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Arizona State blasts error-laden Irish

Nov 9, 2014 - 2:38 AM Tempe, AZ ( - Taylor Kelly accounted for four touchdowns to outduel a mistake-prone Everett Golson, and 11th-ranked Arizona State vaulted itself into the College Football Playoff conversation with a thrilling 55-31 victory over No. 8 Notre Dame.

The Sun Devils roared out to a 34-3 first-half lead by converting three Golson turnovers into touchdowns, then warded off a furious comeback attempt by the Fighting Irish before pulling away late for their fifth straight win.

Golson threw a career-high four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns by Damarious Randall and Lloyd Carrington, and lost a fumble to offset a 446-yard passing day and likely end Notre Dame's hopes for a selection in the end-of-the-year playoff.

"Honestly, I think it's all on me," said Golson of the loss. "You play with fire as much as I did today, you know you are going to get burnt eventually."

The Irish (7-2) entered the matchup 10th in the latest playoff rankings, one spot behind Arizona State (8-1), which also got seven sacks from its swarming defense in addition to the five takeaways.

"We surprised a lot of people but we have not surprised ourselves," said Sun Devils head coach Todd Graham. "Our guys are talented. We have a real football team. I am very proud of them."

Kelly threw for 224 yards and three touchdowns on a 17-of-28 completion rate while adding a late score on the ground. Demario Richard added a rushing and receiving touchdown in the Sun Devils' fourth triumph over a ranked opponent since a lopsided loss to UCLA on Sept. 25, with D.J. Foster contributing 120 rushing yards on 21 carries.

Golson did connect on touchdown passes to Will Fuller and Amir Carlisle while hitting on 22-of-41 attempts. Fuller finished with 95 yards on six catches and Carlisle had three receptions for 92 yards.

The teams had traded field goals prior to the Sun Devils pressuring Golson into critical mistakes on three consecutive drives, beginning a run of 31 consecutive points that put the Fighting Irish in a hole they never could quite overcome.

They came awfully close, however, as Golson's 25-yard pass to Carlisle with 6:37 left capped a string of four straight Notre Dame touchdowns that cut the deficit to 34-31.

Arizona State's offense, shut down the entire second half at the time, responded with a pivotal 5-play, 75-yard sequence to regain some breathing room.

Three Foster runs that gained 31 yards preceded Richard's 40-yard burst on a screen pass that got the Sun Devils to the opposing 4-yard line. Richard was open in the flat on the next play and snared Kelly's third TD delivery to restore ASU's 10-point advantage with 4:29 remaining.

Carrington then sealed the outcome by jumping a route and sprinting down the sideline for a 58-yard interception return. Kelly tacked on a 2-yard touchdown run in the final minute after the Irish were stopped on down deep in their own end.

"Second half we were very resilient on both sides of the ball, just a couple mistakes (I) made messed it up for us," Golson said.

Tashon Smallwood forced Golson's first turnover with a sack that caused a fumble the defensive tackle returned six yards to the Notre Dame 13 late in the opening quarter. Jaelen Strong came up with an acrobatic one-handed catch in the end zone on the following play to give Arizona State a 10-3 edge.

On the Irish's next offensive snap, Golson's pass was batted near the line of scrimmage by Demetrius Cherry and snatched in the air by lineman Marcus Hardison at the Notre Dame 23.

Richard ripped off a 14-yard run shortly afterward before crossing the goal line from a yard out to extend the margin to 14 points.

Golson's problems continued on the Irish's subsequent possession, as Hardison got his hands on another pass attempt and Randall picked off the deflected ball and raced untouched 59 yards the other way to stake the Sun Devils to a commanding 24-3 advantage 40 seconds into the second quarter.

"We knew in their last five games that they turned the ball over twelve times. We just went and took advantage of that," said Randall. "Getting pressure on a mobile quarterback is kind of like their kryptonite, because they just want to sit back in the pocket and run whenever stuff is not open. We just forced (Golson) to play for us."

Arizona State's defense didn't let up, inducing a three-and-out on Notre Dame's next series that led to Kelly's on-target deep pass that Cameron Smith hauled in for a 43-yard touchdown.

The Irish continued to struggle moving the ball, and the Sun Devils increased the margin to 34-3 with 1:09 left in the half on a Zane Gonzalez 28-yard field goal that concluded a 14-play, 61-yard sequence.

Notre Dame did manage to enter the break on a positive note. C.J. Prosise came through with a 59-yard catch-and-run deep into ASU territory to begin a four- play drive culminating in Fuller's 9-yard over-the-shoulder TD grab 11 seconds prior to the intermission.

The momentum carried over past the stoppage, as Golson found Fuller down the left sideline for a 44-yard gain to the Arizona State six on the first possession of the second half. The Irish came up empty, however, when a hurried Golson tossed his third interception of the day at the goal line.

Notre Dame was able to cash in on a red-zone chance later in the third quarter, however. Golson's 32-yard down-the-middle strike to Carlisle put the ball at the Sun Devils' six and set up the first of two Cam McDaniel 1- yard touchdown runs.

The Irish's next drive resulted in another red-zone gaffe, however, as holder Hunter Smith dropped the snap on Kyle Brindza's 31-yard field goal try.

Kelly was intercepted by Matthias Farley on Arizona State's ensuing trek, however, and Notre Dame marched 50 yards in seven plays to enable McDaniel to plow into the end zone once again and trim the lead to 34-24 with 9:12 left.

After the Sun Devils quickly went three-and-out, Golson found a wide-open Carlisle on a blown coverage to make it a three-point game.

Golson did get off to a strong start, completing his first five passes to put Brindza in range for a successful 46-yard field goal on Notre Dame's initial possession.

The Sun Devils countered with a Gonzalez 47-yard field goal that was positioned by five Foster runs that totaled 36 yards.

Game Notes

The win was ASU's first in four lifetime meetings with Notre Dame, which handed the Sun Devils a 37-34 loss in Arlington, Texas last season ... Golson became the first Irish quarterback to surpass 400 passing yards in a game since Jimmy Clausen had 452 against Navy in 2009 ... The Irish are now 2-6 the last eight years the week after facing Navy, which includes a loss to Tulsa -- then coached by Graham -- in 2010 ... Notre Dame fell to 4-6 since the start of the 2013 season when committing two or more turnovers ... The Irish have allowed 168 points over their last four games.