The Arizona St. Sun Devils were presented with a great opportunity on Saturday after the UCLA Bruins fell to the Utah Utes to control their destiny in the Pac-12 South. The Washington St. Cougars, however, would not let the Sun Devils have their way as they emerged 37-27 victors in a back-and-fourth game.
ASU and WSU traded blows all night with several lead changes and lots of drama. The Sun Devils had a chance to pull away and create some distance in the early stages of the fourth quarter, up 27-24 and with possession of the ball on the Cougars nine-yard line. ASU decided to go for it on 4th-and-1, and Cameron Marshall was stuffed to turn the ball over.
From there, it all unraveled for the Sun Devils. Cougars redshirt freshman quarterback Connor Halliday led his team 89 yards down the field and found Isiah Barton on a 17-yard touchdown strike (his fourth of the day) to reclaim the lead at 30-27.
Brock Osweiler and the Sun Devils made their way to the redzone once again only to come up short. Osweiler had an open George Bell on 3rd-and-goal with just over six minutes left, but Bell failed to catch the ball and Alex Garoutte missed a 21-yard field goal- his second crucial miss in back-to-back games- to keep the lead 30-27.
Halliday proceeded to lead his team down the field again and record one more score behind a one-yard rush by Carl Winston for a 37-27 lead. The game ended when Jamal Miles fumbled the ensuing kickoff return, giving Washington State the ball back with 1:50 left in the game and ensuring a Cougars victory.
ASU's porous secondary gave up several big plays all night and paved the way for Halliday- a redshirt freshman- to have the most yards in a game of any Pac-12 quarterback this year. Halliday finished the night with an astounding 494 yards and four touchdowns while his favorite target, Marquess Wilson, hauled in 223 yards and three touchdowns on eight receptions. For a team that had such high aspirations at the beginning of the year, tonight's Sun Devil defensive performance is unfathomable.
Osweiler ended the game with 351 passing yards and one touchdown. Running back Cameron Marshall- who never really got into the game and struggled with hits by the Cougars secondary throughout- recorded only 37 yards on 16 touchdowns with one touchdown. Gerell Robinson led the ASU receiving core with 151 yards and one touchdown on eight receptions.
ASU's Pac-12 title chances again rest on a UCLA defeat in the coming weeks (against either/or both Colorado and USC). Sun Devil fans can only hope that the team regains its momentum with a return home after two disappointing finishes on the road. Next up: the Arizona Wildcats in the annual Duel of the Desert. Tonight's game adds another interesting dimension amid Pac-12 South implications to an already-intriguing rivalry.