Arizona State University’s (ASU) sidelines blew up in excitement when Oregon’s Justin Herbert threw an interception with a little less than four minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Caught midfield, it was the break that ASU, down by two points, needed. All they had to do was move the ball about 30 yards. With a field goal, it would’ve been the heist of a lifetime for ASU, delivering a blow to Oregon’s attempt to finish on a high note before the team travels to Corvallis for the Civil War game.
Of course, ASU didn’t pull it off.
Instead, ASU tried to rely on their running back, Eno Benjamin and couldn’t connect on their pass game. The game was all over when Oregon’s Gus Cumberlander had his third sack for the night, forcing ASU’s quarterback Manny Wilkins to fumble.
ASU’s failure to deliver in a clutch moment wasn’t surprising, however. They were struggling to establish themselves throughout the night. That’s not to say that Oregon really did much better, though. Sure, Oregon started out strong but fell into their identity of choking in the second half — putting up only three points during the latter half of the game.
Oregon started the game in the way that Mario Cristobal says is their identity and what he wants to see in future games.
“If we get stopped, let it be a great play from the defense,” Cristobal added.
The first drive of the game started out weak in passing but strong on the ground. Travis Dye logged 50 yards in rushing and CJ Verdell had a rush touchdown.
Oregon’s defense then held ASU from getting to the end zone, forcing them to kick a field goal.
I think it’s important to say that ASU’s Benjamin has a future as a tank if professional football doesn’t come to him. Benjamin often broke several of Oregon’s tackles, that is until ASU used him too much and Oregon started to read ASU’s playcalling.
Oregon’s defense really served as a constant during the game, preventing ASU from getting momentum. Most of that is because of the work that defensive lineman Cumberlander put in. And Mario Cristobal said during the post-game press conference that it was a welcome surprise.
However, Cristobal added that there were some signs that he would be a great addition to the team during summer camp. With long arms, he could be a menace on defense.
And Oregon linebacker La’mar Winston, Jr. agreed. He added that Cumberlander, “is so physical and long. He’s a huge presence.”
Cumberlander brought in two sacks during critical moments — one of them being a forced fumble that saved Oregon’s hide.
The game didn’t really go the way that Oregon planned, though. Herbert said they weren’t executing things the way they wanted and things weren’t going their way.
Based on Herbert’s performance, things really didn’t go his way. Sure, he threw more than 200 yards and had two touchdowns but he also threw two interceptions. The first interception was almost resulted in ASU bringing in a pick six. ASU’s offensive turned that interception into a touchdown.
The second almost resulted in Oregon losing the game.
And there’s the true identity of Oregon’s football that really impacted them: Their knack for playing really well for one half and slacking on the other.
“When you play that hard it’s great to see that rewards,” Cristobal said. “It’s obvious to say we had brilliants moments and times where we shot ourselves in the foot.”
Oregon’s second-half performance was reminiscent of their game against Stanford earlier this year. And luckily for everyone in the stadium, this game didn’t go into overtime.
Cristobal added that he felt Oregon could continue the momentum of the first half, but miscues really got to Oregon.
Nevertheless, Oregon’s players were excited and playful during the post-game press conference, which included the oft-stoic Herbert stealing one of the other player’s polo shirt. Underneath the playful surface, was a concern for playing in Corvallis on Friday.
Cristobal said they had less than a week to prepare because of the late night game and their game time against Oregon State Friday afternoon. The team wouldn’t be able to put together a game plan with their usual timeline.
He added that they would wait a little longer to get to work on preparing for OSU to spend time with family and eat some pancakes and omelets (no word on which restaurant they would be going to for that).
But it was Winston, Jr. who offered a sobering note about the upcoming Civil War game. The last time Oregon played in Corvallis, it didn’t go over well for Oregon. The Beavers dammed the Ducks, 34-24.
With Oregon’s travel record (they’ve only won once on the road this year), they have a legitimate reason to be worried — especially Cristobal. Former coach Mark Helfrich was fired three days after losing to OSU in Corvallis. So Oregon better play like a person’s job is on the line — because it might just be.