Sun Devils hoping to avoid letdown after big win
Arizona State has been in this spot before, not all that long ago, either.
It was two weeks ago, when the Sun Devils were back in the rankings, on a roll after a big win and facing a team they were supposed to beat.
It didn't go so well; Arizona State fell flat, losing an ugly game to unranked Illinois.
Back in the polls at No. 25, the Sun Devils (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12), are facing a similar challenge on Saturday.
Coming off an impressive win over Southern California, Arizona State faces winless Oregon State (0-3, 0-1), a huge underdog searching for any kind of positive momentum, but a team that has beaten the Sun Devils three straight times.
''I'd like to think we learned a lesson,'' Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said. ''If we play as well as we can, Oregon State is going to come in and give us everything they have. If we don't, they're going to come in and beat us. Our players have got to know that.''
Arizona State's lesson was a hard one.
Ranked for the first time since 2007 and coming off an impressive win over then-No. 21 Missouri, the Sun Devils had their worst game of the season against the Illinois. Arizona State lost 17-14, thanks to numerous missed opportunities, three turnovers and six sacks of quarterback Brock Osweiler that knocked the Sun Devils out of the rankings as quickly as they got in.
Arizona State bounced back from the disappointing loss with a resounding win over USC last week.
The Sun Devils had great balance offensively, getting 223 yards and two touchdowns passing from Osweiler to go with 141 yards and three touchdowns on the ground from Cameron Marshall. The defense hounded Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley into his worst game of the season while forcing four turnovers.
The result was a 43-22 win, ending Arizona State's 11-game losing streak to USC.
Now comes the time to back it up by avoiding a slipup against a team the Sun Devils are expected to beat - just like Illinois.
''The Illinois game might have been a blessing in disguise; sometimes a game like that is really good for a team,'' Osweiler said. ''I think the majority of the guys from the team and the coaching staff learned a ton from that game. I know I did personally. That should definitely help us prepare for Oregon State and make sure that we go into that game focused and take care of business.''
Oregon State has had a rough season, starting with its season-opening overtime loss to FCS Sacramento State. The Beavers followed with a 35-0 shellacking against Wisconsin and played better last week against UCLA, but still lost
Oregon State has scored just five touchdowns and 47 points and is trying to avoid its first 0-4 start since 1996, a combination that has taken its toll in the Northwest.
''That's going to be our biggest issue is keeping these guys in a positive frame of mind and ready to work,'' said Oregon State coach Mike Riley, who followed Erickson's four-year tenure as coach in Corvallis. ''We won't get anything done otherwise.''
Oregon State got some good news last week with the return of James Rodgers, a receiver who tore his ACL last season. The senior was eased back into the flow, catching five passes for 76 yards to go with one carry, and is expected to carry a bigger load this week.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Mannion had some good moments in his first game in place of 2010 starter Ryan Katz, throwing for 287 yards and a touchdown to go with an interception and a key fumble against UCLA last week.
Oregon State also was still within reach of the Bruins until failing on a fourth down while driving late in the game.
Some good signs, but the Beavers need to find a way to pull it all together.
''It's no secret that we have run into some adversity, and it's part of the game, part of football,'' Beavers safety Lance Mitchell said.'' We just need to keep that focus. We've got the athletes, we've got players capable of winning, so if we do that, we'll be all right.''
Against Arizona State, the Beavers are going to need it.