The Huskies lost to ASU for the ninth straight time in a game played in classic Pacific Northwest elements late Saturday night. The wind, which was reported to reach gusts of up to 60 mph, swirled around the stadium and created a challenging environment for both teams.
It was ASU, however, that seemed to cope with the conditions early in the game, running out to a 10-0 lead in the first half. That lead was staked out in large part to big advantages that ASU was earning in field position thanks to a Husky kicking game that was clearly out of synch.
The Huskies D kept battling throughout the night and was responsible for generating the Huskies first touchdown of the game when John Timu held on to a Taylor Kelly interception and returned it for seven in the third quarter. Unfortunately, the Huskies offense was not up to the task. The Jonathan Smith game plan led to a total output of just three points out of the Huskies offense compared to 17 for ASU. The Sun Devils D was active in blitzing and confusing the Huskies RS Freshman QB, Troy Williams, who was making his first collegiate start. Williams ended up 15 of 23 for just 86 yards passing and 2 INTs including a pick six.
The Sun Devils won the game late in the fourth by taking advantage of the absence of Washington's star CB Marcus Peters, who left the game with a leg injury. ASU was able to pick apart the Husky D through the air and convert a red zone TD pass that iced the game. They added a final insult with the pick six thrown by Troy Willliams in an attempt to convert a fourth and 25 situation.
Some Dots for your consideration:
With both Lavon Coleman and Dwayne Washington out with injuries, the Huskies were forced to go with a rotation of Deontae Cooper and Shaq Thompson. Thompson participated solely on offense in this game and was on the field for roughly 2/3 of UW's offensive snaps. It was Cooper, however, who showed the most effectiveness while on the field.
Hau'oli Kikaha was the ringleader of a very effective UW pass rush that generated seven sacks. Kikaha recorded two himself and, in doing so, claimed UW records for both sacks in a season and total career sacks.
The FG drive for the Huskies that tied the game in the fourth quarter ended in curious fashion. OC Jonathan Smith called a snap from under center and a pitch into the strong side of the field to Shaq. Following ASU's botched FG, the Huskies had literally shoved the ball down ASU's throat with handoff after handoff between the tackles. Both Shaq and Coop were effective hammering away inside. For UW to go so far away from what had been working on 3rd and goal was another example of clumsy playcalling.
The wind was a huge factor, obviously. Jokes filled Twitter after the first quarter: UW 0, ASU 0, weather conditions 50. It felt that way. Long snaps to punters were off target, and the punting game (especially UW's) were affected. One has to wonder how much of a mental effect the wind had on Korey Durkee. Any deep throws were either heavily under or overthrown. It took until the thirteenth posession of the game for a team to score. The wind was the cause for that.
Much debate about the performance of the QB is sure to ensue from Troy Williams' debut. The bottom line is that Williams came out very timid and very unsure of himself. He also was not a factor in the run game. At this point, it is clear that the coaches have beaten the aggressiveness out of all of their QBs in a way that keeps any of them from looking down field. The result is a dearth of explosive plays and opposing defenses that are able to commit extra resources to defend UW's rushing attack.
Troy Williams is still behind Cyler Miles. Whether he was not given the option to read the defense pre-snap or made the wrong read on packaged plays, the offense looked to be running the wrong play for almost every situation. He ran read option looks when the box was stacked and threw bubble screens when the defense was leveraged to the sidelines. It didn't help when Shaq Thompson telegraphed the play by just being in the game, either.
If you were looking for Kasen Williams to emerge this week, just keep moving right on along.
Budda Baker continues to really pop. He made a sack on Taylor Kelly in the fourth quarter that ended a serious threat where Kelly had broken the pocket and was tracking targets in the end zone. That possession led to a botched FG and kept the Huskies within 3 points.
Many folks will want to debate the wisdom of taking Shaq off of defense to commit him to offense. Given the weather and the emergence of Keishawn Bierria at LB, the need was clearly greater to have him on offense. I don't really have a problem with the decision.
As has become the norm, Danny Shelton is simply unblockable. His work on the goal line stand that led to ASU turning the ball over to UW on downs was some of the best interior line play that you will ever see at Husky stadium.
John Ross, please ... just run forward.
On a final note, I need to comment on the Huskies kicking game. It is complete and utter mess. Our punter is very hot/cold and our kickoffs consistently fail to achieve either distance or hang time. This is going to be a problem that is going to continue to plague this team given that the formula for UW to win depends on changing field position and converting scoring opportunities.
That's about all there is to say on this one. UW will now fall to 1-3 in conference play and will now have to put together a significant rally to reach five conference wins in 2014. The Huskies and Head Coach Chris Petersen are certainly going to face heavy criticism for yet another game where the Huskies failed to demonstrate even a basic level of competency on the offensive side of the ball. Now, on to the vodka. G'night Dawg Fans