Homecoming rally falls short: 3 big takeaways from ASU's loss to Washington State

Posted at 11:16 PM, Oct 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-23 02:22:35-04

The Arizona State Sun Devils saw their perfect home record end Saturday night amid an evening of injury concerns and post-game tension.

ASU rallied late but fell to Washington State 37-32 on Homecoming night at Sun Devil Stadium. The Devils fell to 5-3 overall and 2-3 in Pac-12 play, while the Cougars notched their fifth straight victory.

Here are three big takeaways from the loss.

1. Bad blood boils over after game.

Before we dive into the game, we have to start with what happened immediately afterwards. ASU coach Todd Graham and Washington State coach Mike Leach didn't have a pleasant post-game conversation, as Graham decided to throw a few profane words Leach's way for his comments earlier this week about ASU's alleged sign-stealing "command center."

As exciting a fourth quarter we had in Tempe on Saturday night, the off-field drama definitely eclipsed what happened on the field. Hopefully those distractions will be behind ASU as they prepare to head to Eugene to face Oregon next weekend.

2. Wilkins starts game but doesn't finish.

Sophomore quarterback Manny Wilkins has been banged up for the last several weeks but was healthy enough to start Saturday's game, and he opened it with a bang, leading ASU to a touchdown on its opening drive thanks to this incredible leap over a Cougar defender.

But Wilkins didn't last much longer, as he exited early in the first half with a injury and didn't return. Graham didn't elaborate on the extent of Wilkins' injury but said it occurred on the final hit he took before exiting. In Wilkins' place, freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole just didn't make enough plays to allow ASU to keep pace with Washington State's high-powered offense.

ASU has a bye in two weeks that will allow Wilkins to heal up a bit, but the Devils may have to face the possibility they'll be without the services of their starting QB next weekend vs. the Ducks.

3. Bright spots on defense, special teams.

Credit ASU for showing heart in mounting a late rally when it appeared the Cougars had the game wrapped up. Trailing 37-21 early in the fourth quarter, a 70-yard punt return for a score by senior wide receiver Tim White got the Devils right back in it...

...and ASU's defense gave the offense a chance to win late by sacking Washington State quarterback Luke Falk twice on the Cougars' next possession. For the game, the Devils recorded seven sacks, including three by junior linebacker Koron Crump and two by junior linebacker D.J. Calhoun.

Falk still pretty much had his way with ASU's secondary, which wasn't a surprise -- but still, there's plenty for the Devils to build on defensively heading into the final third of their schedule.