Jayden Daniels’ big night on a prime-time national stage helped Arizona State stun No. 6 Oregon 31-28 Saturday night, giving the Sun Devils their biggest victory of the season.
Daniels, a true freshman, completed 22 of 32 passes for 408 yards and three touchdowns and Arizona State intercepted two of Justin Herbert’s passes in the fourth quarter.
Arizona State (6-5, 3-5 Pac-12) ended Oregon’s College Football Playoff hopes and its nine-game winning streak. The Sun Devils snapped a four-game losing streak with their first victory over a top-five team since Oct. 14, 2017, against then No. 5 Washington.
Oregon (9-2, 7-1) has clinched the Pac-12 North title and a place in the conference championship game. But the Ducks’ best-case scenario is likely the Rose Bowl.
“There’s lot of goals that go into a season. One of them was to have ourselves in a situation coming into this game to be part of every conversation and every kind of championship,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. “But right now the only conversation that needs to take place for us as a team is the most logical one, that we get back to our process of being 1-0.”
The Sun Devils held on after Oregon scored three touchdowns in a 6:38 span in the wild fourth quarter.
The Ducks, down 24-7 with 8:42 to play, scored twice on three-play drives. It took them 59 seconds to make it 24-14 on Cyrus Habibi-Likio’s touchdown run, then 43 seconds to get Herbert’s scoring pass to Johnny Johnson III.
Then, with Arizona State facing third-and-16, Daniels hit Brandon Aiyuk in stride for an 81-yard touchdown strike with 3:54 to play.
Sun Devils coach Herm Edwards said play action was the key to Daniels’ long completions.
“We just felt that our matchup with our receivers, that we had the ability to beat them. We wanted one-on-one matchups with their corners and we go it,” Edwards said.
Herbert and Johnson connected again for a touchdown with 2:04 left, but Arizona State was able to run out the clock.
Daniels found holes in the secondary all night, hitting Frank Darby for touchdown passes of 57 and 26 yards. Daniels had eight completions of 17 yards or more as Arizona State scored 21 straight points after trailing 7-0 in the first quarter.
Daniels completed his first 12 passes of the game.
“Just trust, that is what we wanted to do,” Daniels said. “That is the skill set that we have. Brandon, Frank, Eno (Benjamin) and me.”
Aiyuk had seven catches for 161 yards, Darby finished with four catches for 125 yards and running back Benjamin had 168 total yards. Christian Zendejas made three short field goals, including a 22-yard kick for a 17-point lead.
“I came out here with a chip on my shoulder and I know they all did, too,” Darby said.
Herbert was 20 of 36 for 304 yards. C.J. Verdell rushed for 99 yards on 18 carries and Johnson had 10 catches for 207 yards.
Arizona State got the game’s only two takeaways, the first an interception by Jack Jones on the first play of the fourth quarter. Four plays later, Daniels hit Darby in the back of the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown pass, then found Benjamin for the 2-point conversion and a 21-7 lead.
“They hit some big plays on us, some will be technique-oriented, some will be just them making a really good throw and catch,” Cristobal said. “Credit them for making those plays.”
After throwing just one interception in the first eight games of the season, Herbert, once considered a Heisman Trophy contender, has four in his last three games.
“I made a bad decision and the defense made a play,” Herbert said. “We didn’t play like we could.”
Aiyuk said he was glad to see Oregon in man-to-man coverage. “They think they are big bad mighty Oregon, so I kind of had a feeling that they were going to come out and do what they do,” Aiyuk said. “Last year we had them talking to themselves. A lot of big talkers. They didn’t say too much today.”
Oregon had to turn to starting right tackle Calvin Throckmorton to play center in the second half when Jake Hanson suffered an undisclosed injury. The Ducks’ experienced offensive line held up fairly well, giving up two sacks but paving the way for 172 rushing yards.
The Ducks were also without junior wide receiver Jaylon Redd, who was held out due to injury, and freshman sensation Mycah Pittman. Redd has 42 catches for 396 yards and seven touchdowns.
Oregon: The Ducks will certainly fall in the College Football Playoff standings next week, and Herbert was inconsistent until the final minutes, when Oregon made a valiant comeback but couldn’t complete it. And a defense that had been one of the Pac-12’s best this season was torched for 535 total yards.
Arizona State: The students rushed the field to celebrate the Sun Devils’ signature win of the season, and it made them bowl eligible with their sixth win. They made enough defensive stops through three quarters to take a big lead and keep it, and ripped a secondary that came in with 17 interceptions on the season.
“I am happy to be bowl eligible to be quite honest,” Edwards said. “That is significant for us. We were tired of losing. We just got tired of losing because losing ain’t no fun for anybody.”
Oregon hosts Oregon State in the Civil War rivalry game Saturday.
Arizona State hosts Arizona in the Duel in the Desert game Saturday night.
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