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Difference makers: WSU’s Ward, ASU’s Brooks and Conyers key in Sun Devils’ victory

TEMPE, Ariz. – Here are three difference-makers and a key moment from Washington State’s 38-27 loss to Arizona State Saturday night.

Cameron Ward

Without Cameron Ward, this one might have been even uglier for Washington State. The Cougs’ quarterback completed 35 of 50 passes for 315 yards and one touchdowns doing his part to keep the offense in it. He also added two rushing touchdowns, both in the first half, which was a key reason the visitors kept things interesting.

Ward also showed something new: A willingness to scramble north and south. He’s made a habit out of scrambling horizontally, outrunning the defense by a few steps, but both of his touchdown rushes came when he sensed pressure and bolted upfield.He also illustrated more of what makes Ward, well, Ward. He took three sacks, but he escaped what felt like dozens more, eluding pressure and finding receivers like running back Nakia Watson and Lincoln Victor, the latter of whom reeled in a touchdown pass in the first half.

DeCarlos Brooks

Arizona State waited a couple series to deploy its star back, Cameron Skattebo, so Brooks took over in the meantime. Washington State had nothing for Brooks, who totaled 11 carries for 67 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Cougs had trouble tackling him, which he turned into tens of yards after contact.In the first quarter, Brooks took a trick-play handoff, cut inside and past WSU linebacker Kyle Thornton, approached the end zone and leaped in the air, crashing into Coug defenders and falling into the end zone, where his touchdown tied the game at 7-all.

Washington State’s tackling issues were never on display in a bigger way than when Brooks carried the ball. He and Skattebo combined for 188 yards and 4 touchdowns, giving the Cougs fits all night long on the ground.

Jalin Conyers

Perhaps the most glaring error WSU’s defense made all night, outside of its run defense, came early in the fourth quarter. ASU quarterback Trenton Bourguet loaded up and lobbed it long for Conyers, who outran WSU cornerback Cam Lampkin and hauled in an over-the-shoulder catch. Lampkin nearly missed the tackle – but he caused Conyers to stumble.

As Conyers staggered upfield, in came Washington State safety Jaden Hicks, who couldn’t slow down in time to avoid hitting Conyers. Officials flagged Hicks for an unnecessary roughness penalty, and one play later, the Sun Devils scored, taking a 38-24 lead.

All game, though, Jalin Conyers made a real impact through the air. All told, he made 4 catches for 90 yards, proving a tough cover for whichever WSU defender tried to bump him off track.

Key moment

Jake Dickert rarely shows the kind of emotion he did toward the end of Saturday’s first half. As the first-half clock expired, Bourguet completed one over the middle to Conyers, who hauled it in – at least officials ruled he did. The ball leaked out of Conyers’ grasp as he went to the ground, but he made the catch, officials declared.

The only problem for ASU was that the clock hit zeroes. Except that’s when Conyers collapsed, holding his knee, prompting officials to halt action for the injury. That gave the Sun Devils time to trot out their field goal unit, the clock frozen at zeroes, and kicker Dario Longhetto split the uprights from 51 yards out, taking a 24-21 lead at halftime.

In the end, it didn’t make a giant difference, considering ASU’s margin of victory – but it gave the Cougs more points to make up.