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Fork Report: Arizona State falls to Washington State for third loss in a row

As the saying goes, “if you ain’t cheating, you aren’t trying.”

Apparently Arizona State isn’t trying hard enough because while they were cleared of any wrongdoing by the Pac-12, the Sun Devils have yet to post a victory since accusations of opponent sign-stealing surfaced.

ASU dropped its third straight game, losing 38-24 at Washington State on Saturday.

Quarterback Luke Falk passed for 497 yards and five touchdowns and two went to Dom Williams, the second of which was a 75-yard catch-and-run to seal the win — the first for Wazzu against a Todd Graham-coached Sun Devil team.

Washington State improved to 6-3, 4-2 in conference; while ASU (4-5, 2-4) finds itself below .500 for the first time since Graham arrived in 2012.

The Sun Devils scored on their first two possessions behind touchdown runs by Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage to take a 14-0 lead.

The Cougars answered with 17 straight points and outscored ASU 38-10 the rest of the way.

Leading the conference’s No.1 passing attack, Falk went 20-of-27 for 349 yards and four touchdowns in the second half. He finished 36-of-55 overall with one interception.

Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici struggled, appearing to short-arm several passes. He completed 27 of his 44 attempts for 229 yards, one interception and no scores.

Richard (111) and Ballage (84) combined for 195 of the Sun Devils’ 202 rushing yards.

Washington State outgained ASU 512-458 with just 15 yards coming on the ground, a season-low for the Sun Devil defense.

Arizona State must now win at least two of its remaining three games to become bowl eligible.

THE GOOD

– The 1-2 punch of Richard and Ballage combined for 92 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter. Richard capped an eight-play, 70-yard opening drive with a six-yard score to take a 7-0 lead at 11:48; and then on the Sun Devils’ very next possession, Ballage ran nine yards to finish a 10-play, 64-yard scoring drive and a 14-0 lead at 8:23. By the way, Richard now has 13 touchdowns in his last nine games dating back to the Sun Bowl.

– A big stop by the Sun Devils defense after the offense fumbled—Devin Lucien coughed the football up after a 21-yard catch—in the second quarter. Facing third-and-13 at the ASU 37, Falk was sacked by D.J. Calhoun, his 20th tackle and team-best fifth sack. Two plays earlier, Ismael Murphy-Richardson dropped Falk for his first full sack of his career. The Sun Devils entered the game No. 1 in the Pac-12 and fourth nationally with 3.6 sacks per game.

– Two fourth down conversions, none prettier than punter Matt Haack’s 27-yard throw to D.J. Foster on fourth-and-12 at the Washington State 40, which helped the Sun Devils take a 21-17 lead at 1:27 of the third quarter after Bercovici rushed for a one-yard touchdown. Three plays earlier, Richard gained two yards on fourth-and-one at the Washington State 4. ASU entered the game ninth in the Pac-12 and 100th nationally on fourth down.

– With his 14-yard fourth-quarter run, Richard topped 100 rushing yards for the second straight game, the fifth time this season and sixth such effort of his career, which is tied for 17th-most in school history. Richard also caught six passes for 16 yards as he went over 100+ all-purpose yards in seven of his eight games played this season.

THE BAD

– Following freshman Kareem Orr’s team-leading fourth interception, the Sun Devils failed to convert on third- and fourth-and-short near the goal line, missing an opportunity to go three-for-three inside the red zone on their first three possessions of the game. On third down at the two, Richard lost a yard; and then on fourth down, Bercovici was stopped for no gain at the three-yard line, turning the ball over on downs midway through the first quarter.

– Taking advantage of an “inadvertent whistle” (according to the referee) negating a stop, Falk converted a fourth-and-five at the ASU 11 with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Williams to pull the Cougars within 14-10 at 5:26 of the second quarter. Aside from the officials’ assist, the drive benefited from a Gabe Marks’ 30-yard punt return after a 38-yard kick by Haack, allowing Washington State to begin the possession at the ASU 16.

– On its go-ahead third-quarter scoring drive, Washington State twice converted on third down, matching its first half total (2-for-9). Falk finished the possession with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Keith Harrington to give the Cougars the lead, 17-14 at 7:57. The 23-yard grab was the second play of 20 or more yards on the drive, topped only by a 38-yard reception by Robert Lewis. Through three quarters, Washington State had three plays of 20-plus yards.

– Washington State added two more 20-plus yard pass plays in the fourth quarter, both part of touchdown-scoring drives. Kyle Sweet had a 36-yard catch and Lewis a 47-yard grab; the former set up Falk’s eight-yard touchdown to John Thompson, the latter came three plays before Falk’s 12-yard touchdown to Jamal Morrow. The 14 combined points in back-to-back possessions gave the Cougars a 31-21 advantage with 8:01 to play in the game.

STAT OF THE GAME

4: The number of second-half touchdown passes thrown by Falk helping Washington State overcome a four-point halftime deficit (14-10)

HE SAID IT

“Just disappointing,” said Graham, now 28-2 with the Sun Devils when leading at halftime. “Played very poorly in the second half. Just didn’t do a good job of preparing them. We just left guys uncovered. Got to give them credit. They were the better team today.”

NOTED

– It was the first time since 2007 the Sun Devils defense has held five Pac-12 opponents under 100 rushing yards.

– Williams’ 75-yard touchdown catch was the 18th play of 60 or more yards allowed by the Sun Devils.

– Zane Gonzalez’s 22-yard fourth-quarter field goal was the 60th of his career and third straight make.

– Bercovici’s third-quarter touchdown run was his fifth of the season and 18th by a Sun Devil QB under Graham.

– Bercovici’s third-quarter pooch punt was his third of the season — all were downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

– Jordan Simone, first in the Pac-12 and second nationally averaging 7.4 solo tackles, recorded eight in the first half.

– Orr’s four interceptions are the most for a Sun Devil freshman since David Fulcher also had four in 1983.

– Foster’s nine-yard first-quarter catch set a Pac-12 record with at least one reception in 49 straight games.

– Redshirt freshman receiver Jalen Harvey made his Sun Devil debut in the first quarter, appearing on special teams.

– As the Sun Devils entered Martin Stadium prior to kickoff, the song “I Saw the Sign” by Ace of Base played.

UP NEXT

It’s homecoming for the Sun Devils as they return to the Valley for an afternoon tilt against Washington on Saturday, Nov. 14. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning two hours earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

After a two-year scheduling break, ASU and Washington have played one another in each of the past two seasons with the Sun Devils coming away victorious in both matchups, including last year in Seattle, 24-10.

ASU has won nine straight against Washington and only twice during this stretch have the Sun Devils won by fewer than 10 points (2006, 2009).

Overall, ASU holds a 17-15 advantage—10-8 at home—in a series that dates back to 1975.

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