Sun Devils look to bounce back in final home game
Nov. 22, 2014
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona State looks to bounce back from a stunning upset loss when the 13th-ranked Sun Devils face Washington State in their final home game of the season.
It's breakfast with the Pac-12. The game starts at 11 a.m. MST. That's 10 a.m. Washington State time.
Arizona State (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12) was sailing along with sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 South, a lofty sixth in the college playoff rankings, when the Sun Devils were stunned by Oregon State 35-27 last week on a cold, late night in Corvallis.
Now the Sun Devils need to have either USC or Stanford beat UCLA to have a chance to claim a second consecutive South crown and play in the Pac-12 championship game.
Washington State's last game also was against Oregon State, two weeks ago, and the Cougars (3-7, 2-5) came away with a 39-32 victory.
"They just beat Oregon State at Oregon State with the quarterback that just came in, their receivers have big-play capabilities, and they beat Oregon State and Utah," Arizona State coach Todd Graham said.
Both of the Washington State victories Graham mentioned came on the road, a fact he will undoubtedly point out lest the Sun Devils, also 13th in the college playoff rankings, take this one for granted.
Saturday's contest will be the final home game for 11 Arizona State seniors, including quarterback Taylor Kelly.
Kelly said the seniors will be remembered "as winners."
"We've done some incredible things while we've been here," he said.
Kelly had a sub-par night in Corvallis, completing 22 of 44 for 264 yards and two touchdowns, and has not been his efficient self since returning from a foot injury that required surgery.
He said his belief in himself has not been shaken.
"I control my confidence," Kelly said, "and nobody can take that."
Here are some things to look for when Washington State plays Arizona State.
COUGAR QUARTERBACK: Redshirt freshman Luke Falk gets his second start at quarterback for the Cougars after record-setting passer Connor Halliday broke his leg against USC. In his victorious debut as a starter, Falk completed 44 of 61 passes for 471 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions against the Beavers.
"He had great composure the entire time," Washington State offensive lineman Joe Dahl said. "Even when we were down, he was confident like he always is. I think the main thing is he translated what he does in practice over to the game field. We all have confidence in him and we know what he can do on a daily basis."
KELLY'S EFFICIENCY: Graham has stood behind Kelly, steadfastly maintaining that he is the starting quarterback. But the coach also said this week that he will go with players that give the Sun Devils the best chance to win.
Kelly has acknowledged that he has not performed at the level he did before he was injured.
"I don't feel that I'm 100 percent yet. That's why I'm trying to get back to where I was," he said. "Sometimes my feet are slow, the timer in my head's slow. ... It took me all summer to get that timing, so I've got to bring it back a lot quicker."
BIG-PLAY COUGARS: Coach Mike Leach's Cougars have lost some games but they seem to always have a bunch of big plays.
Of their 32 plays of 25 yards or more, 31 have come through the air. Washington State leads the nation in passing yards at 477.6 per game.
Seven players have caught at least 30 passes.
The leader of the group is senior Vince Mayle, who has 86 catches for 1,152 yards and nine touchdowns.
Teammate Isiah Myers has 68 catches for 795 yards and is tied for the Pac-12 lead with 11 touchdown receptions.
ON THE ROAD: Washington State has played its best football on the road.
Two of its three wins, both of them Pac-12 games, came away from Pullman, at Utah and Oregon State.
STRONG'S CONDITION: Arizona State's standout receiver Jaelen Strong sustained a concussion against Oregon State but was able to return to practice on Thursday, an indication there's an improving chance he will play on Saturday.
Strong is a big-play threat and could have a big day against the Cougars' suspect pass defense.
It could be Strong's final home game because many expect him to forego his senior year and enter the NFL draft.