December 4, 2022
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Career-best performance by Badger not enough as would-be game-winning pass off the mark

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STANFORD, Calif. — Elijhah Badger was good enough but the throw wasn’t.

Actually, the sophomore Arizona State wide receiver was more than good enough. He was borderline incredible.   

On fourth-and-19, after he’d already caught six passes for a career-high 118 yards, Badger was somehow left open to run along the sideline with just three seconds left in ASU’s 15-14 loss to Stanford — just as he’d been on an early first-half touchdown completion. 

The throw by junior quarterback Emory Jones was far outside — at least two yards — of where it could have been easily hauled in by Badger for a game-winning touchdown with just three seconds left in the game.

Even so, Badger spun entirely around to make what appeared to be a miraculous one-handed catch at the 1-yard-line in enough time to give the Sun Devils a chance to run up, clock the ball and set up a short game-winning field goal attempt.

But then the replays showed something that surprised Badger and many others in the stadium, leaving the sparse home crowd celebrating. Badger’s toes were just out of bounds as he snared the ball.

Game over.

The Sun Devils went scoreless in the second half and lost for the first time when their opponent didn’t score a touchdown since a 6-3 defeat to USC on Sept. 22, 1984.

“Yeah, I thought I was in fully,” Badger said in the game’s aftermath. “I thought I really scored at the time the way my momentum was moving. But yeah, I thought I was in.

“At first, I didn’t even know they were replaying because that’s how much I thought I was in.”

But as ASU interim head coach Shaun Aguano looked up at the scoreboard, he knew right away he wouldn’t be victorious for a second time after taking over for Herm Edwards a month ago.

“I thought his foot was probably out when I looked up there (at the replay),” Aguano said. “In that moment, we could have scored, to tell you the truth. But it didn’t happen.”

Earlier in the afternoon, Badger was so good that he had more receiving yards by halftime than any previous game in his career with five catches for 98 yards, including a gorgeous 39-yard touchdown reception on a perfect throw by Jones early in the second quarter.

It was especially impressive since Badger already entered the day seventh in the Pac-12 in receiving yards per game. It was also ASU’s last score of the game, as the team went the final 44:01 without putting any more points on the board.

The Sun Devils were just inches away from winning the game in the final seconds on a pass that had a great chance of being completed if only it were better located. But Badger still expressed confidence in Jones after the game.

“I still feel pretty good about him, still getting comfortable, still getting there,” he said.

With what he said were more than 15 family and friends in attendance for the game, the product of Folsom, Calif., a two-plus hour drive from Stanford, Badger showed that he’s more than capable of being considered one of the Pac-12’s premier wideouts even though he’s still just a sophomore.

He’s come a long way from the freshman who rarely was on the field last season due to coaching concerns about his ability to consistently executing his assignments. 

“It felt good showing my family what I could do back home,” Badger said. “A lot of family members came, a lot of support, it just felt good.”

But the result? Well, that didn’t feel good at all.

Badger said Stanford changed things up defensively in the second half, which contributed to him only getting one catch for 20 yards over the final two quarters.

“Yeah, they played a little different,” Badger said. “I’m pretty sure they bracketed some plays when I went in the slot and outside the receiver, they bracketed with the safety or whoever was inside the corner.”

Aguano indicated the Sun Devils struggled to get the ball more to their clear-cut top target due to committing penalties and other inefficiencies that put them in obvious passing situations on second-and-long and third-and-long.

“Honestly, I think the play calling was just a little different from the second half,” Badger said. “I have no clue. I just did my job, honestly.”

Where do the Sun Devils go from here? 

“I just think it’s a mindset thing for the team,” Badger said. “We’ve just got to practice harder and put more work into the field during practice week.”

One thing is for sure. Badger’s proven he’s ready to make the big plays when they matter, so long as he’s given the opportunity to do so. 

“He’s real,” ASU sophomore cornerback Jordan Clark said. “We expect that. Y’all be at practice, y’all know.”

Junior cornerback Ro Torrence simply nodded his head in agreement with Clark before uttering a single word. 

“Facts.”





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