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TV take: Watching Arizona State run all over WSU illustrated how far the Cougars have fallen

By Vince Grippi The Spokesman-Review

You can’t always be home to watch your favorite college football team’s game. Sometimes it’s work. Sometimes pleasure. But there is the occasional Saturday when the road beckons and you found yourself miles from the Pac-12 footprint. That’s when you hope the game you want to watch is not on the Pac-12 Networks.

For the Washington State faithful Saturday night, they weren’t so lucky. Almost as unlucky as Jake Dickert’s team, which couldn’t stop the previously toothless Arizona State offense as the Cougars’ lost for the fourth consecutive time, this one 38-27 in Tempe.

The broadcast was a Pac-12 Network exclusive, which meant if you wanted to watch, and listen to Roxy Bernstein and Lincoln Wilcox share their insights, your options were limited.

What they saw

• Since handing Oregon State a 38-35 loss more than a month ago, and then taking their bye week, the Cougars have not won. Nor have they been the same on either side of the ball.

Nothing illustrated that more than their inability to control Arizona State’s running game. After all, in their first seven games, six of them losses, the Sun Devils averaged less than 93 yards rushing – one of many stats Bernstein had at his fingertips.

Arizona State finished with 235 yards on the ground and 509 overall – 167 over its season average. With those numbers, it is no surprise Bernstein and Kennedy never saw the game unfolding the way it did, something they mentioned often.

As was the Devils’ domination up front.

There was a 66-yard run by Cam Skattebo, the Sun Devils’ longest of the season by at least 47 yards, according to another stat Bernstein cited. There were three unexpected rushing touchdowns from DeCarlos Brooks, who only had 153 rushing yards (and no scores) coming in. It was his performance that Bernstein used often as an example of the Sun Devils’ domination.

• Washington State (4-4 overall, 1-4 Pac-12) stayed close basically due to the play of Cameron Ward, whether it was with his arm – 35-of-50 passing for 315 yards – or legs – two first-half touchdown runs as part of his nine scrambles for 50 yards.

Ward continually impressed Kennedy, the Hall of Fame offensive lineman, with his accurate throws, his ability to sidestep rushers and his quick decisions.

The ASU defense, coordinated by former Cougars assistant Brian Ward, has played well all year.

And it held WSU’s usually ineffective running attack to 88 yards on 21 attempts, which made Ward’s performance seem even better.

What we saw

• Being three time zones away from Tempe – this time of year – I was forced to watch the defeat via the Pac-12 Networks’ on-line feed, what with almost every hotel and sports bar relying on DirecTV for its channel lineup.

And there has never been a distribution agreement with the satellite provider.

For that, we can thank former commissioner Larry Scott.

The occasional feed issues I suffered were more than likely not a Pac-12 Networks problem. But the lack of commercial diversity certainly is. I’m pretty sure the average WSU fan watching at home wasn’t assaulted by dozens of Paycor ads. Or the innumerable Resorts World ones. The Met Life commercial that starred a lamp was also on the computer often. It was the price that had to be paid to watch WSU struggle again in October.

• “What a bizarre sequence,” Bernstein said with about 10 minutes left to play. He was referring to Arizona State being cited for a late hit that gave the Cougars a first down and the accompanying official injury and coaching complaints.

It was bizarre, and also par for the course in this one.

There was a bizarre finish to the first half, which included what Kennedy labeled a faked injury, a statement he walked back quickly, a key part of ASU connecting on a last-second field goal.

There were bizarre decisions not to call sideline hits on both teams, bizarre spots, bizarre whistles. Little was normal, including angry responses, at times, by both coaches, to the 14 accepted penalties and others not called. Even Kennedy and Bernstein seemed unable to decipher what had been called occasionally.

• Kennedy found out this week, from the mother of WSU wideout Lincoln Victor, that the Cougars’ star receiver was named after the Washington All-American.

The analyst expressed his gratitude, then made sure he pointed out Victor’s school-record 16 catches last week and his nine catches in this one. And he referred to Victor by name.

That wasn’t always the case. In fact, he seemed to use players’ numbers, like Ward’s, for emphasis.

“That’s what No. 1 can do for you,” Kennedy said as Ward avoided another rush and delivered a strike. He followed up that with “Good job by No. 1.” And that example wasn’t isolated.

It seemed on purpose, as opposed to not knowing names. But it was jarring.

Just like the outcome.