It was a night when the Washington Huskies could’ve distinguished themselves against a reeling Pacific-10 Conference foe and started building steam for a memorable October run.
But at rain-drenched Husky Stadium, they left soaked in their own offensive inefficiency.
You name it – the UW had a blunder for it.
And Arizona State, which came to Seattle in the midst on its own can’t-get-out-of-its-own-way streak, played near-flawless ball in sending the Huskies out of their own stadium with a 24-14 defeat in front of 65,685 on Saturday night.
ASU has now won seven in a row against the Huskies.
This one was head-scratching, especially considering the sustained UW marches – the Huskies put together five drives in the game of nine plays or longer – which never netted enough prosperity.
They attempted a fake field goal on fourth down in ASU territory, but badly miscalculated the Sun Devils’ reaction.
Another fourth-down play at the Sun Devils’ 35 resulted in a dropped pass by receiver Jermaine Kearse.
And Erik Folk plain missed a field goal for the first time this season – from 47 yards out in the third quarter.
“We’re learning how to win, we’re learning how to lose,” said Washington coach Steve Sarkisian. “We’re going through so many growing pains right now.”
Amid rainy, miserable conditions for much of the game, ASU seemed to float along, getting a pair of first-quarter touchdowns from Steven Threet – one on a 4-yard pass to Gerrell Robinson and the other on Threet’s 1-yard keeper.
Threet’s scoring run gave ASU a 14-7 lead with 1 second remaining in the first quarter.
The particularly questionable decision from Sarkisian came on the Huskies’ first drive of the second quarter.
They got to the Arizona State 25-yard line before Jake Locker was dropped for a 3-yard loss on a run, and then another 3-yard loss on a sack.
Facing fourth-and-18, Sarkisian called for a fake field goal.
Holder Cody Bruns took the snap, got up and started running down the left sideline – only to be met by two Arizona State defenders who were not fooled in the slightest. Bruns was tackled for no gain.
“It was a run-pass option,” Sarkisian said. “We just got put in the predicament there in such an in-between stage. It was fourth and long, and you don’t have a lot of great calls in your play sheet for that. With the weather and the pregame kicks, I didn’t feel good about kicking the field goal from there.”
Later, after Locker’s high pass to Kearse went through the receiver’s hands on fourth down, the Sun Devils took no time at all – OK, they took 42 seconds – to go 65 yards in five plays for another touchdown.
Threet capped the game-changing march with a 20-yard scoring pass to Mike Willie in the back right corner of the end zone with 19 seconds remaining in the first half, and ASU led 21-7.
The Huskies never got a handle on Threet. They played nickel coverage with a third safety – true freshman Sean Parker – on 38 of ASU’s 71 plays. When they did, Threet either checked down to a run play or hit his receivers on short patterns.
When Threet did attack, it was usually in the middle of the field – and for big-gaining passes.
In all, Threet completed 21 of 34 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns.
The UW inched closer in the fourth quarter, this time converting on a fourth-down play. Locker found D’Andre Goodwin for 15 yards and a touchdown, and ASU’s lead was 21-14.
And after Cort Dennison picked off Threet at the Huskies’ 30 on ASU’s next drive, the Huskies had their chance to mount a game-tying drive.
But the UW went three-and-out, including two Locker incompletions, and was forced to punt.
ASU’s Jamal Miles returned the punt 30 yards to near midfield. Seven plays later, Thomas Weber booted through a 22-yard field goal to give the Sun Devils a 24-14 lead with 6:32 to go.
Locker finished 23-of-38 passing for 209 yards. He threw an interception and was sacked three times.
The Huskies have now lost two of three games at Husky Stadium this season – matching their total for the 2009 season.