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Washington State done in by mistakes, falls to Arizona State

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The Cougars tried to flip the script Saturday. Instead, they rediscovered the standard script for games in Tempe.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Coug fans, and welcome to Apple Cup week. Before we get to that, we will take a look back at one of the more frustrating games in a season of many. Despite a very poor track record at Arizona State, especially in the last decade, this game was there for the taking and WSU literally gave it away. This time, though, they did it in a very uncharacteristic way, given how the second half of this season has gone.

In the preceding four games, the Cougs trailed 10-0 after five minutes, 17-0 after 11 minutes, 14-0 after five minutes, and 10-0 after nine minutes. Any time you get into an immediate hole like they had so often recently, it is extraordinarily difficult to win, especially given the prevalence of youth on the team. This time, however, it was WSU who took control early. They forced three-and-out after three-and-out. They moved the ball effectively on offense. They even played not terrible on special teams. For the first time in forever, it was WSU who was imposing its will early, seizing a 21-7 lead late in the second quarter and threatening to send thousands of fans to Mill Ave. early.

Then it all caved in. WSU gave up a quick touchdown drive, Luke Falk was intercepted by a defensive lineman, and suddenly the score was 21-21. The Cougs responded well by driving for a late field goal, but ASU would score the next 31 points and the final score looked all too typical for a game at ASU. As for who is to blame, the offense probably takes the lion's share for the first time in a while. They were able to muster only one garbage-time touchdown in the entire second half, while giving the ball away at seemingly every turn.

While the defense didn't exactly shut ASU down, I think they played well enough to win this game, but it is also fair to say that they didn't exactly respond well to adversity. Every time they had to go out after a turnover, they gave up points, and there were alot of turnovers. As deflating as a giveaway can be, a stop by the defense can just as quickly lift the team up. It never happened, and WSU couldn't recover. I was curious about some of Mike Leach's quotes after the game, as he seemed to blame the defense's poor response to the turnovers more than the turnovers themselves.

"As soon as we turn it over," he fumed, "it doesn’t matter where it is on the field, we feel we’re entitled to let them score.

"We can do it; no question we can do it. If there’s not a turnover, defensively we’ll play real tough. If there is a turnover, they’ll give up the ghost. Because all of a sudden, oh my gosh, there’s a turnover. That’s crazy.

"If there was a turnover, we just give up, and we don’t even look like the same defense. And it can be one series to the next. We just give up."

I mean, I guess? Look, I think it is a glaring indictment of the defense that they haven't intercepted a pass since the Portland State game. It is largely the fault of the defense that WSU's turnover ratio is a cringe-worthy -15. We can all agree that the pass defense in particular has bee abysmal. If the defense had made one single stop against Cal, WSU would have won the game. But on a day when his defense forced several three-and-outs and his young quarterback gave the ball away time after time (putting the defense in some really bad spots), I really don't know why Mike Leach took aim like that.

Still though, there was enough blame to go around, and I'm nearly certain that Leach is just as frustrated with the amount of turnovers and lack of second half production from his offense as he is with the defense's inability to respond to adversity. Either way, this game was there for the taking and WSU just couldn't get it done. That's too bad, because for the first time in a long time, WSU started the game looking like the better team. But that's in the past now. See you at the Apple Cup.

Football

Final thoughts from the ASU game - SportsLink - Spokesman.com - Nov. 22, 2014
But when the offense turned the ball over the defense never saved them, giving up a touchdown each time. I don't think it's unfair to say that with no turnovers the Cougars could very well have won this game, and even with them they'd have been in it if the defense had bailed them out a couple times.

WSU’s Pippins passes test - Spokesman.com - Nov. 23, 2014
Leach has said in the past that the young defensive backs are not attacking the opportunities they are being given despite all expressing desires to play early. Pippins may have played late compared to the other freshman corners, but so far he’s also played the best.

Cougars find way to lose winnable game against ASU | Bud Withers | The Seattle Times
Washington State delivered a confounding performance Saturday, by turns making Arizona State’s offense look inept before getting flattened by a flood of Sun Devils touchdowns.

Luke Falk laments five-turnover performance in WSU’s loss to ASU | Cougar Football | The Seattle Times
Leach’s assessment of Falk: "He sometimes could have reacted a little quicker. I think it’s part of the growth process. I think he did some impressive things. A whole bunch of freshmen would like to have the ability to throw for as many yards as he did. Most guys won’t in their career."

What we learned in the Pac-12: Week 13 - Pac-12 Blog - ESPN
Washington State's freshman QB Luke Falk has lots of potential, but he hasn't yet arrived: Falk was impressive coming off the bench to replace an injured Connor Halliday against USC and had a brilliant starting debut at Oregon State and a strong start at Arizona State, when the Cougs jumped ahead 21-7 against the Sun Devils. But things went haywire thereafter, and Falk started looking like a freshman.

ASU football surges past Washington State
Whatever the reason, Arizona State started slowly Saturday against Washington State, falling behind at halftime, looking like a team about to bottom out in the final weeks of the regular season. Then everything changed.

Volleyball

Cougars Fall in Five to No. 13 Arizona - Washington State University Official Athletic Site
For the third consecutive match, the Washington State volleyball team (10-20 overall, 1-17 Pac-12) lost a five-set match to a nationally-ranked opponent as No. 13 Arizona (22-8, 11-7) won at Bohler Gym Saturday night with set scores of 25-22, 21-25, 25-23, 29-31, and 15-8.

Beer

This Is The Best Store-Brand Beer
Trader Joe's has a million kinds of beer that are brewed all over the place. A few of them suck, most of them are decent, and Vintage Ale is very good. TJ farms Vintage production out to Quebec's esteemed Unibroue, and neither store nor brewery make any attempt to hide the arrangement, which is rare, refreshing, and also logical, since this is a beer everyone can be proud of.

Non-Sports

The Secret Life of Passwords - NYTimes.com
We despise them – yet we imbue them with our hopes and dreams, our dearest memories, our deepest meanings. They unlock much more than our accounts.