HALFTIME: Cougs ‘swarm’ Sun Devils

THE NICKNAME “DESERT SWARM” applied to Arizona’s dominant defense of the early 1990s. But that moniker might as well have been applied to Washington State on Saturday morning as the Cougars stymied No. 13 Arizona State’s offense for most of the first half. Despite that, WSU needed a late field goal to take a 24-21 lead into halftime at Sun Devil Stadium.

WSU scored first on a 1-yard keeper by redshirt freshman quarterback Luke Falk late in the first quarter. That touchdown was set up on fourth-and-7 at the Sun Devils’ 32 when Falk found junior wide receiver Dom Williams for a 10-yard completion.

But the Cougars, who overcame a botched punt on their first possession, could not overcome a mistake by Falk on their ensuing possession. Falk threw into coverage and was intercepted by Damarious Randall at the ASU 38. And the Sun Devils, who went three-and-out on their first four drives, took advantage this time as quarterback Taylor Kelly found running back D.J. Foster for a 42-yard completion to WSU’s 23. Two plays later, Foster ran right and scored on a 17-yard run to open the second quarter.

Those were among the few early breakdowns for the Cougars’ defense. Their front seven harassed Kelly throughout the first quarter with outstanding results. Through the second to last play of the opening quarter, ASU produced negative-27 yards of total offense. Kache Palacio, Destiny Vaeao, Danile Ekulele, Xavier Cooper and Darryl Paulo each had a sack.

After a slow start — WSU was held scoreless on its first two drives — Falk responded after the interception. Falk, who completed 21 of 37 passes for 329 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, built an 11-play, 75-yard drive that last nearly 5 minutes. After missing a wide-open receiver in the end zone on second-and-goal at the Sun Devils’ 1, Falk responded with a touchdown pass to senior Rickey Galvin with 10 minutes, 3 seconds left in the second quarter.

Falk later took advantage of an overaggressive ASU defense after the Sun Devils jumped offsides for the fourth time on third-and-5 at midfield. That enabled Falk to make a risky completion to senior Vince Mayle for a 34-yard gain. Two plays later, Falk found senior Isiah Myers (pictured above)for a 20-yard touchdown pass to extend the Cougars’ lead to 21-7 with 4:52 left in the first half.

But ASU needed just five plays to respond when Kelly, who 7 of 15 passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns, found Cameron Smith for a 42-yard touchdown pass.

It only became worse for WSU from that point as Falk threw his second interception of the first half, this time to Marcus Hardison, who returned it 12 yards to the Cougars’ 13-yard line. Kelly connected with Frederick Gammage to tie the game, 21-all, two plays later.

WSU outgained the Sun Devils 337-135 at halftime.

  • With three catches in the first half, Jamal Morrow set WSU’s single-season record for receptions by a running back. The redshirt freshman now has 60 grabs. Steve Broussard previously held the record with 59 catches in 1987.

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