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Fork Report: Arizona State rallies back to beat Washington 27-17

Arizona State's Devin Lucien (15) beats Washington's Kevin King, right, for a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, in Tempe, Ariz. Arizona State won 27-17. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Spotting your opponent 17 points is no way to go about trying to end a three-game losing streak, especially on Homecoming Weekend, but that’s exactly what Arizona State did.

Trailing 17-0 seven minutes into the second quarter, ASU scored 27 unanswered points to beat Washington for the 10th straight time, 27-17, in front of a Saturday afternoon crowd of 51,695 at Sun Devil Stadium.

Kalen Ballage rushed for two touchdowns, Mike Bercovici passed for a touchdown and Zane Gonzalez kicked a pair of field goals to account for the Sun Devils scoring.

ASU improved to 5-5 and 3-4 in Pac-12 play, leaving them one victory shy of bowl eligibility.

Finishing had been a struggle for this team in recent weeks, getting outscored 48-13 in the fourth quarter in the past three games.

Different story this week.

The Sun Devils blanked Washington 17-0 in the final 15 minutes with the defense forcing four turnovers—interceptions by Kweishi Brown, Christian Sam and Marcus Ball plus a fumble recovery by Edmond Boateng—on four consecutive possessions to close out the game.

ASU, meanwhile, did not turn the ball over for the first time this season.

Bercovici was 22-of-34 for 253 yards, including a stellar 12-of-14 for 156 yards and two touchdowns in the second half.

Ballage finished with 92 yards rushing.

For Washington (4-6, 2-5), Jake Browning passed for 405 yards and Myles Gaskin ran for 108 yards, though only 17 after the first quarter.

The 17-point comeback victory tied for the fourth-largest in Sun Devils history.

THE GOOD

It took awhile, but on the Sun Devils seventh possession, the offense finally crossed midfield. Gary Chambers’ 24-yard catch, the team’s best play of the first half, moved ASU into Washington territory. Three plays later Gonzalez kicked a 40-yard field goal to put the Sun Devils on the scoreboard, 17-3, at the 2:21 mark of the second quarter.

Props to punter Matt Haack. It’s never good when your punter is your best offensive threat but that was the case in the first half. He booted the ball seven times for a total of 314 yards (44.9 yard average). Three of his kicks went 50 yards or better including a long of 54 yards. Twice he pinned Washington inside its own 20-yard line.

On a drive that included completed passes of 26 and 20 yards to D.J. Foster and Devin Lucien, respectively, the Sun Devils pulled to within a single possession with Ballage scoring on a three-yard run. It was his third rushing touchdown of the season and made it a 17-10 ballgame at the 9:56 mark of the third quarter.

Give an assist to the defense for the Sun Devils game-tying fourth-quarter scoring drive. Before Bercovici’s 32-yard touchdown toss to Lucien to square things up at 17 with 13:52 to play, James Johnson broke up a pass in the end zone and Antonio Longino recorded a sack. Cameron Van Winkle then missed wide left on a 45-yard field goal.

In their first 11 third down opportunities, the Sun Devils converted just one time—back in the first quarter. Their luck changed in the fourth quarter, when they went 3-of-6, including a pair of conversions on the go-ahead scoring drive that resulted in Gonzalez nailing a 23-yard field goal for their first lead of the game, 20-17, with 8:25 to play.

THE BAD

Seven of Washington’s 24 first-quarter plays gained better than 10 yards. The biggest gash through the Sun Devils defense was a 53-yard run by Gaskin, who one play later finished off the scoring drive with a one-yard rush to give the Huskies a 10-0 lead at the 6:50 mark. Washington outgained ASU 205-69 in the first 15 minutes.

“That’s flat out embarrassing,” color analyst Jeff Van Raaphorst said in the second quarter, after watching three Sun Devils defenders whiff on trying to tackle Browning who scrambled seven yards on third-and-four at the Washington 35. Later, the Huskies turned the ball over on downs, going for it on fourth-and-four at the ASU 35.

“This is pathetic,” play-by-play voice Tim Healey said in the second quarter, after watching Bercovici lose the snap on third-and-eight at the ASU 37. Bercovici didn’t appear as if he were ready for the football. Through their first five possessions, the Sun Devils gained 71 yards on 22 plays (3.2 yard per play average) with only three first downs.

Entering the game, the Sun Devils had allowed seven touchdown plays of 25-plus yards. It’s now eight as Browning, after Washington had converted on fourth down-and-one on the snap prior, completed a 29-yard pass to a wide open Darrell Daniels to increase the Huskies lead to 17-0 at 8:20 of the second quarter.

Adding injury to insult, literally, the Sun Devils lost a pair of defensive starters in the second quarter. Senior safety Jordan Simone and junior linebacker Laiu Moeakiola both exited the game on the same play. Simone was getting his right knee examined and headed back to the locker room for a short time, while Moeakiola hurt his shoulder.

STAT OF THE GAME

4: The number of fourth-quarter turnovers forced by the Sun Devils defense to help seal the victory

HE SAID IT

“I’m so proud of come out here and shut them down in the second half. That’s what being a Sun Devil is about,” said head coach Todd Graham, who improved to 20-6 at home.

NOTED

Foster extended his school and Pac-12 record of consecutive games with at least one catch to 50.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Manny Wilkins played two first-quarter snaps.

Starting senior right guard Vi Teofilo made his team-leading 38th straight start and 40th of his career.

Starting freshman free safety Kareem Orr suffered a groin injury in practice Thursday and did not play.

Catherine Conti was part of the officiating crew, working the game as the head lines(woman).

A moment of silence was observed for the victims of the Paris attacks prior to the National Anthem.

Scouts from five different NFL teams—Bills, Cardinals, Colts, Eagles and Rams—were in attendance.

UP NEXT

It’s the Territorial Cup.

The Sun Devils play their second straight and final home game of the regular season by hosting rival Arizona on Saturday, November 21. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning two hours earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

Currently, the oldest rivalry trophy in college football resides in Tucson after the Wildcats won last season’s meeting, 42-35; the Sun Devils’ first loss in the series under Graham, who is 2-1 all-time against UA.

ASU earned the win in the previous matchup in Tempe, 58-21, in 2013 to end a two-game home losing streak in the series.

Overall, the Sun Devils are 39-48-1, including 20-18-1 at home, in the series that dates back to 1899.

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