Bishop Sankey, the nation’s leading rusher, gains just 22 yards on 13 carries. Keith Price is sacked seven times, completes just 16 of 39 throws while running for his life and leaves the game early while injured. UW (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) loses its third consecutive game.
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
TEMPE, Ariz. – As Keith Price walked out of Sun Devil Stadium and into the desert evening, he was so battered even his usually sunny temperament was sore.
“It was tough, man,” the besieged quarterback said, his throbbing right thumb wrapped by a full, black brace following X-rays that were negative. “They just kept bringing pressure. They kept applying pressure. I mean, if I was the defensive coordinator I would have done the same thing, because we didn’t handle it correctly.”
Anyone who saw this coming, raise your hand.
The 20th-ranked Huskies, coming off consecutive, tough losses at Stanford and to Oregon, got a three and out on defense and then drove 60 yards for the game’s first score. They netted 14 yards the rest of the first half, 19 on a meaningless scramble by Price on the half’s final play. It was 29-7 by then.
Arizona State’s defensive front dominated the Huskies and thus the game, as the Sun Devils ran away with a stunning, baffling, 53-24 victory Saturday night.
It was the most points allowed by UW (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) in 31 meetings with Arizona State (5-2, 3-1).
Sometimes the total yardage doesn’t tell the total story. This time, it did: ASU 585, Washington 212.
“That was embarrassing. That was embarrassing,” coach Steve Sarkisian said, repeating for emphasis. “We weren’t good enough. We weren’t well-enough coached. We didn’t perform well enough. And we weren’t nearly physical enough.
“They out-coached us. They out-played us. At the end of the day the result was the result.”
Asked for what was most disconcerting, Sarkisian said: “The line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, quite honestly.”
Sarkisian said he had been preparing all week to keep the possibility of wearing out following the three-point loss at then-No. 5 Stanford and last week against second-ranked Oregon 45-24 when it was 31-24 with 14 minutes left. He saw this as a test of the Huskies’ resolve.
That’s what made this result so alarming.
“Very alarming,” said linebacker Princeton Fuimaono, who had a game-high 12 tackles.
Asked if the Stanford and Oregon games took a toll that doomed UW here, Sarkisian said: “Potentially. I know we appeared a little tired tonight. We didn’t appear as fast. We didn’t appear as physical. We appeared a little bit lethargic. Maybe we were a little bit emotionally drained, I don’t know.
“But that’s an excuse, and there are none. We don’t have time for excuses. We’ve got to fix it.”
Sarkisian went on to say: “I have to do a better job as a coach to get our guys motivated and positive and playing with great energy. In our conference, every week it’s a new challenge. We had a couple tough losses the last two weeks, and we just didn’t bring the same energy and physicality and execution that we had in the previous two weeks.”
The Huskies finished with minus-5 yards rushing on 25 carries, counting all the sacks. Bishop Sankey, the nation’s leading rusher, had 13 carries for 22 yards against the country’s 77th-ranked run defense. That was his fewest yards since his first career start in week two of last season at Louisiana State when he had 16 yards on eight rushes.
The lack of positive yardage on early downs allowed ASU’s defense to zoom unburdened at, past and through UW’s offensive line and repeatedly into Price.
“Honestly, they came out to play and we didn’t,” Sankey said. “We got out-competed.”
Price, the third-year starter challenging the school record in completion percentage for Huskies career, was on target for just 16 of 39 throws. The swarming Sun Devils sacked him seven times and bludgeoned him at least 10 other times on hits while he basically ran for his well-being. Once, his offensive linemen had to help lift him from his own end zone after a hard hit to his hip.
Price’s nightmare game ended with 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter. He walked with a team doctor up a service ramp and into the visiting locker room for X-rays on the sore thumb that affected the spin and velocity on his throws.
As he has while playing through sore knees and sprains for three seasons, the captain refused to use the thumb he banged three weeks ago at Stanford as an excuse.
“I’m healthy enough to be out there,” Price said. “If I wasn’t healthy enough to be out there completing those throws I wouldn’t jeopardize the team by being out there.
“I just don’t really know what to say.”
Cyler Miles played the final 12 minutes. Price re-emerged from the locker room in the final minutes after the X-rays and wanted to go back in the game, but Sarkisian told him to call it a night.
The Huskies looked like two different teams: The one that showed up on both sides of the ball for the first drives of the game; and the one that played the rest of the game.
The defense forced ASU to go three and out on the game’s opening series. Then Price moved the Huskies quickly with short passes. On fourth and 2 the Huskies’ fast-pace, no-huddle offense caught ASU’s defense with 12 men on the field. The 5-yard penalty extended the drive and got Sankey in position for a 1-yard run, his 10th touchdown this season.
“We came out like we wanted to, starting fast,” said wide receiver Kasen Williams, who caught four passes for 26 yards, dropped one throw and muffed a punt off the chest plate of his shoulder pads for one of UW’s two turnovers.
The defense, led by sideline-to-sideline plays by linebackers Shaq Thompson and Fuimaono, turned ASU away inside the red zone on the ensuing drive to force a field goal to keep UW in front in the first quarter.
Then, wham: The Sun Devils’ offensive and defensive lines simply took over the game.
The Huskies totaled 14 yards on 16 plays and had three consecutive three and outs in decisive second quarter. That forced the defense into short fields and even shorter rests. The result: ASU scored 29 unanswered points to end the half.
And it could have been worse. Washington held ASU to field goals three times on Sun Devil drives into the red zone.
The Huskies got the second-half kickoff and needed just three plays to score, a 70-yard strike across the middle by Price to Kevin Smith on third down. That made it a 29-14 game and gave UW hope. Briefly.
Cory Littleton had ASU’s D.J. Foster stopped for a 5-yard loss on a third-down rush near midfield, one of the defensive end’s four tackles for a loss. But Fuimaono, who finished with a game-high 12 stops, was called for jumping into the backside of the tackle pile after Foster was down. The 15-yard personal foul extended the drive that ended with a Sun Devils touchdown and the Huskies were back in a 22-point trench, 36-14.
“I saw him standing up still,” Fuimaono said of when he timed his jump at Foster. “I guess it was a personal foul, though he was still standing.”
The Huskies had a fourth and goal at the 4 on the ensuing drive and Sarkisian had the offense going for it coming out of an ASU defensive timeout. But UW got a delay-of-game penalty before Price received the snap, a foul that epitomized the baffling game. The Dawgs had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Travis Coons instead and still trailed by 19.
The Huskies return home next Saturday for an 8 p.m. kickoff at Husky Stadium against California, which entered the day winless in the conference. Some staff members were already preparing for that, watching Cal play Oregon State on their tablets even before UW’s charter left Phoenix for him.
And the Dawgs’ leaders were already at work, too.
“This is a setback. But now we’ve got to get ready for the comeback,” senior safety and co-captain Sean Parker said.
“I feel embarrassed. But as a captain I can’t hang my head. I’ve got to pick people up.”