The Washington State Cougars came from behind down by 14 at the conclusion of the first quarter to secure a critical win over the Arizona State Sun Devils and become bowl eligible by improving to 6-3 with three games left on the season.
Arizona State knew coming to Pullman this game would be a challenge and they needed to get out early if they hoped to have any chance against this pass dominating offense.
Washington States passing offense took a little bit to show up, but once it did Luke Falk was nearly perfect as he went 36 of 55 throwing for 497 yards, five touchdowns and just one interception early in the game.
The Sun Devils defense started the game off on the right foot on the first drive causing Falk and company to go three and out. On the ensuing Arizona State drive Demario Richard ran like crazy over the Washington State defense eventually taking it the final six yards sprint to the end zone to put the Sun Devils up 7-0 in Pullman.
On the next drive Washington State would again go three and out and be forced to punt it away. The Sun Devils would drive down the field again, this time going 64 yards with Mike Bercovici throwing it for the most part before Kalen Ballage ran it in for the final the nine yards to the end zone to shock the sold-out crowd at Martin Stadium as Arizona State was up 14-0 with 8:23 left in the first quarter. A position not seen often this season in Pullman.
The Cougars offense would be on the field for just one play, Falk was intercepted on the first play by Kareem Orr and it was returned to the Washington State 22. However Arizona State was unable to capitalize on it driving all the way to the three yard line before turning the ball over on downs as they choose to go for it on 4th and two on the Washington State three rather than take the easy field goal and go up by three scores.
The defensive stop seemed to be what Washington State needed to get its offense moving as Falk would take over at his own three yard line and drive 92 yards to the Arizona State seven before Erik Powell nailed the 22 yard field goal to put the Cougars on the board at 14-3 with 14:10 left in the second quarter.
Both teams traded possessions a few times before Gabe Marks returned a punt for 30 yards to begin really swinging the momentum Washington States way. It would take the Cougars just four plays for Falk to find Dom Williams for an 11 yard touchdown to make the score 14-10.
Each team would get it one more time to end the half with neither having any luck getting it down the field to go into halftime with Arizona State holding the slight 14-10 advantage over Washington State.
The Sun Devils started the second half with the ball and would move 38 yards before the Cougars defense stopped them causing them to punt the ball down to the Washington State six yard line where the Cougars offense would take over. From there the Washington State offense would drive 94 yards where Falk would find Keith Harrington for 23 yards to take the first lead of the game 14-17.
But Arizona State wasn’t done, they started on the Arizona State 35 yard line and went 17 plays to move the ball 65 yards where Bercovici would take it in himself running it in from the one yard line to retake the lead 21-17 with 1:27 left in the third quarter.
However the Cougars would not let them hold on to that lead for long, they drove 73 yards behind Falk’s arm in eight plays including getting a critical first down on 4th and one from the Washington State 36 to start the fourth quarter and Falk eventually found John Thompson for his first career touchdown to give Washington State the 21-24 advantage.
Arizona State would gain 20 yards on its ensuing drive before punting once again, Matt Haack got off a long 54 yard punt that would make the Cougars start on its own one yard line. But Falk would move the ball 99 yards through the air finding Jamal Morrow for the 12 yard touchdown to increase Washington State's lead making it 21-31 early in the fourth.
The Sun Devils would manage to get a field goal in response to the Cougars touchdown to briefly make it a one score game at 24-31 before Washington State would score yet another touchdown on one play, a 75 yard pass from Falk to Williams to increase the Cougars lead 24-38 with 4:00 minutes left in the game and give Falk his fifth touchdown pass and Williams second touchdown reception of the day.
Arizona State would get the ball one last time but Darrien Molton would intercept it with 1:21 left on the Washington State 28 to wrap up the game for the Cougars clinching its Bowl Eligibility which is huge for the program following a forgettable 2014 campaign.
The Sun Devils had a surprising offense that showed holes in the Cougars defense, Bercovici went 27 of 44 for 229 yards with an interception, on the ground they got 111 yards from Richard and 84 from Ballage with both getting a rushing touchdown along with Bercovici.
Washington State improves to 6-3 becoming just the fourth Pac-12 team Bowl Eligible and will head to Los Angeles to take on the UCLA Bruins at 7:45pm local time before returning home to take on Colorado then wrapping up the regular season in Seattle against the Washington Huskies in what is sure to be an entertaining Apple Cup.
Arizona State falls to 4-5 but will head home and take on the Washington Huskies at noon which is considered by some to be a must win if they want to make it to a bowl game with just three games left on their season. After that they host Arizona then travel to California to wrap the season up against the Cal Bears.