TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — The crowd of more than 70,000 enthusiastically filed into Sun Devil Stadium, nearly all of them wearing black.
It would be what first-year Arizona State coach Todd Graham called a “black out.”
Unfortunately for all who had relished this so-called test against No. 2 Oregon, blowout was more like it. The game was far more one-sided than Thursday night’s final score of 43-21 would indicate.
The Sun Devils were no match for the fast, deep Ducks, managing a couple of meaningless late touchdowns to make the score respectable long after the starters had called it a night.
Arizona State’s best play of the game was also its worst, in terms of the futility that lay ahead.
The Ducks (7-0, 4-0 Pac-12) took the kickoff and on their second play from scrimmage, quarterback Marcus Mariota, attempting to pitch the ball to a teammate, was hit by Arizona State’s Will Sutton and fumbled. Davon Coleman recovered for the Sun Devils (5-2, 3-1), returning it nine yards to the Oregon 28.
But Sutton, the standout anchor on Arizona State’s defensive line, went down with an injured right knee. He spent the rest of the evening on crutches, watching the Ducks decimate his team.
“It was kind of like a high-low type of moment,” Arizona State safety Alden Darby said. “We were excited about the turnover, then we all looked down and we saw Will Sutton, one of our key players on the d-line and a great guy go down. It was sad so it kind of brought us down at the same time, to see all that happen on one play.”
Arizona State scored on that turnover when Taylor Kelly threw 28 yards to Kevin Ozier. The Sun Devils led 7-0, but it was a desert mirage.
In a span of just over one quarter, Oregon scored six touchdowns to lead 43-7 at halftime. In a mostly empty stadium the Sun Devils reserves managed two touchdowns to make the final at least appear respectable.
“We do have a good football team,” Graham said, “We got beat by a really, really good football team tonight. There’s no doubt in my mind they’re one of the best if not the best team in the country. They’re definitely one of the best two.”
As for Sutton’s condition, a downcast Graham said, “I don’t know. I won’t know until tomorrow. We’ll have to get an MRI.”
Kenjon Barner ran for 143 yards and three touchdowns and Marcus Mariota added 135 yards for the Ducks.
Facing its first true road test, Oregon turned what was supposed to be a duel in the desert into another we’ve-seen-this-before rout by running over the Sun Devils in the first half.
The Ducks had their way against what had been the Pac-12’s best defense, racing to a 36-point halftime lead and rushing for 406 yards to win their nation-leading 12th straight road game.
“We really stress to our guys that if you want to win the championship you have to be great on the road and I think our kids embrace that,” Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. “I tell them it is not a badge you put on your chest and say ‘Look what I did.’ You have to go out and do it again. Down the stretch we finish with some really big road games and hopefully this gives us a little bit more to pull upon when we get in those situations.”
Arizona State’s defense, its anchor through the first six games, allowed 454 total yards, including 48 more rushing than it had the previous four games combined.
Mariota threw for one touchdown, ran for another and had one receiving .
Arizona State was one of the surprises the first half of the season, winning five games and nearly pulling out a sixth under Graham, who took responsibility for the loss, saying he failed to adequately respond when the team lost Sutton.
“We were discombobulated and they are not a team you want to be scrambling like that on,” Graham said. “Then I did some stupid things. I tried to overcompensate and tried to do some things we couldn’t do.”
To swat down the Ducks on national TV would be a big boost to the Sun Devils, a we-have-arrived moment that would turn the spotlight full blast toward the desert.
Oregon had 329 yards rushing by halftime, 29 fewer than Arizona State allowed against Colorado, California, Utah and Missouri combined.
The Ducks coasted through the second half, resting many of their starters as Arizona State scored two touchdowns.
It didn’t matter at that point.
Oregon had done enough during its overpowering first half to beat the Sun Devils for the eighth straight time.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.