Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NCF Nation [Print without images]

Saturday, September 10, 2011
Arizona State finds a way

By Ted Miller

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The penalties. The critical turnovers. The sloppiness. The bad luck. Same old Arizona State.

It certainly looked that way as Missouri lined up for a game-winning 48-yard field goal with 12 seconds left.

But something happened on the way to blowing a game it led by 14 points early in the fourth quarter. Arizona State got a break: Missouri's standout kicker Grant Ressel missed wide left. Not only that, the Sun Devils took advantage of that break and won 37-30 in overtime.

ASU's Brock Osweiler and Aaron Pflugrad
Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler (left) and receiver Aaron Pflugrad (right) connected 8 times for 180 yards and two touchdowns on Friday night.
"I was like, 'Not again,'" Sun Devils quarterback Brock Osweiler said. "We've been through too many heart breakers these past two years. But this time we had a little bit of luck on our side."

At one point, Arizona State looked like it was about to run away with an easy win over the No. 21 Tigers. After they jumped ahead 30-16 early in the fourth quarter, they got a defensive stop and forced a punt that looked like would give them good field position. But Jamal Miles fumbled the return, and Missouri took over on the Sun Devils'  32-yard line.

From that point until the missed kick, nothing went right for Arizona State. The Tigers tied the game as the sold out crowd of 70, 236, which was dressed in all-black, grew increasingly restless. And then the Tigers drove all the way from their 8-yard line to the Sun Devils 31, looking primed to steal the victory.

Ressel is one of the best kickers in the nation. He entered the game having connected on 44 of 47 field goals. But he missed two against the Sun Devils, including the potential game-winner.

Said Osweiler, "You're never out of a football game until there are zeroes across the time clock."

When overtime started, Osweiler found his favorite target, receiver Aaron Pflugrad, for 13 yards on a third-and-7 play. Miles, earning redemption for his fumble, then scored the winning TD on an 11-yard swing pass from Osweiler.

The defense shutdown the Tigers on four plays. The crowd went bonkers, perhaps shocked at how things turned out but clearly happy to be witnessing the program's first win over a ranked team since 2007.

Osweiler was just short of brilliant. He completed 24 of 32 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 34 yards, which included a 12-yard TD.  Pflugrad caught eight passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns.

Make no mistake: This one wasn't pretty. The teams' combined for 23 penalties for 124 yard, though Miles' fumble was the only turnover.

"I think the thing people need to take from this game is we stuck together," said Pflugrad, who transferred from Oregon after his father was fired by Chip Kelly as the Ducks receivers coach.

"We almost let [mistakes] beat us but we didn't."

That's the rub.

Said coach Dennis Erickson, “The football Gods were with us tonight.”

This was the sort of sloppy performance that left Sun Devils fans in the past asking, "What if?"

This time, instead of reviewing painful details, they're celebrating.