By Jourdan Rodrique, SDA Digital Communications Intern
The full moon shone over Sun Devil Stadium and the Arizona State defense shone on the field Saturday night in Tempe in a 30-17 win over Oregon State.
The offense received the opening kickoff and scored on their first series as running back Marion Grice, the nation’s leading scorer, capped off a nine-play, 75-yard drive that lasted 3 minutes and 13 seconds with a one-yard touchdown run.
The Sun Devils (8-2, 6-1) defense once again showed their stamina and grit as they held the Beavers (6-4,4-3), who came into the game as the Pac-12’s third-highest scoring team in points per game, to just 17 points, less than half their average.
ASU’s defense forced five turnovers behind four interceptions from the secondary, including a pair by cornerback Robert Nelson, who sealed the win with a 23-yard interception return for a touchdown with just over five minutes left in the game. Nelson also added a fumble recovery, and safeties Alden Darby and Damarious Randall each had one interception apiece.
Grice, who entered the game as the nation’s leading scorer, notched two touchdowns to increase his season total to 20 and became just the third ASU player in history with 20 or more touchdowns in a single season. Running back DJ Foster also added a touchdown and wide receiver Jaelen Strong caught seven passes for 106 yards. Quarterback Taylor Kelly went 22-for-37 with 183 yards and no touchdowns.
Linebacker Chris Young’s sack on Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion in the Beavers’ first series lit the defensive match and forced a loss of seven yards with an eventual a three-and-out. The defense then showed their stamina as they were brought back on the field after Kelly was intercepted during his first pass of the series and forced an OSU punt.
Another interception, this time by Nelson with less than five minutes left in the first quarter, inspired the offense to spark some momentum.
Foster, with a hard earned first down on third and long, and Grice, with an explosive sprint up the middle for a gain of 40, put the Devils in scoring position at the end of the first quarter. Another carry from Foster punched in a second Sun Devil touchdown, but a blocked PAT kept the score at 13-0.
Nelson then recovered a muffed OSU punt with nine minutes left in the quarter, and the offense showed their gratitude with another one-yard touchdown run from Grice.
An ASU interception by Randall gave both the defense a chance to recover and ASU its third forced turnover against the Beavers’ offense.
By the end of the half, the Sun Devils had held OSU to only three points.
The ASU defense began the second half just as explosively with an interception by Darby, and then forced OSU to go three-and-out in their next series.
However, OSU found some momentum late in the third quarter and with a series of seam routes and up-the-middle runs they increased their score to 10.
They continued to march downfield in their next series, but lost their momentum from an unnecessary roughness penalty and blocked field goal attempt by ASU defensive end Davon Coleman.
The block put some pep in the ASU offense as Kelly moved his team downfield with a series of screen passes that resulted in a field goal by freshman kicker Zane Gonzalez, who made his 14th straight.
And on the following series Nelson made a 22-yard interception return for a touchdown to up ASU’s lead to 20 with 5:08 left in the second half.
The Sun Devils hit the road next week to face Pac-12 South opponent UCLA in Pasadena. The game time has yet to be announced.