TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — After snatching momentum with two blink-and-you'll-miss-it scores to end the second half, Oregon opened the second by fumbling away the kickoff.
A potential tide-changing play? Not for the Ducks. Make a mistake and they need mere seconds to make up for it.
"We don't harp on the negative," Oregon cornerback Talmadge Jackson III said. "Things happen in games and you can't control some situations. You've just got to move on to the next play."
The Ducks needed that approach against Arizona State on Saturday more than any other time this season.
After winning its first three games by a combined score of 189-13, Oregon faced its first slice of adversity against Arizona State on a night in the desert.
The Ducks couldn't get their big-play running game going, gave up nearly 600 yards to an unranked team and spent most of the first half counterpunching the Sun Devils' big plays.
Its running game bottled up, Oregon went to the air. The defense bending, the Ducks made sure it didn't break by forcing seven turnovers. And that second-half kickoff, the one fumbled by Cliff Harris? Oregon forced a fumble at its own 2-yard four plays later.
"It's great when you have teachable moments after a 'W,'" Oregon coach Chip Kelly said.
Oregon entered the game as the nation's second-leading rushing team, averaging just over 380 yards per game. Arizona State was effective at shutting the Ducks down, particularly early, by loading up between the hash marks.
Oregon anticipated the Sun Devils' pack-the-box approach and spent a good part of the week working on its passing game. The Ducks came out throwing, too, putting it up 20 times to just 12 runs in the first half.
The receivers repeatedly located holes in Arizona State's defense and Darron Thomas repeatedly found them, throwing for 260 yards and two touchdowns on 19-of-33 passing to make up for a running game that managed 145 yards on 36 carries.
"We tried to show an all-around game," Thomas said. "They tried to stack it up in the box, we had to get the ball outside and we did that."
Defensively, the Ducks had been the best in the country through the first three games, both in total and scoring defense.
Arizona State had no trouble matching Oregon's field-shrinking speed, peeling off one big play after another. The Sun Devils finished the day with 597 total yards, their most in the Pac-10 since 2000, and quarterback Steven Threet ended up with 387 yards passing and three TDs.
The problem was turnovers.
It seemed that every time Arizona State got the ball deep in Oregon's end, the Ducks came up with a turnover. Oregon forced three fumbles and intercepted Threet four times, including three inside the Ducks' 30 in the fourth quarter.
"The seven turnovers, that makes the difference," Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said. "We were down in there a couple of times and we don't get it and it's kind of a nightmare for us really, to be honest with you."
The win, combined with Texas' home loss to UCLA, moved the Ducks up one spot in The Associated Press poll, to No. 4.
Next comes another, potentially more difficult test for Oregon: at home against No. 9 Stanford.
The Cardinal, behind Heisman hopeful quarterback Andrew Luck, have taken a similar path to the top 10, winning three lopsided games followed by an impressive road win.
"We have another huge test next week with Stanford coming in to our place," Kelly said. "Obviously, they're one of the top teams in the country and it's going to be a dogfight."
If Saturday's game is any indication, the Ducks will be ready for whatever Stanford throws at them.