For a team filled with young players at key spots, Arizona State has a knack at performing at its best in the toughest situations.
Eno Benjamin scored his third touchdown of the game on a 3-yard run with 4:41 remaining, and Arizona State beat No. 15 California 24-17 on Friday night for its second road win of the season against a ranked team.
“We’re just growing,” freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels said. “We like playing on the road, we like playing the tough teams. We like being the underdog team. People doubt us. … If you don’t believe in us, we believe in ourselves.”
The Sun Devils (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) bounced back from a 34-31 loss to Colorado in the conference opener last week thanks to a strong performance by Benjamin and the defense.
Benjamin had 29 carries for 100 yards, also scoring on an 11-yard run in the first quarter and a 4-yarder in the third quarter.
“We knew it was going to be tough sledding but we kept trying to run it,” coach Herm Edwards said. “We didn’t give up on it and eventually we punched it in.”
Daniels added 174 yards passing and 84 more on the ground on an injured ankle as Arizona State picked up another road win against a ranked team after topping Michigan State 10-7 two weeks ago.
The Golden Bears (4-1, 1-1) lost their perfect record and quarterback Chase Garbers to a right shoulder injury, spoiling their highest ranking in a decade. The loss also left the Pac-12 with no undefeated teams before the end of September.
“They outplayed us in every facet of the game,” linebacker Evan Weaver said. “Can’t play very well and can’t win games when you’re not even making the simple plays, and we didn’t today. That was it.”
Garbers threw a 16-yard TD pass to Trevon Clark in the first quarter before leaving with the shoulder injury late in the second quarter when he fell on his arm on a scramble. Garbers was in a splint for the second half and there was no word after the game on the extent of the injury.
Devon Modster replaced him and struggled to move the ball through the air. Cal scored a TD in the third quarter on a 12-play drive that stayed on the ground, capped by a 1-yard run by Christopher Brown Jr.
The Bears then took a 17-14 lead when Joseph Ogunbanjo recovered a fumble by Daniels at the Arizona State 30 and Cal gained no yards before getting a 47-yard field goal from Greg Thomas.
But the Sun Devils answered with a 15-play, 75-yard drive capped by Benjamin’s third TD and then forced a turnover on downs when Modster threw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-3 from the Cal 29.
Cristian Zendejas kicked a 43-yard field goal to make it 24-17 and Cal was unable to get a first down.
“Honest I think I played terrible,” Modster said. “I could have played a lot better, just missing a lot of receivers.”
Arizona State: The Sun Devils won despite squandering several scoring opportunities in the first half. Zendejas missed a 37-yard field goal after an effective drive and then a 50-yarder after a deflected punt gave Arizona State the ball at the Cal 37. Then late in the half, Curtis Hodges dropped a pass when he was left alone in the middle of the field on a third-and-3 from the Cal 43, leading to a punt.
California: The Bears struggled to generate anything in the passing game after Garbers got hurt, which doesn’t bode well for the future. Modster finished 5 for 14 for 23 yards and threw an interception in the end zone to deny Cal a chance at a field goal at the end of the first half. Garbers was coming off his best game at Cal, throwing for 357 yards and four TDs in a win last week at Mississippi.
“If guys aren’t ready to work then I don’t want them to be here. If they don’t want to win the next game and win as many as we can they better not walk through this door on Monday. If people show up on Monday feeling down for themselves, feeling like they deserved to win this game . no one deserves to win anything. We didn’t deserve to win this game because we didn’t play well. They played better than us, they beat us.” — Weaver.
Arizona State: Host Washington State Oct. 12.
California: Visit No. 13 Oregon next Saturday
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