ASU football's rally falls short in 37-32 loss to Washington State

The Sun Devils dropped their first home game of the season on Saturday.

ASU football's fourth-quarter rally came up just short Saturday night, falling to Pac-12 foe Washington State 37-32 at Sun Devil Stadium.

The loss dropped the Sun Devils to 5-3 on the season, and marked their first home defeat of the year.

The Sun Devils took the ball right down the field on the opening drive of the game, going 59 yards on 11 plays to set the tone early. Junior quarterback Manny Wilkins capped the scoring drive with a three-yard touchdown run — his fifth of the season — giving ASU a quick 7-0 lead.

The score would be Wilkins' only highlight of the game, however, as he was lifted from the game by team trainers following the scoring drive with an undisclosed injury. Wilkins had previously been dealing with a leg injury he suffered in the team's loss at USC.

Freshman quarterback Dillon Sterling-Cole took over from there, going 7-of-16 for 86 yards the rest of the way in his first extended action of the season. His only previous pass of the year was an interception against UCLA.

After a Washington State field goal cut into the ASU lead, junior running back Kalen Ballage ignited the homecoming crowd at Sun Devil Stadium with the first big play of the game. Ballage took the direct snap out of the "Sparky" formation 52 yards untouched to the house, widening the ASU lead to 14-3.

The excitement wouldn't last long, however, as the Cougars responded in a big way on the following kickoff. Junior kick returner Robert Taylor sped down the sideline for a 100-yard touchdown return to get the points right back from WSU.

Washington State added another touchdown late before the half to take its first lead of the ballgame. Redshirt junior quarterback Luke Falk tossed a nine-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wideout Tavares Martin Jr., and ASU took a 17-14 deficit into the locker room.

ASU's struggles late in the first half spilled over to the third quarter as WSU scored on its first possession of the half. Redshirt junior running back Gerald Wicks capped off a scoring drive with a three-yard touchdown run, extending the WSU lead to 24-14.

The Sun Devil offense couldn't find its rhythm in early the third quarter, with the units' first two possessions of the period resulting in a fumble and a punt, respectively. Meanwhile, WSU continued to add to its lead with another touchdown toss from Falk, making it a 31-14 game.

ASU finally got things moving late in the third quarter, going 81 yards in ten plays to cut the deficit to 31-21. Junior running back Demario Richard finished off the drive with a one-yard touchdown run on the final play of the third quarter to get the Sun Devils within ten entering the final period of play.

As it went for most of the night, WSU's offense wouldn't let the Sun Devils gain any ground on the scoreboard. Falk went over the top on the Cougars' next drive for a 52-yard touchdown pass to redshirt senior wide receiver Gabe Marks. It was the third touchdown pass on the night for Falk, who finished 42-of-53 for 398 yards through the air. The ensuing extra point sailed wide, but the Sun Devils still faced a 37-21 deficit with over 12 minutes remaining.

ASU got a shot in the arm midway through the fourth quarter from its special teams unit when senior kick returner Tim White took a punt back 70 yards for his first touchdown return of the season. ASU followed with a successful two-point conversion, making it a one-score game at 37-29.

Following a clutch stand from the Sun Devil defense, ASU drove deep into Cougar territory. The drive would stall, however, and senior kicker Zane Gonzalez nailed his only field goal attempt of the night to bring the margin down to five.

With ASU out of time-outs and needing the ball back, Washington State picked up two first downs on its final possession to run out the clock, ending the Sun Devils' comeback bid.

ASU now looks ahead to a road matchup next Saturday with University of Oregon at 2 p.m. in Eugene.


Reach the reporter at mfaye@asu.edu or follow @mattGfaye on Twitter.

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