TEMPE, Ariz. — Washington’s football team lacked many things during this blowout here on Saturday afternoon.
First downs. Rushing yards. Pass protection. And, in general, defense.
What they did not lack, however, as first displayed by coach Steve Sarkisian during a straightforward, blame-it-on-me postgame press conference, was honesty.
They played poorly, and they knew it.
So here was Sarkisian, the sting of a 53-24 defeat to Arizona State before 60,057 at 87-degree Sun Devil Stadium dripping from his words: “That was embarrassing.”
“We weren’t good enough. We weren’t well-enough coached. We didn’t perform well enough, and we didn’t play nearly physical enough against a good football team.”
No, they didn’t. The 20th-ranked Huskies fell behind 29-7 at halftime – despite scoring the game’s first touchdown – and never recovered while allowing more points to ASU than in any of the teams’ previous 30 meetings.
The Sun Devils (5-2, 3-1 in Pac-12) have now beaten the Huskies eight consecutive times.
And if this wasn’t the most deflating loss of Sarkisian’s five-year tenure at Washington, it’s at least in the conversation, Each of the coach’s five seasons have now seen UW ride a losing streak of three or more games, and at 1-3 in Pac-12 play after losses the last two weeks to Stanford and Oregon, the Huskies are now staring in the face a trip to a lower-tier bowl game.
“No one can really figure out what were the reasons. It just happened,” said receiver Kasen Williams, who caught four passes for 26 yards. “They came out to play, and they beat us up. They won.”
ASU may have beaten up UW quarterback Keith Price worst of all. Price has been nursing a sore thumb on his right throwing hand the past few weeks, and apparently aggravated that ailment to the extent that he was removed from the game in the fourth quarter after taking a big hit on a touchdown pass he threw to Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
X-rays, Sarkisian said, were negative.
And that’s just about the only positive the Huskies can take from this one. They were outgained 585-212, one week after allowing 45 points and 631 yards to Oregon.
They were held to minus-5 yards rushing, partially because of ASU’s seven sacks. Bishop Sankey, the nation’s leading rusher when the week began, carried 13 times for 22 yards, stymied frequently by an ASU defensive line anchored by All-American tackle Will Sutton.
“We’re a run-first offense, and they kind of stalemated us a couple times and we started off some of the series 2nd-and-15,” Price said. “It’s hard to win ballgames when you’re 3rd-and-long every time.”
Three-and-out the Huskies went, six times in the first half and 10 total, Price repeatedly heaving hopeless passes over the heads of receivers with ASU defenders bearing down on him.
In Year 5 of the Sarkisian era, these kinds of performances were supposed to remain buried in the Huskies’ past. But after two consecutive losses by 21 points or more, Sarkisian’s repeated proclamation that the Huskies can go “toe to toe” with anyone is beginning to ring hollow.
Even when they had chances to work their way back into the game, they failed.
A 70-yard touchdown pass from Price to Kevin Smith trimmed ASU’s lead to 29-14 on UW’s first possession of the third quarter, and the Huskies appeared to have the Sun Devils stopped on a third-down carry by DJ Foster minutes later.
But UW linebacker Princeton Fuimaono was whistled for a 15-yard personal foul penalty that extended the drive, ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly ran 36 yards to the 1-yard line on the next play, and the Sun Devils eventually found the end zone to go back up by three scores.
The Huskies drove to ASU’s 4-yard line with a 1st-and-goal on their next possession. Three plays went nowhere, and as they lined up to go for it on fourth down, the play clock expired and a delay-of-game penalty was called. They settled for a field goal.
Not that it would have mattered. ASU running back Marion Grice gashed the Huskies’ defense at will, finishing with 161 yards rushing on 22 carries with two touchdowns, along with another touchdown receiving. And Kelly, with plenty of time to throw – wheel routes were especially killer – finished with 25 completions in 41 attempts for 268 yards and two scores.
“We had to come out with our heads on fire, and we just didn’t do that,” Fuimaono said. We were down. We weren’t playing up to our potential.”
Not even close.
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