-goal at the four before Romaine's 21-yard field goal made it 6-0 with 7:04 remaining in the quarter.

'When our defense makes big plays like that,' Mannion said, 'we have to capitalize by scoring touchdowns.'

The Beavers got their third takeaway of the period when Poyer stepped in front of Pflugrad again and intercepted another Osweiler pass at the OSU 29. This time the Beavers finished, moving 71 yards in eight plays, with Terron Ward carrying 10 yards for the touchdown and a 13-0 advantage with 14:40 to go in the second quarter.

But Romaine sent the kickoff out of bounds, giving Arizona State the ball at its 40. With the short field, the Sun Devils advanced 60 yards in only six plays, A.J. Pickens beating Cameron Collins on a curl route that covered 17 yards for a TD. That drew the hosts to within 13-7 with 12:27 left in the half.

Oregon State moved to the Arizona State 35-yard line on their next series, but a penalty and a sack forced a Hekker punt to the ASU 6. The Devils went three-and-out, but Poyer muffed the punt and Arizona State recovered on its own 47.

'I just misjudged it,' Poyer said. 'I thought it was coming down closer to me. I catch those all the times in practice. I have to make those plays.'

Oregon State had 10 men on the field for the punt until James Rodgers rushed on just before the snap.

'At the last second, I realized James was coming on the field,' Poyer said. 'No excuses, but it kind of mindboggled me. We worked on two-deep earlier in the week. But I should have caught the ball.'

Riley said 'a freshman' failed to go onto the field for the play and that Rodgers was sent onto the field because nobody was out there.

'I don't think it caused (Poyer) to drop the ball,' the coach said

The Devils appeared to give it right back on the next play when Cameron Marshall fumbled and OSU's Feti Unga recovered at the Beavers' 48. After review, the call was overruled and Marshall was ruled down before the cough-up.

Two plays later, Osweiler found Gerell Robinson all alone for 24 yards, a touchdown and a 14-13 lead with 7:56 to go before the break.

After an OSU three-and-out, Hekker's punt carried to the Arizona State 22. Jamal Miles split gunners Keynan Parker and Malcolm Marable shot up the middle, cut left and raced 78 yards for a touchdown and a 21-13 ASU lead with 6:11 left before intermission.

Oregon State responded with a long drive that went from the OSU 12 to the ASU 17. But Romaine's 34-yard field-goal attempt was wide left.

Osweiler then delivered a 48-yard bomb to Robinson, who beat Watkins on the play, taking the ball to the OSU 36. The Sun Devils wound up with a missed 35-yard field goal by Alex Gourette.

Watkins gave Oregon State new life in the third quarter, returning an interception 40 yards to the Arizona State 11. Two plays later, Mannion hit Rodgers in the corner of the end zone for a five-yard touchdown pass, drawing OSU to within 21-20 with 8:43 left in the quarter.

Arizona State responded with a six-play, 80-yard scoring drive. Marshall covered the final 37 yards on the ground, breaking three tackles en route to the end zone and a 28-20 advantage with 6:17 to play in the period.

A 19-yard Hekker punt gave Arizona State the ball at the Oregon State 38. Marshall did the dirty work, carrying the final nine yards to give ASU a 35-20 edge on the first play of the fourth quarter.

The Beavers had a final try to get back into the game, but Mannion's bomb intended for Markus Wheaton was intercepted by Clint Floyd in the ASU end zone.

The win snapped a three-game losing streak against Oregon State by ASU coach Dennis Erickson, who called the Beavers 'a good football program.'

'They are great competitors,' said Erickson, Riley's predecessor at OSU. 'They weren't going to come in here and lay down. That's not what they are about.

'The first half was a disaster with turnovers for us, but we played outstanding defense, especially in the second half.'

Erickson, who hasn't had a winning season the past three years, can empathize with what Riley and the Beavers are going through.

'Two years ago,' Erickson said, 'we wouldn't have won this game.'

The Beavers, meanwhile, are still looking for their first win of 2011.

'There are a lot of games left to go,' Poyer said. 'We're getting better each game. We're getting more confident and guys are starting to do their job a little bit more.'

'We've had four tough losses, no doubt about it,' Mannion said. 'But there was a lot of good stuff out there tonight we can build on. It's going to pay off eventually.'

NOTES - Temperature at kickoff was 91 degrees. ... Mannion broke school records held by Erik Wilhelm, who had completed 39 of 64 pass attempts against Michigan in 1986. ... Miles' touchdown was the first punt returned against Oregon State for any yardage this season. ... Wheaton caught 11 passes for 116 yards and had a six-yard run in the first half. ... Arizona State had only six penalties for 74 yards. ... Backup D-end Rusty Fernando sacked Osweiler twice in the half. ... Hekker had a 65-yard rugby-style punt in the third quarter. ... Oregon State had three facemask penalties ... OSU has six players from the state of Arizona, including Stevenson, Wheaton and linebacker Rueben Robinson. ... Arizona State has two starters who graduated from Eugene's Sheldon High - receiver Pflugrad, son of Montana coach Robin Pflugrad, and defensive tackle Bo Moos, son of Washington State athletic director Bill Moos. ... Arizona State starts 14 seniors, Oregon State eight. ... Oregon State joins Florida Atlantic (0-4), Alabama-Birmingham (0-4), Western Kentucky (0-4), Miami of Ohio (0-4) and New Mexico (0-5) as the remaining winless Division 1-A schools.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Oregon State 6 7 7 0 - 20

Arizona State 0 21 7 7 - 35

FIRST QUARTER

OSU - Trevor Romaine 34 field goal 10:50.

OSU - Romaine 21 FG 7:04.

SECOND QUARTER

OSU - Terron Ward 10 run (Romaine kick) 14:40.

ASU - A.J. Pickens 17 pass from Brock Osweiler (Alex Garoutte kick) 12:27.

ASU - Gerell Robinson 24 pass from Osweiler (Garoutte kick) 7:56.

ASU - Jamal Miles 78 punt return (Garoutte kick) 6:11.

THIRD QUARTER

OSU - James Rodgers 5 pass from Sean Mannion (Romaine kick) 8:43.

ASU - Cameron Marshall 37 run (Garoutte kick) 6:17.

FOURTH QUARTER

ASU - Marshall 9 run (Garoutte kick) 14:49.

ATT. - 57,437.