Originally Published: October 30, 2016 6 a.m.
EUGENE, Ore. — Justin Herbert threw for 489 yards and four touchdowns and Oregon snapped a five-game losing streak with a 54-35 victory on Saturday over Arizona State.
Pharaoh Brown caught seven passes for a career-best 129 yards and two touchdowns as the Ducks (3-5, 1-4 Pac-12) finally got a conference win and appeared to snap out of their prolonged funk.
“We got to sing the fight song. That was amazing,” Brown said about the mood in the locker room. “We’ve been waiting five weeks to sing that song.”
Herbert, a true freshman who was making his third career start after taking over the job from graduate transfer Dakota Prukop, has scored 12 touchdowns over that span. Herbert’s passing yards against the Sun Devils matched Bill Musgrave’s record of 489 set against BYU in 1989.
Herbert tossed a short pass to Brown, who took off down the sidelines and stiff-armed the last defender for a 75-yard touchdown on the Ducks’ first series of the game. It was his ninth touchdown pass: Last weekend he tied the school record with six TD passes in a 49-52 overtime loss at California.
“He’s just going out there and having fun,” coach Mark Helfrich said. “And the guys are certainly rallying around him.”
The Sun Devils (5-4, 2-4) also started a freshman at quarterback. Dillon Sterling-Cole was pressed into service in last weekend’s 37-32 loss to Washington State after Manny Wilkins was injured.
Sterling-Cole passed for 302 yards and his first career touchdown. Kalen Ballage ran for 62 yards and two scores, including a 15-yard run that got the Sun Devils within 30-22 in the third quarter.
“I was really proud of Dillon even though we turned the ball over three times,” Arizona State coach Todd Graham said. “I was really proud of how he played. I thought he played with great courage.”
Sterling-Cole’s first career TD pass was a 9-yarder to fellow freshman N’Keal Harry that drew the Sun Devils closer at 33-28 early in the fourth quarter. But Herbert hit Johnny Mundt with a 53-yard scoring pass.
After Arizona State capitalized on an Oregon fumble, returning it 45 yards, Ballage tossed a 3-yard scoring pass to Kody Kohl with 6:39 left. The Ducks again answered with Tony Brooks-James’ 58-yard scoring run. Royce Freeman added a late 10-yard rushing TD for the final margin.
Ballage also caught six passes for 105 yards.
Arizona State: Walk-on Tyler McClure, who is not on scholarship, made his second career start at center for the Sun Devils. Starting center AJ McCollum dressed but did not play against the Ducks. Arizona State has been depleted by injuries. In addition to Wilkins, top running back Demario Richard (532 yards, 3 TDs) was out, as was cornerback Kareem Orr and safety Armand Perry. Left guard Stephon McCray was injured on Arizona State’s first series of the game.
“When Stephon went down that was 10 starters out,” Graham said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had anything like that. No excuse. We’ve got to have other guys step up.”
Oregon: It was the Ducks’ 10th straight victory over the Sun Devils. ... Oregon avoided a six-game losing streak with the win. The Ducks have not lost that many straight games since 1991. They need to win three of their final four games for bowl eligibility.
Last year the Ducks turned heads when they used large white sheets on the sideline at Sun Devil Stadium to hide signals. This season the shields were more refined black curtains emblazed with an image of the Oregon Duck. The shields have been used in response to allegations that Arizona State steals signs, which became an issue last week when Washington State coach Mike Leach revived the issue.
Leach was later reprimanded and fined $10,000 for the comments. After the Cougars defeated the Sun Devils, ASU coach Todd Graham confronted Leach, who walked away.
The Sun Devils are off next week before hosting Utah on Nov. 10. The Utes fell 31-24 at home to No. 4 Washington on Saturday.
The Ducks visit USC next week. The Trojans are coming off a 45-24 win at home against California on Thursday night.