ASU vs. WSU: Sun Devils roar past Cougars, lead 42-14 at halftime

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona State used a sharp start to neutralize the road crowd in Pullman in the first half.

For everything that's been said about Arizona State playing on the road, it certainly looks like the Sun Devils are right at home as they lead 42-14 at halftime in Pullman.

Many thought the Sun Devils' road struggles to follow them up North on Thursday night, but they didn't cave into expectations. Arizona State scored on three of its first four drives which helped the Sun Devils jump out to a 21-0 lead.

The Sun Devil defense forced three and outs on its first three appearances and Alden Darby forced a fumble on the Cougars' fourth possession which allowed Arizona State to enjoy excellent field position throughout the first quarter.

Taylor Kelly opened the scoring with a 7-yard touchdown rush on the Sun Devils' opening drive. After the second drive stalled, Kelly pinned the Cougars inside their own 3-yard line with a season-long 40-yard punt.

Kelly picked up right where he left off after his defense forced another three-and-out by marching right down into the red zone. After trying to pad Marion Grice's stat line in the red zone, offensive coordinator Mike Norvell let Kelly keep the ball himself yet again and Kelly turned in a whirling touchdown run for his second score of the night.

Up 14-0, the Sun Devil offense proved it was just getting started as Kelly found Jaelen Strong for an 11-yard touchdown pass on a zone-read play-action look that fooled every Cougar on the field.

The 21-0 lead looked insurmountable, but Washington State charged back to make things interesting on its next series. Quarterback Connor Halliday hit wide receiver Gabe Marks on a short crossing route and let Marks do the rest.

The sophomore wideout weaved his way across the field and outran a hard-charging Carl Bradford before successfully diving for the pylon.

After narrowing the deficit to 21-7, Washington State forced a Deantre Lewis fumble on the Sun Devils' next drive. However, the Cougars weren't able to capitalize and the Sun Devils made them pay.

Instead of riding Grice, the Sun Devils used running back D.J. Foster in the red zone and Foster looked like a true veteran. Foster showed a tough-nose running ability with two carries inside the 15-yard line, and Taylor Kelly rewarded the sophomore by finding him on a screen route for a touchdown.

Foster's score gave Arizona State a 28-7 lead and at this point, Mike Leach looked as lost on the sidelines as he did last year in the Cougars' 46-7 loss in Tempe.

Carl Bradford brought a quick end to the Cougars' next drive with more relentless pursuit of Halliday and when the Sun Devils took over, things just continued to go their way.

Kelly lofted up a deep pass to Rick Smith, but the Sun Devil quarterback under-threw his wide receiver. That didn't matter, as Smith was interfered with by a Cougar defensive back. Still, Smith kept his focus and juggled the ball in the air a few times before hauling in the pass for a 51-yard touchdown reception.

To cap things off, Arizona State added one final score before halftime as Kelly found Chris Coyle for an 8-yard touchdown. But amazingly, the Sun Devils were practically too efficient as they left enough time for Washington State to work its way down the field.

Connor Halliday engineered a scoring drive and hit wide receiver Rickey Galvin to cap off a 7-play, 75-yard scoring drive with just 20 seconds remaining in the first half. Galvin's score cut the lead to four scores, but this game was practically decided by the time the Sun Devils scored their third touchdown.

Kelly accounted for six first half touchdowns with four through the air and two on the ground. Kelly hit 14 of his 18 passes for 193 yards and Marion Grice added 15 carries for 83 yards in what might go down as the most productive first half the Sun Devils have ever had on the road.

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