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Sports >  WSU football

Difference makers: Washington State’s Nakia Watson, Chau Smith-Wade shine in win over Arizona State

Nov. 12, 2022 Updated Sat., Nov. 12, 2022 at 5:24 p.m.

Nakia Watson

The Cougars’ starting tailback piled up a career-high 166 rushing yards last week. On Saturday, Watson tallied a career-high three rushing touchdowns – all in the first half – to lead WSU to a 28-0 cushion at halftime. Watson totaled 116 yards on 20 carries, averaging 6.9 yards per attempt. He broke off runs of 25, 22 and 20 yards in the first half and had cracked the 100-yard mark by the time the second quarter ended. Also dangerous on check-down passes, Watson had two receptions for 42 yards.

Chau Smith-Wade

One of the nation’s top-graded coverage cornerbacks (Pro Football Focus), WSU’s lock-down CB blanketed Sun Devils receivers throughout the game, helping the Cougars hold the visitors to 128 passing yards. Smith-Wade snagged his second interception of the year in the second quarter, jumping an errant pass from ASU QB Trenton Bourguet and racing it back 28 yards to set up a touchdown. Smith-Wade finished with two tackles and a pass deflection.

Xazavian Valladay

ASU’s star running back, the active FBS leader in rushing yards, helped revive the Sun Devils’ offense after a sluggish first half. The senior Wyoming transfer rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown, averaging 6.4 yards per carry. He posted 84 yards on the ground after halftime and also led the Sun Devils in receiving yardage (55 yards on six catches).

Four-down front

WSU had made it a priority to improve its pass-rushing production out of its base set. The Cougars’ defensive line was disruptive against ASU, especially in the first half. Edge rusher Brennan Jackson had a sack, and fellow edges Quinn Roff and Andrew Edson added a sack apiece. WSU finished the game with four sacks after recording five across its past four games. The Cougars accumulated six QB hurries, effectively knocking Bourguet out of the game. Bourguet was benched after completing 3-of-10 passes and taking two sacks in the first quarter.

Turning point

Arizona State, trailing 13-0 and struggling to find offensive life midway through the second quarter, committed a costly error that opened the door for WSU to build a lopsided lead at the half. Bourguet challenged Smith-Wade on a third-and-10 pass toward the far sideline. Smith-Wade slipped in front of the intended target, snatching his second interception of the season and running it back 28 yards to ASU’s 4-yard line. Two plays later, Watson punched in a TD to extend the lead to 21-0.

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