TEMPE, Ariz. — Ron Stone Jr. opened his mouth and shouted something encouraging to his Washington State teammates. He pointed his finger down, maybe emphasizing the importance of the moment, and he clapped his hands, perhaps trying to keep his teammates’ spirits up.
WSU was in trouble, down two scores in the third frame to Arizona State. Stone was doing his best to turn the tides. He may have succeeded in lifting up his guys, but the Cougars failed on the scoreboard, which didn’t show the visitors anything nice:
ASU 38, WSU 27
The Cougars lost their fourth straight, handing the Sun Devils their first win over an FBS opponent this season, for a host of reasons, almost all of which involved their defense. They could not stop the run. They failed to generate a turnover. Their first stop of the game came late in the third quarter, but by then, they hadn’t shown anything to suggest they could do it again.
The numbers will look grisly for Washington State, which yielded 237 rushing yards to ASU. The Sun Devils converted 8 of 11 third downs. Running back Cam Skattebo forced a bevy of missed tackles on his way to 121 yards on 11 carries and one touchdown.
Arizona State took the lead by scoring on five of its first six drives, the only miscue a missed field goal. The Sun Devils went touchdown, missed field goal, touchdown, touchdown, field goal, touchdown, scoring their 31st point — the program’s most in one game since their season finale of last season.
That’s why Washington State’s sterling night on offense went to waste. Quarterback Cameron Ward completed 35 of 50 passes for 315 yards and one touchdown, plus two rushing touchdowns, another promising outing in a season full of them. Running back Nakia Watson even ripped off a 16-yard rush during his 30-yard outing, the kind of rushing performance the Cougs will take at this point.
The Cougs’ defense could not make it count. On their first series of the fourth quarter, the Sun Devils secured a long passing play on a throw to Jalin Conyers, who hauled it in over WSU cornerback Cam Lampkin, who nearly missed a tackle, causing safety Jaden Hicks to run into Conyers and get an unnecessary roughness penalty. One play later, ASU scored, taking a 38-24 lead.
With that scoring play, WSU gave up 38-plus points for the third straight game.
So porous was the Cougs’ defense that even a bizarre play near the end of the first half got lost in the shuffle. On the final play of the first half, ASU quarterback Trenton Bourguet completed a pass over the middle to Conyers, who caught it as the clock expired. The Sun Devils had no timeouts, so things were about to head to halftime — until Conyers went down, holding his knee.
Officials ruled that Conyers completed the catch, but because he went down with an injury, the clock stopped. That gave ASU time to roll out its field goal unit, which capitalized with a 51-yarder from kicker Dario Longhetto, good for a 24-21 lead at the intermission.
For Washington State, this was supposed to be the beginning of a softer part of schedule, a stretch of games that figured to give the Cougs a chance to get to six wins and earn bowl eligibility. They had played the toughest part of their schedule, the thinking went, and now they could get back on track against a lowly ASU club.
Now things get rickety for WSU. Next up on the schedule is a home matchup with Stanford, which gave Washington a game Saturday night before falling in the end. Can the Cougs win that one? More importantly, can they make a stop on defense?
Right now, nothing is guaranteed for Washington State.
15:00 – WSU 0, ASU 0: Cougars win the toss and elect to receive. WSU starts on its 25 after a touchback. Coverage will begin on Pac-12 Network at the conclusion of the USC-California game.
8:33 – WSU 7, ASU 0: Cougars continue to start strong, as Ward caps a 15-play 75-yard drive with a 3-yard rushing score. Ward 8 of 11 for 64 yards passing.
WSU has scored first in each of its last three games, but would struggle to get its offense going after that.
4:05 – WSU 7, ASU 7: Sun Devils answer right back with their own 75-yard touchdown drive. Brooks takes a 13-yard run up the middle and leaps over a WSU defender for the score. Balanced approach from ASU, 43 passing yards and 32 rushing.
2:29 – WSU 7, ASU 7: Cougars drive stalls after a deep shot by Ward is overthrown and the Sun Devils start at their 9. Haberer pins them deep with a 46-yard punt.
13:42 – WSU 7, ASU 7: Longhetto’s kick has the distance, but is pushed right from 50 yards. Cougars defense holds after an 11-play, 59-yard drive and WSU will start on its 32.
11:15 – WSU 7, ASU 7: Smith drops Ward for a sack on third down and the Cougars punt to the ASU 30. Second straight three-and-out for WSU after the opening drive.
7:14 – ASU 14, WSU 7: DeCarlos scores his second touchdown of the game, this time a 1-yard score, to give the Sun Devils the lead. ASU goes on a 7-play, 70-yard drive that included some poor tackling by the Cougars defense.
4:47 – ASU 14, WSU 14: Cougars come back with a long touchdown drive, as Ward scrambles up the middle on third down for an 11-yard score. Ward leading WSU rushers with 13 yards and two TDs.
2:15 – ASU 21, WSU 14: Skattebo kicks off the drive with a 66-yard run and caps it off with a 2-yard touchdown. Sun Devils waste no time retaking the lead.
ASU up to 269 yards in the half.
0:42 – WSU 21, ASU 21: Not a lot of defense being played on either side. Ward ropes a pass between defenders for a 9-yard touchdown to Victor. Ward is 18 of 24 for 186 yards passing.
0:00 – ASU 24, WSU 21: Longhetto nails a 51-yard field goal as time expires in the first half. Sun Devils pile up 311 yards and get points on 4 of 5 possessions in the half. Ward trying to keep the Cougars in it with three total touchdowns.
Arizona State will receive the second half kickoff.
8:26 – ASU 31, WSU 21: Cougars defense still can’t get a stop, as the Sun Devils convert two long third downs and drive 75 yards for a touchdown. Badger scores a 6-yard rush to put ASU up to 406 yards (198 rushing).
5:34 – ASU 31, WSU 21: Ward is sacked on third down and the Cougars drive stalls at their 37. Haberer punts 36 yards to the ASU 27. WSU defense needs to find a way to force its first punt of the game.
0:00 – ASU 31, WSU 24: Janikowski hits a 31-yard field goal as time expires in the third quarter. Cougars got the stop they needed, but offense stalls in the red zone, as Ward takes a big hit on a third down attempt.
13:53 – ASU 38, WSU 24: Sun Devils go right through the Cougars defense and score in three plays. Bourguet hits Conyers for 50 yards and then Brooks scores an 8-yard touchdown run on the next play.
ASU is up to 481 yards (207 rushing).
8:33 – ASU 38, WSU 27: Ward is sacked on third down and Janikowski hits a 34-yard field goal. Doesn’t do much good for the Cougars, who are still down two possessions. Dickert opted against going for it on fourth-and-goal from the 17.
4:30 – ASU 38, WSU 27: Hershey finds a way to get the punt off after it bobbles on the ground and WSU starts on its 26. Little room for error for the Cougars here.
1:51 – ASU 38, WSU 27: Sun Devils come up with a goal line stand and that will do it. Cougars going to lose their fourth straight, barring something miraculous.
The difficult part of Washington State’s schedule is over. At least on paper.
The Cougars rose to as high as No. 13 in the country entering their bye week, but have lost three straight games since to UCLA, Arizona and Oregon.
WSU (4-3, 1-2 Pac-12) has a good opportunity to get back on track for bowl eligibility today, when they kickoff at Arizona State at 5 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Network.
The Sun Devils (1-6, 0-4) are last in the conference, their only win coming in a narrow 24-21 Week 1 victory over FCS Southern Utah. ASU has shown life under first-year coach Kenny Dillingham – at 33, the youngest in FBS – losing by a field goal to California and Colorado, then 15-7 at No. 5 Washington last week.
Will the Cougars get right, or will the Sun Devils send them further down the Pac-12 standings?
Arizona State holds a 28-17-2 all-time record over Washington State, but the Cougars have won the last two meetings – both with Jake Dickert at the helm. WSU won 28-18 last year in Pullman and 34-21 in 2021’s game in Tempe.
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