The Sun Devils (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12) wore their traditional maroon, white and gold jerseys Thursday against Washington State and won like Sun Devil teams of old, shellacking the Cougars (4-5, 2-4) 55-21 in Pullman.
The 2013 Sun Devils aren’t the 1996 squad, but their end goal became much more realistically parallel after their fourth straight conference victory.
There was no doubt, no big Cougars comeback and for once, this Sun Devils team played like winners on the road.
The Sun Devils led 21-0 after a quarter and 42-14 at the half on the way to their fourth-straight 50-point performance in conference play.
“If we don’t turn the ball over, don’t have negative plays, don’t have penalties we are going to score,” coach Todd Graham said.
Redshirt junior quarterback Taylor Kelly led the way, throwing for five touchdowns and rushing for two more as the Sun Devils avoided a third-straight slow start on the road.
Kelly and the Sun Devils’ 2013 fate is looking more and more like the fate of the 1996 Idaho-bred quarterback Jake Plummer than the 2011 Idaho-bred Kelly.
They now lead the Pac-12 South by 1.5 games with four to go.
“Really proud of our guys,” Graham said. “They beat a really good football team. I’m really proud about how they came up here and responded. It was very mature, very business-like.”
It was a complete team effort from the Sun Devils. Even the stock of the special teams is on the rise.
Freshman placekicker Zane Gonzalez hit two field goals to extend his streak to 13 straight makes, but it was the fake punts that excited Graham.
Twice in the third quarter the Sun Devils executed a fake punt to perfection to keep a drive alive, etching out 10 free points.
Graham called senior kicker Alex Garoutte, who ran for one of the fake punt first downs, a “weapon” and talked mightily of special teams coordinator Joe Lorig’s guys postgame.
“I’m really proud of our special teams,” Graham said. “That was our priority in the off week and I thought we came out and really had our best performance.”
The defense turned in a complete performance too, holding the Cougars to two yards rushing.
Cougars redshirt junior quarterback Connor Halliday was limited to just 300 passing yards and completed just 29 of his 54 pass attempts.
Graham said his familiarity with the Cougars’ offensive scheme was the key to the defensive success and singled out the secondary for their performance.
“Our guys are smart in our system so we are able to do a lot of things,” Graham said.
Next up is a road date with Utah, but if the Sun Devils play like they did against the Cougars, the next chapter of the 2013 season will be written.
“We’re not going to let people attack us, we are going to attack, so we went on the offensive and didn’t try not to mess up,” Graham said. “We went out there, put it in the left lane and put the hammer down.”
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