"We needed a win," coach Dennis Erickson put simply. "We don't have much room for error to accomplish a goal that we want, which is to go to a bowl game so we've just got to focus every week. That's what we're trying to accomplish and we have to take one at a time.
"It was good coming off the performance we had a week ago, obviously it was good to see us come out and compete and show a lot of character because that's not easy to do."
The offense put up 493 total yards of offense, and the defense shut out their first opponent all year, despite the late efforts (no matter how futile) of Washington State to get something on the board.
In fact, the last time the Sun Devils shut out a Pac-10 opponent was these same Cougars in 2008. Add five sacks, and three turnovers, and the Sun Devils easily put together their most complete performance of the season against a team that has played some teams tough despite only having one win.
"I though we came out early extremely well on both sides of the football, and I thought defensively as well as we've played," Erickson mentioned. "They've been a pretty good offensive football team for the most part all year and we got pressure on them; I think we had five sacks or something like that, and they couldn't move the football so that makes it easier offensively. I thought Steven threw it and we had a good combination of the run and the pass and it was a game going in that we should've won and we did."
After being concussed last week, this was exactly the type of game Steven Threet needed to get his head right: only six incompletions, 300 yards, and three touchdowns. Anyone that has watched the Sun Devils all season could tell you this was his best game running the offense since Wisconsin.
"He was very accurate," Erickson said of Threet. "That was the biggest thing. I don't even know that stats, but he didn't throw very many incompletions. He had control of what was going on. We went back through our first four games last week and to look at what we were doing. We went back to the basics of our offense basically and that made a difference. We called the same play probably 30-40 different times; the same concept. That's when we're good and he sees it, but he was very accurate, which is probably the biggest thing he did."
Threet starred, but the unsung hero of the game was senior defensive back LeQuan Lewis. Lewis made an acrobatic interception in the end-zone, downed two of Trevor Hankins' punts inside the five, and ended the game taking the ball away from the receiver in the end-zone to preserve the shut out. LeQuan made the most of every opportunity tonight; something all the Sun Devils will have to do to get this team in a bowl game.
"It's great to see LeQuan," Erickson pointed out. "He's such a hard worker and such a team guy and really hasn't had a lot of opportunity to play other than on special teams and when he did have a chance he stepped up and made the interception and like I said, on special teams downing those punts down inside, and the punting was extremely good. We knocked them down in there a couple times, maybe three times, but it was great to see LeQuan play like that. He's just a hard-worker that's had a chance and made some plays."
Mentioning the interception, which was initially ruled out of bounds, but challenged and reversed by ASU, coach Erickson joked, "I couldn't see over there, you kidding me? I'm lucky to see the stands that were there."
Even in a blowout win the Sun Devils couldn't come out entirely unscathed. Defensive tackle Bo Moos exited with an MCL injury that won't require surgery, but will see him perhaps miss a game or two. Running back James Morrison left with knee injury, but doesn't appear to be serious according to Erickson, and linebacker Vontaze Burfict had a slight hamstring pull in the second half, and was removed for the rest of the game as a precaution.
21-point favorite or not, the Sun Devils showed some heart tonight in a game they easily could have come out lackadaisical in a contest they were fully expected to win. While the bowl dreams will still be tough to bring to reality, this team isn't ready to give up yet.
"That's pride, that's what it's all about," Erickson emphasized. "When you go through something like we did last week and it happens unfortunately in college football all the time if you ever watch, and character is what it's about. The only guys that can come back are the players themselves.
"We can do what we do as coaches, but it's up to them, as a defense, offense, and a whole team and they stepped up. They knew what happened, they were there last Saturday, they knew they were better than that. So we were determined to come out and play like we're capable of and we did defensively. That's as good a defensive effort we had in a long time."