Well that was some game, wasn't it? Like many of you, I've been watching Cougar football for as long as I can remember. In all that time, I can't recall a game as weird as this one. I mean, I think I'm going to have to watch "Pac-12 in 60" on Tuesday just to make sure the Cougars won. That's how strange Saturday's game felt. WSU started off so poorly that it felt like there was no chance they'd get back in it, let alone win.
For the second straight week, the offense began the game very poorly. Heck, before the game even began, rumors of a Joe Dahl injury were proven true, causing a big shift among WSU's offensive linemen. Eduardo Middleton shifted from right guard to left, for the first time in his career. Jacob Seydel made his first career start at right guard. Gunnar Eklund shifted to Dahl's spot at left tackle, the first time he'd played there since 2013. After a couple early miscommunications, the jumbled line didn't miss a beat. Incredible.
Unlike last Saturday, the defense wasn't there to bail them out, at least not right away. Arizona State was doing whatever it wanted on offense, and WSU's tacklers were bouncing off ASU running backs like they had a force field around them. The Sun Devils were seemingly running the same exact screen pass every time they needed a first down, and WSU was powerless to stop it.
Todd Graham and his exotic blitz packages had taken up residence inside Luke Falk's head, and we were seeing the hesitant Falk that we saw so much early in the season. When Falk horribly overthrew everybody but an ASU safety, resulting in an interception, I thought the game was pretty much over. However, this team of Cougars, thankfully, had other ideas.
The defense forced a monumental stop inside its own five yardline, and the offense finally got things in gear. They didn't exactly hum before halftime, but they did enough to keep the team within reach. Sure, they were aided by an inadvertent whistle on fourth down, but after what happened last week with the officials, you'll excuse me if I don't feel the least bit bad about WSU getting another crack at the endzone. Hell, they still had to execute the play and score a touchdown. That's exactly what they did.
The halftime score may have been 14-10, but it felt like the Cougs were down by three touchdowns. The second half was entirely different. WSU came out and stopped ASU's opening drive, then went 94 yards in eight plays to take their first lead, on a screen pass to Keith Harrington. They were finally making ASU pay for the blitzes. The defense came right back out and got another stop, but #specialforces again refused to let us have nice things, and ASU retook the lead.
No matter. The Cougs went back down and scored again. Last week we all wished John Thompson had stretched the ball out on the two-point conversion. This time, he did exactly that. Touchdown. Following ANOTHER stop by the defense and the and one of the greatest punts in the history of football, WSU calmly went 99 (!!!) yards in just seven plays, highlighted by a huge Robert Lewis catch-and-run, to take a 10 point lead.
When the Cougs got the ball back, they held it for all of about 15 seconds, and it appeared that a golden opportunity to step on ASU's neck had slipped away. Following a six yard punt (that's right, a six yard punt, which was not deflected), ASU had excellent field position. Once more, Alex Grinch's defense kept them out of the endzone, and the lead was still seven points. Every one of us was probably hoping for a couple first downs, enabling WSU to run out the clock. That's not exactly what happened.
You might recall the 2013 Utah game, in which WSU needed a win to clinch a bowl. The Cougs had the ball with just under five minutes left, clinging to a five point lead. Needing a couple first downs to salt it away, Connor Halliday hit Dom Williams on a slant route. Williams avoided the safety and scored a 71-yard touchdown. On the ensuing drive, WSU intercepted a pass deep in its own territory to ice the game and clinch a bowl.
Saturday, WSU badly needed a couple first downs to drain the clock and win the game. Luke Falk hit Dom Williams on a strikingly similar route to the one against Utah. Again, Williams avoided a tackle and took it the distance. Again, WSU intercepted a pass (this time, Darrien Molton snagged the first of his young career) and iced the game. Once again, the Cougars are headed to a bowl game. In a few previous games this season, WSU got out to a decent lead and had to hang on by the skin of its teeth. Saturday, WSU outscored ASU 21-3 in the fourth quarter. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you finish a game.
I remember walking out of the Portland State game and telling my brother that I wasn't going to renew my season tickets next year. The return on investment, from a wins standpoint, just wasn't there. I was tired of buying two season tickets when I was lucky just to make it to one game a year. This team, amazingly, has made me do a 180. Not in a million years did I think, walking out of that game in the cold and rain, that these Cougars could stage such a turnaround in less than one season. I can't wait for next week (even though I have to wait 'til 1045). I know you can't, either. Go Cougs.
FB: Highlights vs. ASU - Washington State University Official Athletic Site
Seven minutes of highlights following WSU's huge win!
WSU comeback makes Cougars bowl eligible - Spokesman.com - Nov. 7, 2015
The time it took for the possibility of postseason play to become a reality was however long Dom Williams needed to race three-quarters of the field and score the game-clinching touchdown.
For Cougars, extra down seems like just reward - Spokesman.com - Nov. 7, 2015
For a heartbeat or two after Marks was pushed back, both he and the defenders believed the play was dead, and began to walk back to their respective teammates. Marks realized he had not heard a whistle and again tried to run for a first down, but was pushed out of bounds by the ASU defenders.
Blanchette: Nothing inadvertent about Cougs’ toughness - Spokesman.com - Nov. 7, 2015
Inadvertently, the Cougars found yet another receiving star in freshman Kyle Sweet. Inadvertently, the officials got around to playing the fourth quarter after an Olympiad-long delay. Inadvertently, Wazzu found it could get along without alpha dog tackle Joe Dahl who, of course, isn’t injured (now that would be inadvertent).
Lots of good photos from WSU's win.
Why the Washington State Cougars are the best football team in the Pacific Northwest | The Seattle Times
WSU confirmed the ascending nature of its program with a 38-24 win over Arizona State. Simply put — there wasn’t an answer for Luke Falk. There is a question, though: How good can these guys get?
Washington State comes back from deficit, holds off Arizona State
What looked like a blowout early for the Arizona State Sun Devils turned into a roller coaster of a game with multiple lead changes and turning points. Ultimately, it was Washington State that overcame the early deficit and twice regained the lead in the second half before pulling away for a 38-24 win.
Mike Leach has a parting shot for Arizona State: 'We stole a bunch of their signals'
Leach and the Cougars had the last word. And no phone call was needed. Asked if there were any adjustments in the second half, during which the Cougars outscored the Sun Devils 28-10, Leach decided to bring the funny.
ASU starts fast, fizzles in loss at Washington State
At sold-out and lively Martin Stadium, Washington State overcame a slow start, took advantage of ASU's mistakes and pulled away from the Sun Devils, 38-24. The Cougars achieved bowl eligibility, improving to 6-3 and 4-2 in the Pac-12.
Boivin: Ugly loss leaves ASU football at crossroads
Meanwhile, the Sun Devils watched a Cougars team become bowl eligible with a 6-3 record. It’s quite a turnaround for the program, which was 3-9, 6-7 and 3-9 during Leach’s first three years.
ASU Football: Sun Devils fall on the road to Washington State - House of Sparky
If the first two drives were any indication, the Arizona State Sun Devils were going to cruise to a victory over the Washington State Cougars Saturday afternoon. They weren't.
Swimming Claims 10 Races, Sweeps San Diego Double-Meet - Washington State University Official Athletic Site
WSU posted wins over San Diego State and New Mexico in San Diego Saturday.
Winter Is Coming: 10 Beers Bringing the Season into the Craft Beer World - Page 11 - MainStreet
We're still nearly two months away from actual winter, but brewers have been releasing winter and holiday beers since at least September.
Why Alabama Teacher of the Year is quitting - The Washington Post
Man, I just can't put my finger on why Alabama is always in the bottom five of nearly every state education ranking.