TEMPE, AZ – Arizona State receiver Brandon Aiyuk caught three touchdown passes and running back Eno Benjamin ran wild, as the No. 15 Sun Devils rallied late to beat Washington State 38-34 in this Pac-12 match-up.
Both ASU and WSU were coming off of bye weeks, but nonetheless the Devils looked ready in this one as they came from behind to score the big win.
“They’re a resilient bunch, they really are,” ASU head coach Herm Edwards said. “Going into this thing, I said this week was not going to be a 14-17 game, it was going to be in the 30s. We talked about it last night, we got to score 30-plus points, some kind of way, we’ve got to find a way.”
Although things did not look so pretty from the start for ASU. Perhaps shaking a bit of the bye week rust, the Devils fell behind early.
Despite the defense holding the Cougars to a quick, three-and-out, a penalty on the Devils gave the Cougars a fresh set of downs, and it didn’t take long for WSU to capitalize, scoring on a 35-yard pass from Anthony Gordon to Travell Harris to give them the early, 7-0 lead.
The very next series by the Cougars led to more points, as Washington State kicker would connect on a 33-yard attempt from kicker Blake Mazza to put WSU in front 10-0.
ASU would find the endzone on their next offensive series, which was a the first of three touchdown receptions from Aiyuk to make it 10-7 after the converted PAT.
But that excitement didn’t seem to last too long, as WSU came right back down, to score again! This time on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Gordon to Dezmon Patton to make it 17-7 Cougars with 8:15 left to play. However, that’s when that Sun Devil resiliency kicked in as Edwards alluded to.
Similar to their game against Colorado, ASU fell behind quickly. “They got up on us early, we got into a groove, we were playing some zone coverage, we couldn’t quite get to the quarterback,” Edwards said. “So speaking with Danny [Gonzales] I said enough of this.”
And responded they did! ASU would find an offensive groove to end the second half, scoring 10 unanswered points to tie the game at the half, sparked by Aiyuk’s second touchdown of the game, an 86-yard reception that went to the house.
Looking to capitalize on their momentum, ASU came out strong in the second half! “Our offense started rolling, and our run game really helped us” Edwards said.
And that it did. Benjamin who had been pretty quiet up to that point would find the endzone early in the second half, after a 32-yard scamper that would put the Devils in front for this first time in this one at 24-17 after the converted PAT.
Sitting at fourth-and-one on that play, Benjamin was just “thinking first down on that play,” he said. “Anything that came after that was a bonus.”
WSU wouldn’t go away however, seemingly stealing the momentum right back. Trailing 24-17, the Cougars would find the endzone again, going 91-yards on 14 plays to tie this one after another touchdown from Gordon, this one to Easop Winston, Jr. from two-yards out.
On their very next series, the Cougars find the endzone yet again, this time going nine plays for 92 yards, capped by a Max Borghi run from two-yards out to eventually give WSU the 31-24 lead.
Just like Edwards had alluded to earlier, this was a game that was going to be played in the 30s, and he was right.
ASU would come down the field on their very next offensive series to tie this one, after Aiyuk caught his third touchdown pass from freshman quarterback, Jayden Daniels.
Aiyuk would finish the game with seven receptions for 196 yards and three touchdowns, despite suffering from some ailments. “I was cramping and dealing with some stomach issues” he said.
With it neck and neck, who knew this one was going to come down to who made more plays down the stretch.
Tied 31-31 with 7:53 to go in the fourth quarter, the Sun Devils would have the ball deep in their own territory. After a quick three-and-out, the Sun Devils would then have an uncharacteristic shanked punt, giving the Cougars prime field position at the ASU 36-yard line.
Luckily for the Sun Devils, they would hold Washington State to just a field goal, and that was “the key to the game,” Edwards said. “Now we got to score, but we need to score a touchdown, because I did not want to go into overtime.”
Needing another big drive from his freshman, Edwards would just get enough out of his guys, showing that resiliency one more time, as the Sun Devils drove 75 yards in 10 plays to regain the lead, after Daniels would dive into the endzone after tucking the ball and scrambling to ultimately deliver the Devils the 38-34 win.
With the victory, ASU improves to 5-1 (2-1) and will take on Utah next week. “I’ll enjoy this for about an hour,” Edwards said, “I’ll be the first one in here tomorrow, watch the film, get that graded… all I care about is the next game.”
As for the Cougars, they drop their third-straight game and fall to 3-3 (0-3) and will take on Colorado at home.