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Washington Huskies collapse in second half: 27 unanswered points from Arizona State take victory

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Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Each team came in with Bowl hopes riding. Both Arizona State and Washington were at 4-5, needing to win at least two of their last three games to secure Bowl eligibility. Arizona State took a step toward that, while Washington didn't kill its chances, hopes for a Bowl are slimmer than they were this morning.

A total team collapse overtook a dominant first half that should have amounted to more than the 17 points on the scoreboard. Downfield strikes and a strong running game gave way to incomplete passes and penetration in the backfield, as Arizona State walked away with the win, 27-17.

On to the game summary.

Washington opened the game with the plan to beat ASU's frequent exotic blitzes with long passes down the field. Jake Browning's first attempt was a play-action target to Jaydon Mickens for 21 yards. Myles Gaskin took the rock for 17, several short plays occurred and then another downfield strike to Mickens; the ball slipped off his fingertips as he lost it either in the sun or never could completely track the ball.

Washington's next offensive possession continued the shots down the field, each of which was a strike thrown by Browning that hit the hands of his receivers no less than 20 yards down the field. The first was a 46-yard bomb to Marvin Hall, while the two other passes were mis-tracked or mis-timed by Dante Pettis.

The third Washington possession is when the Dawgs finally made it to the end zone. It was the Gaskin show, as he had runs of 11,six, 53 and one yard. The one that was for only a yard was the most important, however, as it put six up on the board. His 53-yard run was one of the more impressive individual plays of the season. He started with a zone run to the right, showed patience before he accelerated through the hole, all the way into the third level of the defense. He then made a man miss in the secondary before shaking off a tackler as he rumbled down to the goalline before being tripped up by a shoestring tackle.

The defense continued to show itself as one of the best in the country, limiting ASU to three points in the first half. It wasn't one specific position group dominating. The defensive line and BUCK Travis Feeney spent more time in the backfield than anywhere else. Azeem Victor made plays sideline to sideline, and the secondary let very few passes by them, and even the good throws by Mike Bercovicci tended to be dropped.

Another downfield throw, this time to Darrell Daniels, resulted in a second Husky touchdown. There were more off-target deep strikes than successful ones, but Washington still took a 17-3 lead into halftime. It really should have been more, but the deep throws were just a tad off, whether they were just overthrown or the timing was a shade different between Browning and his receivers, the potential was there for so many more big plays. As it was, Washington had 10 plays of 10 yards or more, while Arizona State had only six total first downs by halftime (16 total for UW)

After the half, things started to turn around for the Sun Devils, their second offensive drive of the half yielded seven points with a 5-play, 60-yard drive, to make the game closer than it ever should have been following a dominant first half for the Dawgs. Washington's offense again sputtered in Arizona State territory failing to convert on fourth down as Browning missed Pettis, throwing low on a crossing route, and Cameron Van Winkle missed a 46-yard field goal.

ASU responded by tying the game up with another touchdown drive that lasted into the fourth quarter. The Husky defense began to show cracks at the end of the first half, when the Sun Devils were able to grab a field goal, but the second half is where the Sun Devils really started to move the ball and put together drives. 20 straight points for ASU, then things continued to erode for the Dawgs.

Browning overthrew Dante Pettis on a pass down the field, except instead of just being off of Pettis' fingertips, the pass sailed unreachable and into the hands of an ASU safety. That is when the UW defense finally broke. Kalen Ballage took the ball on the right side and met Azeem Victor four yards downfield. Victor ended up on the ground, failing to wrap at all, while Ballage bounced further up the field. He then shed Budda Baker's tackle attempt and finished with a touchdown.

There was no more scoring. Each of UW's final four drives ended in turnovers, three being Browning interceptions.

Collaped Dots:

  • Jake Browning has looked at his best in up-tempo, quick offenses. The third Huskies offensive possession was Oregon-esque. Seven plays for 77 yards and a teeder. It elapsed a total of 1:37 off the game clock. There is a lot to be said for keeping the defense off the field to keep them fresh, but when the offense is putting together drives like that, they take the same amount of time off the game clock. Nobody is going to complain about seven points.

  • We talk about how athletic this defense is, and how Azeem Victor is the embodiment of it. He had one play that showcased it more than anything. The Sun Devils ran a fake fly sweep, it might have been a read option. Victor followed the sweeping receiver until Bercovicci kept the ball. He then stopped on a dime and tackled the quarterback for a loss. He will be not just on a roster, but he will be starting on Sundays 20 months from now.

  • There were so many things that fell apart for Washington in the second half. The offense was already missing opportunities for points, while the defense either wore down or made all the wrong adjustments. Probably a mix of both.

  • There were some bright spots. Browning showed more zip on downfield throws than we have seen all week. When his shoulders are pointed towards receivers, whether it be on a dropback pass or a roll to his left, he has the ability to put velocity on the ball. When he is asked to throw an out route when it isn't a predetermined dropback, one read and go, he can't put the same level of zip without perfectly aligning his shoulder. Still, improved arm strength from what I saw.