After a week of not knowing who was going to play quarterback for Arizona State and Washington State coach Mike Leach being vocal about Arizona State coaches stealing signs the two teams finally got together to play a football game late Saturday Night in Tempe. The result, was a Cougars 37-32 win. After getting off to a slow start, and finding themselves down 14-3 after a Kalen Ballage 52 yard touchdown run out of the wildcat, Robert Taylor had a phenomenal kickoff return 100 yards to give Washington State a spark they would need. That kickoff return actually was the start of a 28-0 run by the Cougars that put them up 31-14. Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins lead a nice touchdown drive that ended up with him hurdling a defender on his way to the endzone to put the Sun Devils up 7-0, but he was injured shortly after that. Once Wilkins was out of the game the Sun Devils really lacked a passing game to stress the Cougars defense. They were forced to use a steady diet of Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard in the wildcat and as you can guess it became very predictable that whichever running back was taking the snap was going to just take the ball and try and find a hole and would end up running right up the middle. This enabled the Cougars defense to just pin their ears back and try and get into the backfield.
Washington State looked like they were comfortably on their way to a fifth consecutive win early in the fourth quarter after Gabe Marks had a 52 yard catch and run to the endzone for a touchdown, but a missed PAT kept the game at a two score game. Shortly after that missed PAT, the special team faltered again by giving up a 70 yard punt return for a touchdown to Tim White and they allowed the two-point conversion to make it an eight-point game, and Arizona State threatened to go down and tie the game with about four minutes left, but the Washington State defense was able to hold them to a field goal but after the kickoff, the Washington State offense was able to run out the rest of the game and clinch the Cougars fifth straight win.
A lot was ugly for Washington State in this game. Special teams wasn’t very good besides the kick return by Robert Taylor. To start the game they gave up a 40 yard kickoff return, they gave up the 70 yard punt return to Tim White and they missed an extra point to keep the game at a two score game when they could have made it a three score game. The defense overall was good, only giving up 280 total yards. Part of the was Arizona State not having a quarterback but you have to give Washington State credit for taking advantage of that on defense. But perhaps the worst part of the game is that the Cougars gave up seven sacks. That lead to them having -52 yards rushing. But even if you take out the sacks they still didn’t run the ball very well which was something they had become use to the past few weeks. Coach Leach will try and do what he can to sure up that pass protection over the week because getting sacked that much is usually pretty hard to overcome and they really might not have been able to overcome it had Arizona State gotten anything out of their quarterbacks.
In other news, Washington State is now the next team in line in other receiving votes to be ranked in the top 25, and they picked up a verbal commitment in recruiting from three-star outside linebacker Faavae Faavae. They will stay on the road next weekend to play at Oregon State.