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Archive for Saturday, September 10, 2011

ASU makes statement with 37-30 OT win over Tigers

September 10, 2011

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— Lightning flashing above a stadium filled with a sea of black, Arizona State found itself in a precarious position after blowing a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter.

A team that couldn't close out games a year ago, the Sun Devils appeared to be headed toward another disheartening loss.

They pulled it out this time, thanks to a missed Missouri field goal and Brock Osweiler's third touchdown pass of the night.

Arizona State dodged a loss when Missouri kicker Grant Ressel missed a 48-yard field goal late in regulation and made a big early season state when Osweiler hit Jamal Miles on an 11-yard touchdown pass in overtime in the Sun Devils' 37-30 victory over No. 21 Missouri on Friday night.

"That's the kind of game we couldn't win last season," Pflugrad said.

Arizona State had trouble closing out tight games while going 6-6 in 2010 to miss out on a bowl for the third straight year. The can't-close-it-out feeling started to come back when the Sun Devils (2-0) allowed Missouri (1-1) to rally from a 30-16 deficit.

Missouri quarterback James Franklin, who had been baffling the Sun Devils with his arm and legs all night, opened the fourth quarter with a a 25-yard touchdown pass to L'Damian Washington, then tied it on 3-yard TD pass to Michael Egnew with 2:50 left. Franklin moved the Tigers quickly at the end of regulation to set up a field goal, but Ressel's attempt from 48 yards missed wide left with 12 seconds left.

Arizona State opened overtime with an 11-yard touchdown from Osweiler to Miles on a swing pass, then swarmed the field after Franklin's fourth-down pass fell harmlessly into the end zone, ending a back-and-forth game that included 23 penalties for 224 yards.

Osweiler threw for 353 yards and accounted for four touchdowns: three passing, one rushing. Pflugrad caught eight passes for a career-high 180 yards and a pair of touchdowns — the second on a trick-play pass by Miles — and Arizona State finished with 492 yards to beat a ranked opponent for the first time in its last 11 tries.

"My heart's fluttered," Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said.

Franklin almost single-handedly kept the Tigers in it.

A week after a nervous first start, the sophomore threw for 319 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 84 yards and another score.

It just wasn't enough on a night in which Missouri had 501 total yards, but converted just three of 15 third-down chances to see its 22-game winning streak in regular-season nonconference games come to an end.

"My guys battled back in a really tough environment and put ourselves in a position to win," said Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, whose team lost to Iowa at Sun Devil Stadium in December in the Insight Bowl. "We were down 14 going into the fourth quarter and then we tie it up and have a chance to win at the very end. These are tough losses."

Both teams came in looking to make a statement against a big-time program after opening against smaller schools.

Arizona State rolled over UC Davis in its opener, thanks to 262 yards and a pair of touchdowns from Osweiler, along with a stingy defense that held the FCS Aggies to minus-4 yards rushing before giving up a couple of late scores.

The Tigers struggled offensively in their opening 17-6 win over Miami of Ohio, scoring their fewest points in an opener since 2001 as Franklin played with what he called "jittery feet." Missouri's defense made up for the offensive shortcomings, stifling the RedHawks, giving up the one score after an interception by Franklin gave them a short field.

This first-big-test matchup had Sun Devil Stadium juiced for one of the few times in recent years, a sellout crowd — the first since 2008 — of 70,236 fans dressed in black to create the "Black Out." A nearby lightning storm added to the buzz, as did the celebrities in attendance: golfer Phil Mickelson, Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash, not to mention a dozen or so NFL scouts.

They got to see quite a show.

Osweiler was sharp from the opening drive, squeezing a 12-yard touchdown pass between two defenders to Miles, who was pinballed but still held on.

Arizona State had to settle for Alex Garoutte's 47-yard field goal after a fourth-down conversion was wiped out by a penalty early in the second quarter, but Osweiler answered Missouri's first touchdown with a 60-yard scoring pass to Pflugrad on the next play. Missouri blocked Garoutte's extra-point attempt.

Osweiler had the hockey assist on the back pass to Miles, who hit Pflugrad for a 35-yard touchdown pass, then took it in himself for a rumbling 12-yard touchdown run up the middle that put ASU up 30-16. Osweiler finished 24 for 32.

"Our team is just relentless," Osweiler said. "We refuse to give up."

So did Franklin and the Tigers.

He had a 2-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, set up three field goals by Ressel and opened the fourth quarter with a 25-yard TD pass to Washington that got the Tigers within 30-23 early in the fourth quarter.

Franklin followed with the 3-yard touchdown pass to Egnew, tying it at 30-all with 2:50 left, and had the Tigers moving again, but Ressel missed the final chance in regulation. Franklin's last-ditch attempt on fourth down in overtime fell in the corner of the end zone when he receiver cut inside. He finished 26 for 42.

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