TEMPE, Ariz. — Live by the big play, die by the big play — and then live, one last time, by two of the most improbable plays of them all. That was the story of Oregon's night Thursday at Sun Devil Stadium, where UO prevailed 61-55 in triple overtime after Arrion Springs intercepted Mike Bercovici with the Sun Devils just three yards away from taking the game-tying touchdown.
In a game you had to see to believe, the Ducks' defense allowed 10 plays of at least 20 yards, while their offense produced nine of their own of that distance, and the combination created a back-and-forth shootout in the second half that punished anyone who dared look away. The most unbelievable, though, was just nine yards: A touchdown pass from a scrambling Vernon Adams Jr. with 12 seconds left in regulation that fell, somehow, into the hands of Dwayne Stanford in the back of the end zone that tied the game at 41 points, and sent this wild night into overtime.
Oregon scored on its first play of overtime when Adams found Stanford for 25 yards, then used Adams' playmaking to score first in triple overtime. But Oregon's two-point conversion failed when a direct snap to receiver Bralon Addison yielded a sack. The playcalling decision didn't matter, it turned out, when Springs sealed the win. Oregon lost a 10-point lead in the first half, then made up an 11-point deficit in less than four minutes in the third quarter. It did it all by hiding its play calls from the sideline with giant white sheets, less than two weeks after Arizona State was accused of stealing another team's signals. Oregon is now 5-3 overall and 3-2 in Pac-12 play.
Here's how it happened:
Top performance: Oregon's Charles Nelson. Nelson returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter that cut Arizona State's lead from 11 points to four. It was his first career kick return for a touchdown, after returning two punts for scores last season. His play was followed by a 62-yard touchdown run by Kani Benoit, 2 minutes and 17 seconds later, a combination that allowed UO to hold a brief 34-31 lead.
Key contributors: With a 64-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, running back Royce Freeman became the fourth Duck with consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons, needing just three to reach that milestone entering the game. Also in that club: Maurice Morris (2000-01), Onterrio Smith (2001-02) and LaMichael James (2009-10-11). Freeman finished with 112 yards but carried only five times in the first half. Receiver Darren Carrington caught a 39-yard touchdown pass on fourth and one in the second quarter to take a 17-7 lead, and he finished with five catches for 107 yards. However, with no defender within 10 yards of him, he dropped a sure touchdown halfway through the fourth quarter after quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. kept the play alive on a scramble. Adams completed 23 of 40 passes for 315 yards, including a clutch 28-yard completion to Freeman when 16 yards were needed on a late-fourth quarter third down. He completed the drive with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Dwayne Stanford with 12 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime. Cornerback Tyree Robinson set up that UO drive after intercepting ASU's Mike Bercovici, giving UO the ball back with 5 minutes remaining and trailing by seven points. Robinson also allowed a touchdown reception.
Key play: With Oregon cornerback Tyree Robinson in tight coverage, Arizona State receiver Devin Lucien dropped a touchdown catch late in the first quarter on third down. The mistake extended ASU's ignominious touchdown-free streak to 19 straight possessions, and was compounded when kicker Zane Gonzalez missed a 26-yard field goal the very next play. Those missed points loomed large as ASU failed to hold onto a seven-point lead late in the fourth quarter.
It was over when: Springs intercepted a Bercovici pass in the third overtime, even though ASU was just three yards from a touchdown.
Injury report: Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner left the field after a trainer looked at his hand or finger late in the second quarter. He was absent on a touchdown drive by ASU to cut Oregon's lead to 17-14, but returned to start the second half with a heavy wrap on his right wrist. Juwaan Williams, a starter at safety in Oregon's last game, did not make the trip. Linebacker Christian French left in the second quarter and trainers tended to his wrist. Offensive linemen Matt Pierson and Tyrell Crosby returned after missing time against Washington State and Washington, respectively, due to injuries. Crosby did not start, but joined at right tackle on the game's third drive. Pierson started in his place before shifting to left guard, his normal position.
-- Andrew Greif
It looked like the momentum had finally swung to Arizona State … no, Oregon … no, back to Arizona State … wait, no, here comes Oregon. And then three overtimes later it was definitely Arizona State …
What the win means for Oregon: The Ducks stay alive in the hunt for the Pac-12 title. Their win over Arizona State showed a lot of good and a lot of bad. Vernon Adams Jr. came up huge for the Ducks and his ability to extend plays was why Oregon was in this game so late. Royce Freeman did what he did best, and though the defense didn't have many highlight-reel worthy clips, it was Springs who sealed the game. There will be a lot of questions for Oregon coach Mark Helfrich after this game about why and when he used some trick plays, but for tonight the Ducks will soak in a big win that keeps them alive in the conference race.
What the loss means for Arizona State: It was an absolutely heartbreaking way for the Sun Devils to lose -- on a Bercovici interception after he had played so well throughout the game. It's hard to say that Arizona State lost this one so much as Oregon won it, because after three overtimes both teams had seemingly done enough to win and to lose, but it was Arizona State that actually did. The Sun Devils will need to get back on track as they'll travel to Pullman next weekend.
Player of the game: Oregon wide receiver Dwayne Stanford. The junior caught the game-tying and game-winning touchdown … all within about 15 seconds of each other. It wasn't his greatest output of his Oregon career but it may be the most meaningful 15 seconds of his time with the Ducks. Also, give a tip of the hat to Adams here for his ability to get the ball to him (and so many other receivers) through the Arizona State blitz all game.
Top play: Adams' miraculous fourth-down Hail Mary touchdown pass to Stanford to tie the game (pending Aidan Schneider's PAT). Adams' ability to extend the play was impressive, but not as impressive as Stanford's ability to contain that ball and bring it in. But, let's not short change the runners-up, because there were many. There was Charles Nelson's 100-yard kick return. There was also Arizona State freshman Kareem Orr's diving interception. But there was also that Freeman 64-yard rushing touchdown. But you can't forget about how Arizona State running back Kalen Ballage ran over Tyree Robinson. Tell you what, this game was too full of top plays, you just pick your favorite.
Stat of the game: Three for the price of one: 1. The two teams combined for 1,243 yards of offense. 2. Arizona State ran 108 offensive plays. 3. The Sun Devils outgained the Ducks by 241 yards, but still lost.
Oregon Ducks beat Arizona State in 3OT
The Oregon Ducks beat the Arizona State Sun Devils 61-55 in triple overtime, with an Arrion Springs interception sealing it after a wild night in Tempe, Arizona. Bralon Addison scored on a controversial touchdown pass, the Ducks botched a two-point conversion attempt, and then came Springs' interception. And that was all just what happened in triple overtime. Before that, there were amazing plays, momentum shifts and puzzling decisions. Stay tuned for a full recap soon.
Royce Freeman walked in from a yard out in double overtime to tie the game at 55-55, answering the touchdown run Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici scored to put the Sun Devils up in the second extra period. Now, starting in the third overtime, the teams will have to go for two if they score touchdowns. Oregon gets the ball first. The Ducks scored on their first offensive play in the first overtime as Vernon Adams hit Dwayne Stanford for a 25-yard touchdown pass. Then, as both teams have all night long, the Sun Devils answered. Mike Bercovici hit Tim White for a touchdown to tie it up and force double overtime.
ASU gets the ball first in the second overtime. The Ducks tied it up at 41-41 with 12 seconds to play in the fourth quarter to cap a wild 60 minutes of Pac-12 football in Tempe, Arizona. On fourth and goal in the final minute, Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams scrambled to extend the play, then found a leaping Dwayne Stanford in the back of the end zone. After Aidan Schneider's point after, the Ducks had pulled even after a back-and-forth game.
A short touchdown pass from ASU's Mike Bercovici to Kody Kohl with 7:49 left broke a 34-34 tie. On third and 15 on the Ducks' ensuing drive, Vernon Adams eluded the Sun Devils' rush, and threw long to a wide open Darren Carrington, who dropped what would have been a sure touchdown. Instead, the Ducks punted. Zane Gonzalez's 33-yard field goal with 12:41 to play tied the score at 34-34, and came after an apparent interception by Reggie Daniels was overturned as incomplete on replay review.
The Ducks had regained the lead at 34-31 on a 62-yard touchdown run by Kani Benoit. Arizona State rallied from a 10-0 deficit and led 31-20 before the Ducks scored twice to regain the lead. Demario Richard's 22-yard touchdown run in the third quarter broke a 17-17 tie and gave the Sun Devils their first lead of the night. The Ducks answered with a scoring drive, but a penalty in the red zone might have cost Oregon a touchdown as the Ducks instead settled for an Aidan Schneider field goal to pull within 24-20. Another Richard touchdown extended the ASU lead to 31-20, but Oregon's Charles Nelson returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards to pull the Ducks within 31-27.