This was one of the uglier slug fests I have seen in quite some time. Washington didn't play very well tonight but they were in a position to win the game or at least take it to overtime. Chalk this one up as a loss for the coaching staff. The lack of any semblance of clock management on the next to last UW possesion was the killer which gave ASU one last Hail Mary shot at the end zone. ASU made the most of it as Danny Sullivan connected with an uncontested Chris McGaha in the end zone for a 50 yard TD catch with five seconds left to pull out the win.
I hate to question the coaches but when you call two straight running plays as time is running out why do you then call a pass which if it isn't completed gives the ball back to ASU with good field position? Why not run out the clock deep in your territory and take it to overtime? That is exactly what they did and you have to mark it down as a major brain cramp for Steve Sarkisian. It was a fatal an unneccesary gamble which cost Washington the game.
To make matters worse Washington was in the wrong defense for the last ASU play of the game. Husky defensive backs were at least ten yards away from Chris McGaha when he made that final TD grab. Nick Holt who was penalized for another 15 yard personal foul earlier in the game has a lot of explaing to do. This time he really can't blame it on the deficiencies of his current roster. Both Sark and Holt blew it when the game was on the line.
As I said earlier the game wasn't pretty. ASU was penalized nine times for 99 yards with eight of those penalties coming in the first half. Washington had a season high twelve penalties for 124 yards. The Huskies turned the ball over three times. One was a game ending interception as Locker threw it for grabs from 60 yards out. An earlier interception stopped a Husky drive in the red zone. Johri Fogerson fumbled a punt in the second half just when it seemed Washington was about to pull away. Erik Folk missed a long FG try after being iced twice by Dennis Erickson.
This was a game that Washington should have won. The Huskies had the better offense at the end of the game and if it had gone to overtime chances are they would have pulled it out. We haven't heard from Sarkisian yet but I am very interested to hear his line of logic. I don't think you can explain this one away. It was an ugly loss that could have been avoided if cooler heads had prevailed on the Washington sideline.
Post Game Update
I listened to the past game show and Bob Rondeau asked all the right questions and Coach Sark gave all the right answers. The thing I really like about Sarkisian is he didn't make excuses and took immediate responsibility for the clock management on that last series.
"Hindsight is 20/20, but if I had to do it again, I would've run the ball," Sarkisian said of the third-and-one play. "That's on me. It eats at me because I felt like I could've managed the ballgame better," Sarkisian said. "I try to pride myself in doing that stuff, but I didn't do it tonight."
What is really hard to digest is Sarkisian called a pass on third and one deep in his own territory with all his timeouts remaining. All he had to do was hand the ball off or let Jake run to try to pull off the first down. If it didn't work time would have run out and the game would have gone to overtime.
Sark didn't play the percentages. If Washington took it to overtime the Huskies had a 70% or greater chance of winning this game. The ASU FG kicker was crippled with a leg injury last night. He was already 1-3 for the evening. The odds were firmly on UW's side with Locker at QB and a healthy Erik Folk.
On the miraculous Arizona State TD play Sark had these comments:
"We jumped a route, a crossing route, and left the middle of the field wide open."
When you look at that final play on film you see a series of broken assignments and a defense that was confused about what it was supposed to do on what should have been the last play before overtime.
ASU coach Dennis Erickson was as surprised as everyone else was in the stadium. The play he called was designed to go for 20 yards and to set up a FG shot. For some reason the entire middle of the field was left open. Chris McGaha made the catch but he was one of two Sun Devils left completely open down the middle on that play.
Don James used to make a list of every possible scenario that would happen in crucial moments during game six months before the season started. It was one of those things that made James a genius. He would often say after making a call that would contribute to winning a game in the last two minutes that the decision of what to do in that situation was made six months before. All he had to do was look at the clip board and the best call was there. It didn't work 100% of the time...nothing does...but he significantly beat the averages by a wide margin in his career by being more prepared in crucial situations than his opponents.
Sarkisian and Holt would be wise to contact James about that list.
This is a tough loss for the Washington Nation to take. It is even tougher for the coaches and players. The only thing left to do is put it behind them and prepare for Oregon. This can be the type of loss that breaks a teams spirit even though I am betting that this team and staff will bounce back from this hard lesson.
Jake Locker summed it up best after the game:
"It's not easy after a loss like this," said Locker. "We thought we were going into overtime, and it didn't work out. I don't know how many games I've seen it end like that."
Keep your head up Jake!
There is still a lot of football to be played.
Pac Ten Officials Lose Control of the Game
This was a typical Dennis Erickson type game. The Sun Devils came out with one purpose last night and that was to hit Washington in the mouth after that first TD drive. ASU created anarchy out on the field by committing eight penlties in the first half.
ASU middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict was called for three personal fouls in the first half. After a quick review of the film the officials could have called him for at least a couple more because he was punching players with closed fists after plays. Somehow the officials never picked that up. Burfict should have been ejected from the game in the first half.
With anarchy starting to reign on the field and ASU getting penalized all over the place the officials called a few makeup calls on Washington that were inexplicable. In particular a helmet to helmet penalty by Mason Foster which kept a drive alive which looked very clean upon review of the film. Coach Holt was then penalized another 15 on the same play for protesting the call and once again being out on the field. Washington had a season high twelve penalties for 124 yards.
A young Husky team and coaching staff were sucked in by the anitics of Erickson and his thugs. Once the penalties started flying the successful strategy took Washington out of its usual game plan.
Pac Ten Commissioner Lary Scott has to take a serious look at completely restructuring his staff of football officials at the end of the season. Every single game by every single group of Pac Ten officials seems to be a complete mess. Blown calls, lack of control, indecisiveness, and utter incomptence which penalizes all the teams in the conference seems to be the trademark of Pac Ten officiating.