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November 26, 2010Brock Osweiler may want to rethink that whole play-basketball-after-the-season thing.
After spending 10-plus games on the backburner behind senior starter Steven Threet, Osweiler became the prohibitive favorite to be Arizona State's starting quarterback in its final game of the regular season Thursday at Arizona, and perhaps into the future.
The sophomore signal caller from Kalispell, Mont., entered the game after Threet suffered a concussion, completing 27 of 36 passes for 380 yards and four touchdowns, while also running for a score in Arizona State's 55-34 come-from-behind win over UCLA in front of 44,555 on Senior Day at Sun Devil Stadium.
A month ago Osweiler didn't play when Threet left the game at halftime with a concussion at Cal in a 50-17 loss. Several weeks later the former high school two-sport standout who was once committed to Gonzaga for basketball announced he intended to play for Herb Sendek's team after the season.
After Friday's performance, it looks as though football may keep him pretty well occupied.
"Things just kind of happen like that sometimes," Osweiler said of his surprise performance. "Steve went down and I just went in and did what I was coached to do all year.
"It's pretty cool to be able to go out there and have a performance like that and see all that hard work paying off. It is true, you work hard and good things will happen."
Entering as a 12-point favorite, an ASU win was entirely expected. The way in which it happened was not.
At 5-6 and 3-5 in the Pac-10, the Sun Devils are now one step from avoiding a third consecutive losing season since 1942-1947 (there were no seasons in 1943-45 due to World War II). Perhaps more importantly, a win Thursday could lead to a NCAA waiver that would allow ASU to play in a bowl game despite not having enough wins against FBS teams.
ASU coach Dennis Erickson, who said he was surprised by how well Osweiler played, will speak with his quarterbacks before making an announcement on next week's starter.
"Obviously, there won't be any quarterback controversy in the press this week," Erickson quipped.
Most onlookers in attendance Friday would say there shouldn't be.
Osweiler's performance was the most complete from an ASU quarterback this season, especially considering it was devoid of a turnover. With few exceptions he threw the ball crispy and accurately throughout the afternoon.
In support of Osweiler, sophomore Cameron Marshall ran for 147 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown run; freshman running back Deantre Lewis caught six balls for 105 yards; senior Kerry Taylor had six catches for 68 yards; sophomore Gerell Robinson had four catches for 34 yards and one touchdown; Pflugrad had four catches for 33 yards and two touchdowns.
ASU also got a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by sophomore Jamal Miles, the third player on the team to return a kickoff for a touchdown this season.
Osweiler had three touchdown throws before intermission to give ASU a 21-20 lead.
Two dead ball personal foul penalties following a single play on freshman Junior Onyeali and sophomore Vontaze Burfict gave the Bruins a first-and-goal at the ASU 6. UCLA kept its offense on the field with fourth-and-goal from the half yard line, but got stopped by an inspired ASU defense.
Three plays later, Marshall ran 71 yards for ASU's longest touchdown run of the season to boost the team's lead to double digits at 31-20.
UCLA (4-7 overall; 2-6 in Pac-10) would respect with a 21-yard strike from quarterback Richard Brehaut to Nelson Rosario to cut the ASU lead to 31-27 with 1:25 remaining in the third quarter.
But Miles would return the ensuing kickoff 71-yards for a score and ASU would pile on 17 additional fourth quarter points to keep the game from ever being in doubt in the final stanza.
"Their quarterback was outstanding,"UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said. "Osweiler, when he came in, we couldn't find a formula to stop him."
The game brought joy to an ASU team intent not only on pursing a bowl long shot but on sending its 13 seniors off on a high note.
"We just wanted to give the seniors the win that they deserve," junior defensive tackle Lawrence Guy. "To make sure their last game at Arizona State University was the best game of their lives."