All the momentum from their first 4-0 start in more than a decade gone, the Washington Huskies are fortunate they play their next two at home against beatable opponents, Cal and Colorado. UW (4-3) will return to Husky Stadium next week riding a three-game losing streak following a 53-24 thumping delivered by Arizona State Saturday afternoon.
Washington’s loss wasn’t so surprising — ASU was favored by three and had beaten the Huskies seven consecutive times — but the resounding nature of it represents a serious blow to Washington’s credibility. Washington entered as a ranked team (20th AP), but will fall out of the national polls, with little opportunity to return, when new ones are released Sunday.
The 53 points allowed Saturday was the most a Washington team has yielded since Andrew Luck and Stanford chalked up 65 Oct. 22, 2011.
The Huskies could do little right. After holding ASU to a pair of three-and-outs on the Sun Devils’ first two possessions, and scoring a touchdown of their own, the Huskies fell apart, allowing the Sun Devils to rip off 29 unanswered points before halftime.
It could have been worse. Twice in the first half the Huskies stopped Arizona State in the red zone, forcing the Sun Devils into field goals instead of touchdowns.
By the time it was over, Arizona State outgained Washington 585 yards to 212 and scored more points against the Huskies than Oregon (45) did. To underscore how ineffective the Huskies were, they finished with minus-5 yards rushing, eight shy of the school record of -13 against Stanford in 1971 (sack yardage counts in the rushing total).
Speaking of Oregon: In games following losses to the Ducks since 2009, the Huskies are 1-4 and have been crushed three times (2010, 2011, 2013).
Quarterback Keith Price, battling a thumb injury, faced intense pressure from the ASU pass rush and had almost no touch on the ball even when given an opening. By the time he departed in the fourth quarter, seemingly injured, he completed only 16 of 39 for 217 yards, averaging just 5.6 yards per pass after a 2.8 mark in the first half.
Price threw two touchdowns, including a 70-yard, catch-and-run bomb to Kevin Smith that inflated his yards-per-pass average. But he was sacked six times for 55 yards in losses and consistently overthrew his receivers.
Bishop Sankey, who entered as the nation’s leading rusher at 149.7 yards per game, managed a net of 22 with a long gain of nine, his poorest effort since gaining 16 yards against Louisiana State in the second game of 2012. Sankey had nowhere to run.
“We played a great team, but we’ve got a really great football team, and we focused on stopping the run,” said ASU coach Todd Graham. “(Sankey was) the No. 1 rusher in the country and our players deserve tremendous credit.”
Although Austin Seferian-Jenkins caught a touchdown pass, it didn’t come until the game was no longer in doubt at 13:03 of the third quarter — and the TD was Seferian-Jenkins’ only catch of the game.
Defensively, Washington couldn’t handle Oregon a week ago, and it couldn’t handle Arizona State Saturday. ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more, passing for 271 yards and running for 84. Marion Grice, the nation’s leading TD producer (15 entering the game) rushed for 158 yards and scored three touchdowns. The Huskies abetted the ASU offense with extremely poor tackling.
On Washington’s first drive, Price missed an easy touchdown when he spotted Marvin Hall running free in the ASU secondary, but overthrew him. Undeterred, Price completed a 23-yard pass to Joshua Perkins to the Sun Devils two-yard line, from where Sankey tallied his 10th touchdown, giving UW a 7-0 lead. ASU aided Washington’s 11-play, 60-yard drive by getting flagged for having 12 men on the field.
That was as good as it got for Washington in the first half — or for the rest of the game — as the Sun Devils rang up 29 straight points by halftime.
Kelly threw two touchdown passes and ran for another, Zane Gonzales kicked three field goals, and ASU throttled the Washington offense, outgaining the Huskies 315 yards to 74. After the first drive, Washington couldn’t pass, couldn’t run, missed tackles and looked nothing like a 20th-ranked team.
Following the opening touchdown by the Huskies, they punted seven times, including six after going three-and-out. After Sankey scored his 10th TD, he finished the first half with only nine yards on 11 carries. Price was just 7-for-22 for 62 yards, a 2.8-yards per pass average, against a relentless ASU pass rush.
Price threw a 70-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Smith on the third play of the third quarter. Remarkably, it was only Washington’s second first down of the game and it trimmed the ASU lead to 29-14.
With a tad of momentum, the Huskies forced Arizona State into a third down on the Sun Devils’ first third-quarter drive, but a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness on Princeton Fuiamaono — piling on to a tackle he was attempting to avoid — took the Sun Devils out of a punting situation and gave them a first down on the Washington 37. On the next play, Kelly burst 36 yards to the UW 1, then took it in for his second rushing TD and a 36-14 lead.
Washington had a chance for a TD midway through the third, but couldn’t get a fourth-down play off on time and settled for a Travis Coons field goal, making it 36-17. But Gonzalez netted his fourth field goal just before the end of the third, increasing ASU’s lead to 39-17. Grice continued the pile-on with his second TD to start the fourth quarter, his 17th of the season.
After Seferian-Jenkins finally caught his TD pass with 13:03 remaining, Grice added his final score.