The Sun Devils (10-4) entered the night as 16-point favorites over Texas Tech (8-5), but looked as if they were still disappointed about not being able to go to the Rose Bowl after their loss to Stanford almost a month ago.
The Arizona State defense gave up 27 points in the first half and allowed Texas Tech’s freshman quarterback Davis Webb to throw for 171 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter alone.
Webb made his first start of the season on Monday night after being named the starter the night before by head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Even without knowing the starting quarterback, senior safety Alden Darby said it shouldn’t have mattered and really didn’t affect the way they played on the field.
Webb got the Red Raiders off to a hot start, leading a 14-play 77-yard drive that resulted in a one-yard touchdown pass on fourth and goal to jump to the early lead.
Texas Tech’s ensuing drive saw another touchdown pass from Webb and extended their lead to 13, putting ASU in an early hole.
Webb finished the night 28-41 for 403 yards passing with four touchdowns, securing the offensive player of the game award, and leading the Red Raiders to their first win since October 19th.
While the Arizona State offense was able to produce 287 yards rushing on the night, they could only muster a weak 125 yards through the air, and faltered down the stretch when they needed it most.
Quarterback Taylor Kelly undoubtedly had one of his worst games throwing the ball of his career as a Sun Devil, going 16-29 for 125 yards and an interception.
“They kept dropping back into coverage, dropping eight and only rushing three or four,” Kelly said. “They were doing a good job of taking away Jaelen (Strong) and inside guys and having to have me hit the check down or run.”
There was a point in the final minute of the first half when ASU was driving and had the opportunity to put more points on the board to decrease the lead from 14. The Devils had the ball first and goal from the one-yard line, and after quarterback Taylor Kelly took two straight sacks, coach Todd Graham sent out the field goal unit on third down because the team had no timeouts left.
Perhaps a result of being rushed out on the field to try and get the three points, kicker Zane Gonzalez missed the chip shot and Arizona State went into the half still down by 14 points.
“That’s one of those situations where I have got to be more aware to not take a sack when there’s no timeouts and there’s 30 seconds left on the clock and just throw it in the back of the end zone,” Kelly said. “I thought I saw a crease but I just have to be a lot smarter in that situation and throw it away.”
Despite that mishap, ASU was only down two possessions going into the second half and still had a great shot at winning the game.
On the opening drive of the second half, Kelly and the offense took the ball 79 yards in 1:47 and pulled within a score, only to see Texas Tech return the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. The momentum went away in the blink of an eye, and Arizona State just couldn’t recover.
“It’s hard for us,” Kelly explained. “It’s hard for our seniors to end out on two losses. But we had great energy in the week of practice and preparation. Guys were ready for this game, we just didn’t execute. Texas Tech had a great game plan defensively and offensively and in the kicking game so we just have to be better and move on to next season.”
The product on the field certainly didn’t look like the team that went into Pasadena and took the Pac-12 South championship from the grasp of the Bruins. It didn’t look like the team that was one game away from a BCS bowl. Rather, it was a dejected team that didn’t look prepared to go to battle against a competent foe in Texas Tech.
Coach Graham took sole responsibility for the loss and explained that it was a lack of preparation on his part on getting his team ready to play. Darby addressed that statement.
“You can say what you want to say about the coaches, but we are the ones playing,” Darby explained. “We are the ones on the field, making the plays, guarding the receivers, that’s us. You can’t blame the coaches, we are the ones out there playing the game.”