In one of the greatest displays of resiliency you'll see, WSU overcame an early 14-0 deficit to easily defeat Arizona State, 38-24, and secure its sixth win of the season, which should assure the Cougars of a return to the postseason.
Luke Falk threw for 497 yards and five touchdowns, while Dom Williams led the receivers with 123 yards and two touchdowns -- and they were the two most important touchdowns of the game.
The most amazing thing about this game is that a win seemed so improbable just a few minutes after it started. Many WSU were leaving their team for dead after that slow start, which felt like it was spiraling out of control.
Everyone should have known that these Cougs weren't going to give up that easy.
The start of the game was a total mess for WSU. The offense struggled mightily out of the gate, posting three-and-outs on its first two drives. The defense, meanwhile, was just as bad: ASU marched right down the field both times for touchdowns, covering 134 yards in 18 plays -- virtually all of it on the ground, save for a few wide receiver screens -- as the Cougars basically forgot how to tackle.
The game appeared to be heading for absolute disaster when, on the first play of the ensuing drive, Luke Falk pressed and threw an inexplicable interception into double coverage. The Sun Devils returned it to WSU's 22 yard line, and it felt like a touchdown might just end the game before it even really got started.
But WSU's defense stood tall at the goal line, dropping Demario Richard -- who had been virtually untacklable up until that point -- for a 1-yard loss to WSU's 3. Looking for the kill shot, Todd Graham elected to go for it, but WSU again did its job, dropping quarterback Mike Bercovici for a loss, and WSU took over on downs.
Many wondered at the time if that could be the beginning of the turn of the game. While it's tough to declare such things, there's little doubt that keeping those seven points off the board were absolutely huge.
That stop was exactly what the Cougs needed. Falk finally found a bit of a rhythm, getting out of the shadow of his own goal posts with a 29-yard completion on a wheel route to Jamal Morrow. In all, WSU would run 17 plays on the drive before finally putting a field goal on the board.
ASU drove again, but a forced fumble by Kirkland Parker after a completion was recovered by Marcellus Pippins, and the threat was averted. The teams traded punts from there, but only WSU has Gabe Marks, and he ripped off a return to ASU's 16 yard line. Three plays later, WSU was facing 4th-and-5 from ASU's 11.
And that's when things got weird. Falk went to Marks, and ...
Here's that crazy sequence where WSU got a do over on 4th down. "Inadvertently, we need to replay 4th down." pic.twitter.com/wOiYAforEt— Jeff Nusser (@NussCoug) November 7, 2015
There was a barely audible whistle that you probably can't hear on that video after Marks gets pushed back, leading to -- for lack of a better term -- a "do over" for WSU, which ended with a Dom Williams TD.
(We never get to complain again, I guess?)
Suddenly, WSU was very much in a game that the Sun Devils had largely controlled. And that's how the first half would end, with WSU trailing ASU, 14-10. The Cougars had played perhaps their worst half of football in some time, and yet they only trailed by four. Four!
ASU probably should have killed them when they had the chance, because the Sun Devils just had no answers for the Cougars in the second half.
WSU took its first lead of the game on its first possession of the second half. Mike Bercovici pinned WSU on its 6 yard line after a nice pooch punt, but Keith Harrington did what he does best, taking a screen to the house from just outside the red zone to give WSU a 17-14 lead.
And from there, it was a slug fest.
ASU came back to score on the next drive after taking advantage of WSU's #specialforces by hitting on a fake punt pass down the left sideline to a wide open D.J. Foster where Tavares Martin Jr. had bailed to go set up his block. A few plays later, Bercovici kept it on a zone read after WSU sold out to stop the dive, and it was 21-17 ASU.
WSU then came back right back with another touchdown of its own, displaying the kind of guts that this team has become so known for, thanks to - who else? - Gabe Marks. First, facing 3rd-and-12, Falk found Marks at the sideline for a gain of 11 as Marks fell out of bounds. Undeterred by the fact that 4th-and-1 was from his own 36 yard line and he was already trailing by four, Mike Leach elected to go for it. Of course, it was time to Throw It To Gabe Marks™, and the duo combined for a 16-yard gain.
A few plays later, after Kyle Sweet found the soft spot behind the ASU blitz for a 36-yard gain, Falk hit John Thompson for an 8-yard TD that was originally ruled down, but overturned upon review. It was a heck of an effort for the first touchdown of the junior's career:
IN. #GoCougs pic.twitter.com/3EY1uJX0uV— WSU Cougar Football (@wsucougfb) November 7, 2015
It was at that point the game started to turn. After giving up a quick first down, ASU couldn't convert on its next three plays, and the Sun Devils punted ... all the way down to WSU's 1.
LOOK AT THIS F****ING PUNT https://t.co/HOYoQpfdLN pic.twitter.com/1V6fIWTjQz— SB✯Nation CFB (@SBNationCFB) November 7, 2015
No matter. Seven plays and 99 yards later, WSU was in the end zone again. The big play was a 47-yard completion to Robert Lewis, and the drive was capped by Jamal Morrow fighting his way through a trio of defenders for a TD to put WSU up by 10, 31-21.
THIS is how you fight for a touchdown! It's a 31-21 Cougar lead! #GoCougs pic.twitter.com/IGdGoLgecR— WSU Cougar Football (@wsucougfb) November 7, 2015
ASU and WSU traded punts -- the latter of which was disappointing because the Cougs could only take 12 seconds off the clock -- before ASU drove down the field again to try and close the gap. But the defense held tall, again, and the Sun Devils settled for a short field goal to get within a score.
Then the Cougs finished it. WSU had been hitting the slant all day, as ASU singled the receivers up on the outside behind Todd Graham's blitzes, and this time the Sun Devils really paid: Falk hit Dom Williams, who eluded one tackle and then raced 75 yards to the end zone (with a little help from a Lewis block).
Freshman cornerback Darrien Molton iced it on the next drive with this interception:
Congrats on your first career INT, Darrien Molton! #GoCougs pic.twitter.com/nHxcA77XFQ— WSU Cougars (@WSUCougars) November 8, 2015
In all, WSU gained 356 yards in the second half at a robust 11.1 yards per play while scoring 28 points.
Celebrate, y'all. We're going bowling!