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The Good, Bad and Ugly of WSU’s 34-21 win over Arizona State

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It wasn’t that close!

NCAA Football: Washington State at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning! Assuming many of you are familiar with the theme from ESPN’s late-2000s “30 for 30” series, I’d like to play a little game.

What if I told you before Saturday’s game that WSU would be scoreless in the third quarter, would be outscored 14-6 in the fourth quarter, but would still win easily?

What if I told you that ASU, which came into Saturday averaging more than 200 yards rushing per game (and more than five yards per carry) would be held to its lowest rushing output of the season against a WSU rush defense ranked ninth in the Pac-12?

Finally, what if I told you on the morning of September 26 - after a loss at Utah dropped the Washington State Cougars to 1-3/0-2 - that those same Cougs would fly home from Tempe with a chance to win the Pac-12 North?

In the words(ish) of Jack Buck, I still can’t believe what I just saw. Because I saw a WSU team race out of the gate against the heavily-favored Arizona State Sun Devils, in Tempe, on homecoming, when they honored the 1996 Rose Bowl team (who apparently couldn’t find a pair of shoes for Jake Plummer), only to see WSU ruin it all and win by a 34-21 score that wasn’t nearly that close. But apparently it actually happened, so let’s talk about it!

The Good

  • I know these schools feel compelled to switch uniform combos every week for some reason, but that outfit the Cougs had on Saturday should be permanent. I love love love it. (I also love white/white/anthracite but we always lose in that one)
  • Had a feeling it may be a good night when my man Garrett offered me a Westvleteren XII upon my arrival. The only thing better than that beer was the game! (ok, and the company)
  • Speaking of Garrett - By my count, the Cougs are now 7-1 when I watch the game at his house. The only loss came to ASU back in 2019. PAYBACK
  • I should also mention that this weekend is Germany’s Daylight Saving Time, so the Cougs were ostensibly done by midnight. Too bad I was up another two hours celebrating!
  • This space has been highly critical of Justus Rogers, but he made two great plays early on. After going to the ground, Rogers jumped up, chased the play and stripped DeaMonte Trayanum, causing the first of what would be five WSU takeaways. Shortly afterward, Rogers was again in the right place, reacting just quickly enough to snatch a fumble before ASU receiver Bryan Thompson got it back. Decent return, too.
  • Loved the draw to McIntosh on third down to keep WSU’s second scoring possession alive.
  • I am still stunned that WSU turned ASU over three straight times to open the game, and Chau Smith-Wade made a hell of an effort on his interception.
  • Really really loved the de Laura throw and one-handed Harris catch to cap the drive following that interception. Masterpiece.
  • Pretty sure Max Borghi’s stiff arm is classified as a deadly weapon in at least 20 states.
  • Antonio Pule only shows up with one tackle in the box score, but it was a huge one. His stop of Bryan Thompson one yard short of a first down set up the defense’s fourth down stop that preserved a 14-0 lead.
  • Ron Stone is a goddamn terror, man. Two more TFLs, including a sack (the only time they got to Jayden Daniels) and a fumble recovery that set up a 28-0 Cougar lead.
  • Speaking of that fourth WSU touchdown, de Laura’s split-second decision to hold on to the ball with three guys bearing down on him (which took some serious grip strength because it looked like he intended to throw it) - and Jackson’s read of ASU’s coverage gap - was all well and good, but Travell Harris’ reaction the proceedings was the best part of the whole thing! I’m still laughing because I can’t tell if he was celebrating or trying to to show the refs that he wasn’t doing anything illegal.
  • I shouldn’t have been so nervous in retrospect, but when ASU scored to end the first half, I was kind of dreading what I thought would be an inevitable second half rally. Those nerves went up a notch when WSU did nothing with its first possession. But while WSU’s offense never regained its first half potency in terms of points (it didn’t cross the 50 on its first three possessions), the defense held ASU to 57 yards on 15 third quarter plays, and set up the offense with great field possession after hurrying Jayden Daniels into a bad throw for which Jaylen Watson made him pay.
  • I’m going to be overly kind to Dean Janikowski today, so I’ll simply say that the two kicks he made brought me much joy!
  • Loved the heady play by Lincoln Victor, who was initially stopped but kept driving forward when ASU kind of let up, gaining the Cougs a first down.
  • Donovan Ollie may not have had a great game receiving-wise, but he had a deed to the inside of Chase Lucas’s head anyway, especially when it came to stock blocks.
  • Time of possession is usually an overrated statistic, but in a situation like Saturday when you have a big lead, holding on to the ball and limiting opponent possessions is crucial. So it was a big deal that WSU possessed the ball for more than 18 second half minutes, including north of 10 minutes in the final quarter. That included a possession which covered only 42 yards, but featured eight running plays, three first downs, drained 6:23 off the clock and ended with a Janikowski field goal. If the other team doesn’t have the ball, it’s awfully hard to make a comeback! #science
  • Nice little 18-yard burst by Nakia Watson.
  • We mentioned in this space after the USC game that, if you want to win as an underdog, you absolutely cannot afford to waste scoring opportunities off of turnovers. Well, after frittering away its first try, WSU scored 24 points off the next four ASU turnovers. That’s how you do it, boys.
  • Hats off to Jake Dickert and the coaching staff. They had the team ready to play from the opening whistle, despite the disappointing loss last week and new coaches at practice this week. Young people are far more resilient than they tend to be given credit for.

The Bad

Though there were definitely some issues we saw that need correcting on the part of the good guys, today ain’t the day for that.

  • While it wasn’t a trademark #Pac12ref tire fire game, there were still some pretty shaky moments, such as a couple spots and an absolutely bulls**t holding call on Ma’ake Fifita that ruined WSU’s chance to pile on more points.
  • This was certainly good for WSU, I’ll put it here because Herm Edwards. Trailing 28-7 in the third quarter and facing 4th-and-2 near midfield, Edwards decides to...punt? I mean I was thrilled as a WSU fan, but I would have been apoplectic if I were rooting for ASU. What an idiotic decision. Then again, we haven’t seen a lot in the way of positive decision-making from that program of late.
  • Dropped touchdown followed by a false start followed by a missed chip shot field goal. Sure is nice when the opponent does that!
  • I never think that announcers root for one team, but it sure seemed like those guys were trying to will ASU back into the game. It was probably because broadcast teams want an exciting game, but damn.
  • To boot, at one point Mark Helfrich referred to ASU as “we” when talking about what it needed to do to get back in the game. Again, I am certain that he wasn’t rooting for them, but he thought enough of his mistake to correct himself right away.
  • Then there was the line about WSU not having won in Tempe since 2016. Seems like a long time, until you learn that WSU HAD ONLY PLAYED IN TEMPE ONCE SINCE THEN.

The Ugly

  • Our picks. Let’s just move on.
  • Also on the uniform front, ASU has so much potential, and Saturday’s selection was an abomination.
  • Mark Helfrich’s candy list. Look, despite all of the polarization out there regarding candy corn, I’m mostly neutral. I like them well enough, in handful doses, but any top five list that includes candy corns should be grounds for immediate termination. Including any sugary stuff at the expense of staples such as Reese’s PB Cups, Milky Way, Snickers etc. is Halloween malpractice. Credit where it’s due, as Helfrich did have “anything full size” atop his rankings.
  • Finally, let’s hear it one more time for “player’s coach” Herm Edwards!

Football

'There was never any doubt on our part': Underdog Washington State makes a statement, smokes Arizona State | The Spokesman-Review
There seemed to be just too many factors working against the visitors from Pullman. The Pac-12 South-leading Sun Devils were named 16-point favorites coming off their bye week.

'It was just effort': Opportunistic defense forces five takeaways, spearheads Washington State's win in the desert | The Spokesman-Review
When interim coach Jake Dickert discusses the Cougars’ aptitude for forcing turnovers, he doesn’t talk as much about the fundamentals, the drills, the practices.

John Blanchette: WSU puts on refreshing performance with win over Arizona State, proving team's resiliency runs deep | The Spokesman-Review
Most teams like to script their first 10 offensive plays. You could have sworn the Cougs scripted those early takeaways.

Saturday Night Five: Utah controls the South, ASU on the brink, Washington State wins again and could that be … Cal?
Washington State is, by far, the most compelling story in the conference at the moment.

ASU has no answer for Washington State in big Pac-12 loss
It was that kind of day for the Sun Devils who were dealt a 34-21 Homecoming loss by visiting Washington State in matinee Pac-12 play Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium.

Moore: Arizona State loss makes Rose Bowl unlikely, but not impossible
The Sun Devils lost five turnovers. They gave up six pass plays of 15 yards or longer, including a 45-yard second-quarter touchdown. They gave up six running plays of 10 yards or longer.

Fire Herm Edwards? ASU football coach's future questioned after loss
The game was ASU's homecoming game and it probably couldn't have gone any worse for the Sun Devils, who have now lost two straight games in embarrassing fashion.

Soccer

Let’s Go Cougs! Get that Oregon sweep!

A clash in Corvallis - Washington State University Athletics
The Cougs look to close out their weekend in Oregon perfect as they head to Corvallis to take on the Beavers Sunday.

This Week in Parenting

The biggest development of the week occurred on Friday, when the boys got their first haircuts since they were in Spokane. Did I mention that we left Spokane in early August?

Saturday brought the 13 year-old’s final football game of the season, against those no good dirty rotten jerks from Stuttgart. I’m sure they’re nice kids, but the fact that I had to drive down there to watch the game put me in a foul mood. To add context, Stuttgart is about 170km from my house, and because of the awful traffic, the trip takes at least 2.5 hours. Doesn’t matter what day. Doesn’t matter what time of day, the traffic always sucks. But again, tell me more about that noted German efficiency. Like I told Garrett last night, if someone gave me the choice between driving to Stuttgart and driving through the streets of Mogadishu, I’d probably choose the latter, but I digress.

Things didn’t start off well for the mighty Falcons, as we fell behind 14-0 after one quarter. Not only that, but the rain that the interwebs said wouldn’t start until after the game arrived much sooner. But then things turned. The Falcons drove for a score that cut the lead to seven late in the first half, then forced a fumble that turned into a scoop-and-score. Just like that, we were tied. The Falcons scored quickly in the 3rd quarter to go up 20-14, where the score stayed up to the final drive. That’s when the fun began. First we intercepted a pass, but fumbled it and Stuttgart recovered. Then we stopped them on 4th down, but #GermanyYouthRefs threw a facemask flag. Then we stopped them again on 4th down, but #GermanyYouthRefs called a phantom personal foul. Another first down. Finally, we made another stop with six seconds to go and the clock ran out (despite additional BS penalties). Ballgame, championship, undefeated season.

It was a pretty great experience for the kiddo, as he has never lost a tackle football game. He was also the starting center for the vast majority of the season. But best of all (if you ask him) was that he got to ride a team bus to and from the game. The family was quite happy by Saturday afternoon, and the Cougs hadn’t even played yet!

The most exciting development is the end to football practice every Tu, Wed and Th that went from 6-7:30 p.m., which meant that we didn’t eat dinner until after 8. It was like we were honorary Spaniards. I will not miss that.

On the 10 year-old front, golf teacher Nigel was off this week, so it was up to dad in terms of a golf lesson. Luckily I had the afternoon off on Thursday, so the kiddo and I met at the golf course to go over some things. I decided to break in his WSU-logo golf balls with some chipping and putting work, and he took to the putting part pretty well. We still have a ways to go in terms of chipping, because he’s not quite used to taking half-swings, and those full swings aren’t really amenable to the touch required to knock a chip close to the hole. But he seems to like it enough, which is the goal at this point.

Non-Sports

The Untold Story of the Portuguese Diplomat Who Saved Thousands From the Nazis | History | Smithsonian Magazine
As the German army marched across France, Aristides de Sousa Mendes faced a choice: obey his government or follow his conscience—and risk everything

Chance encounter at sports bar causes anti-vax man to change his mind – WFTV
“In a world of distrust you don’t know what’s right, what’s wrong… I said, you know what? If he’s saying, then that’s how I know.”