CORVALLIS, Ore. — Making a bowl game isn’t the ultimate goal for Arizona State, but it’s an important accomplishment for recruiting and players have become accustomed to the postseason, coach Todd Graham said.
His team was determined to ensure they made a bowl game on Saturday.
“Our guys were laser-focused, dialed-in and did a great job,” Graham said.
Demario Richard ran for 116 yards and three scores and Manny Wilkins threw for 167 yards and two touchdowns as Arizona State held off a second-half rally to beat Oregon State 40-24 on Saturday afternoon.
Wilkins said in a Pac-12 Network postgame interview that Richard was running like a “grown man.”
“It’s hard to tackle somebody that runs with such passion and such heart, and when it comes to the first contact, he refuses to go down,” Wilkins added.
Kalen Ballage added 103 rushing yards for the Sun Devils (6-5, 5-3 Pac-12), who became bowl eligible for the sixth time in the last seven seasons.
“I’m really proud of how well we ran the football, how physical we played,” Graham said. His only criticism was the seven Sun Devil penalties for 71 yards.
Darell Garretson was 26 for 37 for 269 yards and two interceptions but ran for a touchdown for the Beavers (1-10, 0-8), whose senior day didn’t go as hoped.
Arizona State had 453 total yards compared to 375 for Oregon State.
The Sun Devils struck quickly, with Wilkins throwing a 23-yard touchdown through the fog to Kyle Williams less than a minute-and-a-half into the game.
The Sun Devils led 30-0 in the second quarter, and the defense even scored. JoJo Wicker brought pressure on Garretson in the end zone, forcing an intentional grounding call that resulted in a safety.
Arizona State led 30-7 at halftime.
Oregon State trailed 40-17 after a fourth quarter field goal and recovered an onside kick. Garretson scored on a run to make the score 40-24 with 7:27 left.
The Beavers were deep in Sun Devil territory when Garretson mishandled a snap and Arizona State recovered with 2:26 remaining. Oregon State had forced the Sun Devils to punt with nearly two minutes remaining, but roughed the kicker and Arizona State was able to run out the clock.
Oregon State interim coach Cory Hall said his team needed to put together two solid halves.
“At the end of the day, players still fought hard and I will always applaud their effort,” Hall said.
Wilkins has 14 passing touchdowns and four interceptions – two of them coming on tipped balls – for the year. He also impacted Saturday’s game with his legs, scrambling for 60 yards, and with his foot. In the first quarter, Wilkins executed a near-perfect pooch punt.
Arizona State hosts Arizona in the Duel in the Desert on Saturday.