No. 5 Ducks survive turnover-fest in the desert

TEMPE, Ariz. — Darron Thomas threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, and No. 5 Oregon unleashed a big-play passing offense to pull away from Arizona State 42-31 Saturday night in the Pac-10 opener for both teams.

Arizona State (2-2) held the nation's second-leading rushing team to 145 yards — 235 below its average — and used its up-tempo offense to build a 10-point lead late in a first half. But the Sun Devils committed seven turnovers.

Oregon (4-0) rallied behind Thomas' arm, scoring two touchdowns in the final 2:21 and blowing it open with two more scores in the third quarter en route to its fifth straight win over the Sun Devils.

Thomas, coming off a four-touchdown first half against Portland State, threw for 260 yards and TD passes to Josh Huff and Jeff Maehl. He also scored on a 4-yard run.

Arizona State's Steven Threet threw for 387 yards and hit Mike Willie on two of his three touchdown passes, but had four interceptions.

Arizona State finished with a 597-405 advantage in total yards, but every time the Sun Devils had a chance to close the gap in the second half they gave the ball away.

Oregon passed one road test by knocking off Tennessee and faced what figured to be a tougher one against an improved Arizona State team. On top of that, it was unusually hot, even for the desert: 100 degrees at kickoff. Even the sauna-like practice sessions early in the week could prepare the Ducks for that.

Arizona State went right at Oregon from the start, missing a field goal on its first possession and scoring on the second when Deantre Lewis flashed a burst of speed at the Ducks on the way to a 53-yard touchdown.

Then poof! The lead was gone.

LaMichael James scored 64 seconds later, taking the left corner and taking off, leaving a trail of Arizona State defenders in his wake for a 40-yard touchdown. Three plays later, Threet threw off his back foot as he was being hit and was intercepted by John Boyett, who returned it 39 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 Ducks' lead.

Arizona State didn't back down, at least not yet.

Threet hit Mike Willie on an on-the-run, on-the-money 10-yard touchdown, then Thomas Weber hit a 34-yard field goal. Threet followed with a double-teaming-splitting 28-yard touchdown pass to Kerry Taylor to put Arizona State up 24-14, one play after Omar Bolden intercepted Thomas.

Still not good enough; Oregon absorbed the blows and got back to doing what it does best, scoring quickly.

The Ducks moved 80 yards in 83 seconds their next drive for Maehl's diving 12-yard touchdown catch. Next drive, after the defense held, was even quicker: three plays, 80 yards, 30 seconds, set up by a 61-yard reception by David Paulson and capped by Thomas' TD run.

Oregon, after all those big plays and momentum swings, led 28-24 at the half.

The Ducks kept on the gas in the third quarter, scoring on a pump-faking 54-yard pass from Thomas to Huff and Boseko Lokombo's 32-yard fumble return on a sideways pass the Sun Devils thought was an incomplete pass.

Trailing 42-24, Threet tried to rally the Sun Devils, hitting Willie on a 15-yard touchdown pass. It turned out to be Arizona State's last chance; Lewis lost a fumble on the next drive and Threet had two passes intercepted in Oregon's side of the field in the fourth quarter.

James rushed for 114 yards on 28 carries.

Thomas was 19 of 33 for 260 yards and two touchdowns. He was picked off once.

ASU's Deantre Lewis ran for 127 yards on 11 carries.

Oregon was penalized 16 times for 152 yards, and Arizona State flagged 18 times for 180 yards.

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