In what has become a biannual rite of passage for WSU, the Cougars were once again steamrolled in the desert as No. 13 Arizona State rode five Luke Falk turnovers to a 52-31 victory.
Unlike most of WSU's visits to Tempe, this one didn't start out poorly. When Falk hit Isiah Myers for a 20-yard TD with just under five minutes to go in the first half, the Cougars were up 21-7. The offense had been moving the ball with some regularity, and the defense was swarming Taylor Kelly, who was sacked numerous times in the opening half.
But ASU responded with a TD, and an interception by Falk on the next pass -- to a defensive lineman who dropped to get in the way of a slant -- led to another TD. WSU got a field goal as the half closed out, but what had felt like a dominating performance was reduced to merely a three-point lead.
It was all downhill from there.
For as good as Falk was in last week's upset of Oregon State, he had one of those days that can sometimes happen when you throw it as frequently as WSU does. He turned it over three times in the second half -- once on a poor throw, once on a strip sack when he failed to secure the ball after holding onto it a tick too long, and once on a dropping linebacker he apparently never saw -- and Arizona State punished the Cougars each time.
All five of WSU's turnovers led to touchdowns for Arizona State, which answers the question: How does a team outgain its opponent by nearly 300 yards -- 622 to 330 -- and still lose by three touchdowns? WSU also outgained ASU on a yards per play basis, 6.2 to 5.4.
But, of course, turnovers are the great equalizer.
It was a miserable day overall for Falk, but he did show well for large parts of the game. He ended up completing 45-of-74 passes for 601 yards and three touchdowns to go along with those four interceptions. While the bad was pretty bad, he still did enough things well that I imagine most people's opinions of him will remain unchanged.
Additionally, Vince Mayle had another huge day, hauling in 15 passes for 252 yards; he now owns the WSU single season record for receiving yards (1,404 on 101 receptions).
This was just one of those days where, if you watched the game, it's impossible not to walk away feeling like the team is vastly improved. But the scoreline is indeed disheartening. Perhaps Brian Anderson put it best.
Feel bad for the guys, 52-24 doesn't reflect their effort or play. Really solid outside of maybe a dozen combined OFF/DEF snaps— Brian Anderson (@b17anderson) November 22, 2014