Highlights, but not enough for Cougs to win

TEMPE – Halfway through first quarter here Saturday evening, one question weighed heavy on the minds of those sitting in the Cougar section of Sun Devil Stadium: Which was uglier – WSU's new road pants or the play of the team? Indeed, the Cougars' bowl hopes -- officially done in by the 45-28 final score -- effectively ended in a flurry of miscues in the game's first few minutes.

After a stellar opening series by the WSU defense, the Cougars proceeded to muff a punt return that had long return written all over it; toss an interception on their very first offensive snap; and look downright silly on a fake punt by Arizona State.

Faster than you could say "goodbye Las Vegas Bowl," it was 14-0. Before you could even think "farewell Silicon Valley Classic," it was 21-0.

"It wasn't a good day for the Cougs," said WSU head coach Bill Doba. "We'll get our butts up for the next one (against Washington) -- that's our bowl game."

A young team that could desperately use the extra practices that come with a bona fide bowl -- only nine seniors are on WSU's two-deep roster -- showed its age against a seasoned ASU club led by a cool-as-ice senior quarterback.

The Cougars, though, didn't go away quietly. In a 96-second span of the first quarter they closed the gap to 21-14, courtesy of a 56-yard run by Jerome Harrison and a 76-yard punt return by Michael Bumpus.

But just when it looked like the Cougars were going to make a game of it, they commenced to shoot themselves in the foot again. The D gave up a 51-yard Andrew Walter bomb to set up another ASU TD, and then Allen Thompson fumbled deep in Cougar territory to gift wrap a field goal for the Devils.

And suddenly 21-14 with lots of momentum had turned into 31-14 at halftime with the crowd re-energized.

It could have been worse.

It also could have been much better. Trandon Harvey and Jason Hill each dropped first half passes that looked like they could have gone all the way.

In the end, however, it's hard to imagine any combination of events standing in the way of Walter. He looked every bit the Heisman Trophy candidate he was billed as earlier this season, completing 26 of 41 passes for 332 yards, 5 TDs and no interceptions. In doing so, he passed the 10,000-yard mark in career passing. His 5 TD passes, by the way, are the most surrendered by the Cougs in one game since Heisman winner Ty Detmer fired five in a 1990 game in Provo.

ASU outgained the Cougars 508 yards to 373 and converted 8 of 19 third-down plays vs. just 2 of 14 for the Cougars. Field position was also one-sided. Ten of the Cougars' possessions started on or inside the 20 and not a single one started at midfield or better.

The Devil defense wasn't half bad either. One stretch of 10 Cougar possessions resulted in one fumble, one missed field goal and eight punts (one of them partially blocked).

ASU, ranked No. 20 in the nation, is now 8-2. The Cougars falls to 4-6 and hope to reclaim the season in next week's season finale against 1-9 Washington.

WSU defensive end Mkristo Bruce, all over the field last week against UCLA, was at it again vs. ASU. He forced a Walter fumble at the Cougar goal line that was recovered by Pat Bennett and he posted six tackles, including one sack. Hamza Abdullah was the Cougars' top tackler with nine total stops, followed by Karl Paymah with eight.

* Senior running back Chris Bruhn, back in action after nursing a knee injury the past couple of weeks, scored the first TD of his Cougar career in the fourth quarter on a 7-yard run.

* Michael Bumpus' 76-yard punt return for a TD was his second punt return for a score this season. And his 91 return yards for the game give him 386 for the season – putting him within 19 yards of the WSU single-season record held by Shawn Tims.

* Jason Hill's 41-yard TD reception in the fourth quarter was his 11th scoring catch of the season, tying him with Chris Jackson, Kevin McKenzie and Devard Darling for most TD catches by a Cougar in a single season. His 132 receiving yards against the Devils marked the fourth time this season he's eclipsed the 100-yard mark in a game.

* ASU's victory was the first against WSU for head coach Dirk Koetter in six tries. He was 0-2 while at Boise State and 0-3 as a Sun Devil coming into tonight's tilt.

* WSU's freshman QB Alex Brink was 20 of 37 for 234 yards, one TD and one interception. He overthrew some wide-open receivers, but also was victimized by four drops.

* With 118 hashes against ASU, Jerome Harrison now has 809 rushing yards on the season. That puts him within striking distance -- albeit distant striking distance -- of hitting 1,000 yards for the season with a big game against Washington.

* Allen Thompson's first half fumble was the 38th time this season the Cougars put the ball on the ground and the 16th fumble they've lost.

* Kickoff of next week's Apple Cup game in Pullman against Washington has been moved to 4 pm so it can be televised live by ABC.


First Quarter
ASU: M. Miller 28-yard pass from Walter (Ainsworth kick)
ASU: Richardson 18-yard pass from Walter (Ainsworth kick)
ASU: Hagen 11-yard pass from Walter (Ainsworth kick)
WSU: Harrison 56-yard run (Langley kick)
WSU: Bumpus 76-yard punt return (Langley kick)

Second Quarter
ASU: Hill 2-yard run (Ainsworth kick)
ASU: Ainsworth 21-yard FG

Third Quarter
ASU: Hill 9-yard pass from Walter (Ainsworth kick)

Fourth Quarter
UA: Z. Miller 5-yard pass from Walter (Ainsworth kick)
WSU: HIll 41-yard pass from Brink (Langley kick)
WSU: Bruhn 7-yard run (Langley kick)

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