It turns out there was no better tonic for Washington’s pass rush than a game against Arizona State.
After totaling just four sacks in their last four games – all played without star edge rusher Joe Mathis, out for the season with a foot injury – the Huskies got to Sun Devils quarterback Manny Wilkins six times in their 44-18 victory on Saturday night, four of those coming in the first half.
This was not entirely unexpected. ASU allowed 11 sacks – and 22 tackles for loss – in a loss to Utah last week. But it was a welcome development for a UW team that now must travel to Pullman for next week’s Pac-12-North-deciding Apple Cup game against Washington State.
First, Budda Baker and Connor O’Brien combined to deck Wilkins in the first quarter when Baker blitzed from his safety position. Baker got to Wilkins one more time by himself. Sophomore linebacker Tevis Bartlett had a pair of sacks. Junior defensive lineman Elijah Qualls had one, too. And safety Zeke Turner, lineman Vita Vea and linebacker Psalm Wooching had a half-sack each.
The Huskies got to Wilkins by blitzing more frequently than they had in any game this season.
“(We brought maybe a little more pressure,” UW coach Chris Petersen said. “I think the guys did a great job of pushing the pocket, condensing it. (The) combination of those two things probably allowed us to get more pressure than we’ve had in the past.”
ASU finished with just 15 yards rushing.
In addition to missing starting middle linebacker and leading tackler Azeem Victor (leg) and sacks leader Joe Mathis (foot), the Huskies also played Saturday without third-year sophomore safety Jojo McIntosh, who sat out with an undisclosed injury.
Turner started in his place and finished with six tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss.
Petersen said he doesn’t think McIntosh’s injury will keep him out long term, and seemed optimistic that “he’ll be ready” for next week’s game at Washington State.
UW linebacker Keishawn Bierria has been telling senior cornerback Kevin King that he needs to stop simply batting away passes thrown into the end zone.
“I was like, ‘man, if you can one-hand those, go ahead and do it,’” Bierria said. “He was like, ‘I’ma get one.’”
He got one. After an interception set ASU up at UW’s 13-yard line in the second quarter, Wilkins tried to throw a fade route to freshman receiver N’Keal Harry in the end zone … but King was right there, and he went up and snagged the ball with his right hand for a highlight-reel pick.
“It was pretty much the same play” as passes he deflected in victories over California and Utah, King said, “and I kind of batted it away, batted it away. But I guess third time’s the charm.”
Said Bierria: “That’s first-round material right there.”
EXTRA POINTS: The Huskies now have 13 seasons in their history in which they won 10 or more games. … John Ross’ 12 receptions established a career high and were tied for fourth-most in a single game in UW history. … With three field goals on Saturday, senior kicker Cameron Van Winkle became the first player in school history to score 100 or more points in two different seasons. He is also the third player in UW history to score 300 or more points in his career. … With 37 touchdown passes this season, quarterback Jake Browning is tied for seventh-most in Pac-12 history.