The Cougars (5-2, 4-0 in Pac-12) went on a 28-point run which spanned each the second and third quarters before the Sun Devils managed to draw within five points late in the game.
Injuries which forced the absences of several key players contributed to the Sun Devils’ (5-3, 2-3) loss.
Starting left guard Sam Jones (right foot) was unavailable for the contest. Ahead of the game, starting center AJ McCollum was ruled out, as was starting field safety Armand Perry.
In lieu of featuring only two of five original starters along their offensive front, the Sun Devils managed to work their way to the end zone on their opening drive, which resulted in a three-yard rushing touchdown by redshirt-sophomore Manny Wilkins.
The drive was set up by a 41-yard opening kickoff return by receiver Tim White (three catches, 48 yards), during which the redshirt-senior suffered a head injury which held him from joining the offense until the latter stages of the second quarter.
Wilkins, who has been recovering from a high left-ankle sprain, was later removed during the first quarter after being sacked. He did not return, and freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole was inserted into the game as a result.
Sterling-Cole’s (7 of 16, 86 yards) first two drives resulted in three-and-outs, before finally completing the first pass of the game—and his career—when he connected with Jalen Harvey on a 12-yard pass in the second quarter. Three plays later, junior running back Kalen Ballage (12 rushes, 82 yards, one touchdown) took a direct snap 52 yards out of the Sparky formation to the end zone, giving the Sun Devils a 14-3 lead.
However, the Cougars would respond immediately, as Robert Taylor took the ensuing kickoff 100 yards, drawing Washington State within four. The special teams touchdown set off a series of scores for the visitors from Pullman, Wash.
Cougars quarterback Luke Falk found receiver Tavares Martin Jr. from nine yards out to give Washington State a 17-14 lead just ahead of halftime. A three-yard rushing touchdown by Gerard Wicks and a three-yard receiving touchdown by Jamal Morrow extended the advantage to 31-14.
A one-yard rushing touchdown from Demario Richard at the close of the third quarter ended ASU’s scoreless drought, before a 52-yard touchdown pass from Falk (42 of 53, 398 yards, three touchdowns) to Gabe Marks gave Washington State a 37-21 lead early in the final quarter.
The ASU defense and special teams units did their best to pick up the scoring for a struggling offensive unit on the evening.
White returned a punt 70 yards with 11:15 left, giving the Sun Devils life. A successful two-point conversion pass from receiver Fred Gammage to tight end Kody Kohl drew the Sun Devils within eight points.
On the following Cougars drive, Falk was sacked from behind by outside linebacker Koron Crump (three sacks, one forced fumble), who dislodged the ball onto the turf inside the Washington State 15-yard line, but ASU was unable to recover.
Instead, the Cougars were forced to punt, giving the Sun Devils offense the ball with 9:22 remaining, starting on the Washington 47-yard line. ASU was unable to reach the end zone, driving 36 yards in 11 plays before Zane Gonzalez was called on to kick a 29-yard field goal, making it a 37-32 contest.
Washington State managed to hold off ASU, however, gaining three first downs before running out the remaining 4:36 of clock.
The loss is the first the Sun Devils have suffered at home this season.
ASU finished with 280 total yards (113 rushing, 167 passing). Washington State recorded 346 total yards (minus-46 rushing, 398 passing).
ASU went 7 of 15 on third down, while Washington State went 4 of 13.
The Sun Devils recorded seven total sacks, compared to the Cougars two.
Sun Devils receiver N’Keal Harry made several acrobatic catches during the evening, finishing with six catches for 76 yards on 10 targets.
ASU linebacker DJ Calhoun finished with seven total tackles, including two sacks and three tackles for loss. Safety Marcus Ball led the way with nine total tackles (eight solo).