Washington State comes back from deficit, holds off Arizona State

Luke Falk threw five touchdowns for 497 yards in the Cougars' comeback win over Arizona State. AP Photo/Young Kwak

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.

Cougars quarterback Luke Falk threw five touchdowns on 36 of 55 passing for 497 yards with one interception. Arizona State got all three of its touchdowns on the ground with scores from Demario Richard, Kalen Ballage and Mike Bercovici.

Turning point: There were too many to single out because the game turned more than a biker on Lombard Street. WSU’s fourth-down stand in the first quarter, when ASU could have gone up 21-0, comes to mind. WSU getting a “fifth down” after an inadvertent whistle and subsequent touchdown was certainly fortuitous. ASU’s fake punt in the third quarter that led to a touchdown was significant. WSU converting on fourth down early in the fourth that led to a touchdown also comes to mind. Multiple lead changes/mood swings/official reviews all contributed to a fairly whacky game.

What the win means for Washington State: The Cougars are bowl eligible for the second time in three years. That in itself is a huge achievement considering the way the season started. Which bowl game and how high on the pecking order it is remains to be seen. The Cougars travel to UCLA next week before hosting Colorado and then visit Seattle for the Apple Cup. They also showed great resilience after trailing 14-0 early and regaining the lead again in the fourth quarter.

What the loss means for Arizona State: The Sun Devils’ season of disappointment continues with yet another coulda-woulda-shoulda game. They have to win two of their final three (vs. Washington, vs. Arizona, at Cal) to avoid missing the postseason for the first time in the Todd Graham era. For the second week in a row, a critical officiating call went against them. Yes, the call was bad. Yes, the aforementioned inadvertent whistle couldn’t have come at a worse time (on fourth down inside the ASU red zone which led to WSU touchdown). On the flip side, it didn’t happen in overtime like last week. The inadvertent whistle happened in the second quarter and the Sun Devils still had the lead and plenty of opportunities to bounce back. Was it a huge play? Absolutely. Was it the determining play? Probably not because the Sun Devils had 30-plus minutes to change the outcome.

Player of the game: After a shaky start, combined with some pretty good coverage from the ASU secondary, Falk found his stride. He spread his five touchdown passes over four different receivers, including a game-clinching 75-yard touchdown pass to Dom Williams in the closing minutes.