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Sept. 27, 1997

ASU Tops Oregon State for Pac-10 Win

Kendrick Bates photo
Tight end Kendrick Bates had two receptions for 62 yards. (File photo)

CORVALLIS, Ore. - It was yet another nail-biter for the 25th-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils. A week after a suspenseful loss to the BYU Cougars, the Sun Devils kept a crowd of 25,873 at the edge of their seats in a 13-10 victory over the Oregon State Beavers in Corvallis. ASU improves their record to 3-1 and 1-0 in Pac-10 play while Oregon State falls to 1-2, 0-2 in the conference.

The ASU defense led the charge, once again overpowering the opponent's running game, limiting the Beavers to 20 yards on the ground. This is the lowest total rushing yards that Oregon State has had since November 11, 1989 when the Washington Huskies held them to 20 yards at Parker Stadium. ASU's secondary was without starting cornerback Jason Simmons, but was still able to keep the Beavers on their toes by intercepting three passes. The Beaver offense managed 213 yards of total offense, throwing the ball 43 times, completing only 17 of those passes. The Sun Devil defense held the Beaver offense to three points. ASU's defense was led by linebacker Pat Tillman who had five solo tackles, two interceptions and two sacks.

Head coach Bruce Snyder commented, "If we can keep that up, it's going to give us time for our offense to develop."

The Sun Devil offense showed signs of improvement and a renewed vitality following the disappointing loss against BYU. ASU had 349 yards of total offense, 205 of which were in the air. Quarterback Ryan Kealy faced a heavy Beaver pass rush early on, forcing several ill-advised passes and two interceptions under pressure, but bounced back in the second half to finish the game with 194 yards passing, completing 14 of 24 passes and one touchdown. Kealy's favorite receiver for the game was wide out Lenzie Jackson who caught six passes for 74 yards. Tight end Kendrick Bates also had two receptions for 62 yards. Backup quarterback Steve Campbell relieved Kealy for a brief spell in the second quarter, completing 1 of 3 passes and throwing an interception.

ASU's running game was sure and steady, rumbling for 144 yards. J.R. Redmond led the way with 18 carries for 77 yards. Starting tailback Michael Martin had 14 carries for 66 yards.

Inopportune penalties held the Sun Devils at bay, pulling back several scoring opportunities. ASU had 14 penalties for a total loss of 116 yards including a Courtney Jackson interception and touchdown that was called back on an illegal formation call.

"We're heading in the right direction," said ASU guard Kyle Murphy. "But it's obvious we've got a lot of work to do. We're 1-0 (in the Pac-10) and hopefully we can build on that."

The first quarter started out with a bang as Kealy drove the Sun Devils 75 yards in ten plays. Kealy came out firing, hitting Lenzie Jackson four times and tight end Matt Cercone in the end zone for the first score of the game. Kealy was 5 for 5 on the drive. Both defenses slowed the tempo after that initial drive by forcing six punts to cap off the rest of the first quarter.

The second quarter opened with Oregon State driving to the ASU 36-yard line before being stopped cold by a Pat Tillman interception. ASU tried to capitalize, driving to Oregon State's 27-yard line. On the following play, Oregon State defensive back Armon Hatcher jumped on a miscommunication between Kealy and receiver Kenny Mitchell, intercepting the pass and returning the ball 76 yards for the Beaver's only touchdown of the game.

With the game tied at 7-7, the Sun Devil offense came back onto the field hoping to make up for the mistake. After driving three plays for one yard, Kealy was intercepted by Beaver cornerback Larry Bumpus, who returned the ball to the ASU 46-yard line. The Beavers took the opportunity to push to ASU's 13-yard line. On the following play, Beaver quarterback Tim Alexander was sacked on third down by linebacker Pat Tillman for an 11-yard loss and the Beaver's settled for a field goal to pull ahead 7-10.

ASU guard Kyle Murphy kept his faith in his quarterback.

He said after the game, "Ryan's the kind of kid, like we all are, who wants to do what is best for the team. He came back in after the interceptions and seemed to feel real good and we won the football game. That's the most important thing."

ASU's offense came back onto the field with backup quarterback Steve Campbell at the helm. Campbell's first drive was ineffective, ending in a punt. On his second drive, Campbell pushed the offense to the ASU 31-yard line before being intercepted by Armon Hatcher at the Beaver 35-yard line to set up a 41-yard Jose Cortez field goal. ASU returned the favor on Oregon State's next drive as Pat Tillman picked off his second pass of the day.

ASU, with ten seconds to go in the half, pushed the ball to Oregon State's 39-yard line and quickly set up for a 56-yard field goal attempt by Robert Nycz, which fell short of the goal posts. This was Nycz's first missed attempt of the season.

Coming out of halftime trailing by 7-10, ASU's defense turned on the heat, forcing Oregon State to punt away their first three possessions of the third quarter. On ASU's first possession, with Kealy back at the helm, ASU drove deep into Beaver territory to set up a 34-yard field goal by Nycz, knotting the score at 10-10. ASU punted away its next two possessions and ended the quarter with another Pat Tillman sack.

Kealy was not discouraged by the brief rest he was given. As Campbell trotted onto the playing field, the redshirt freshman quarterback gave Campbell a pat on the back.

Kealy said, "I think I've grown up a lot today. I saw a lot of things happen. Hopefully, this is going to help me down the line to be a more mature quarterback."

In a heart-stopping moment during the third, ASU's starting tailback Michael Martin re-aggravated a neck injury from last season, but was able to get off the field on his own. He did not return to the game.

ASU is the only opponent to score on Oregon State in the third quarter this season and has outscored opponents 31-3 in the third quarter.

Oregon State entered the fourth quarter facing third down and thirteen yards to go, but an ASU holding penalty gave the Beavers a second chance. The Beavers, hoping to capitalize, pushed forward and set up kicker Jose Cortez for his second attempt of the game. Pressure from a tall ASU defense forced the attempt wide right, leaving the score tied 10-10.

With time running down, both teams fought to gain the upper hand, with both defenses making big plays to stop their opponents. ASU took advantage of the missed field goal to drive 64 yards into Beaver territory, setting up a 32-yard field goal by Robert Nycz to take the lead 13-10. ASU's defense would come in and seal the game. The first big play came from the defensive line, stuffing a draw play on fourth down and one yard to go. Cornerback J'Juan Cherry later intercepted a pass to close out the game.

Bruce Snyder said after the game, "The whole thing is coming around, I think. If we can just keep working at it. We can't get discouraged. We've got to keep pounding nails."

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