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Three Things We Learned: Arizona State

Curses are real, the pass rush is capable of a stinker, and Cam Davis looks ready

Washington v Arizona State Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

1. Curses Are Real

In my prediction article I noted that I’m the numbers guy who doesn’t believe in superstition. Washington’s issues with Arizona State had happened when both teams had completely different rosters and coaching staffs. There’s no logical reason why the Huskies should consistently struggle in the desert more so than any other location.

Mea culpa. I believe. Yes, the defense was bad. But a Penix throw bounces off an OL helmet straight into the air for a walk-in pick six? Really? For the first time all year Luciano has a shotgun snap go between the QB and RB for a 30-yard loss when a comeback seemed possible for a second there? Really? ASU’s former walk-on backup QB has perfect accuracy on every deep ball attempt? Really?

Every time you lose a close ballgame there are bound to be fluky plays that go against you but watching it live it felt like the universe was conspiring against the Huskies just a little bit. If that ball hits the bottom of Kirkland’s helmet instead of the top and goes straight down rather than turning into a pick-six does Washington win that game? Probably.

Now did Washington deserve to win that game? I think it’s right that it came down to the final possession. The Huskies’ defense was every bit as bad as the offense was good. When Bill Connelly releases his postgame win expectancy charts I expect it will be close to 50/50. And things need to be way better than 50/50 for the odds to work out in Washington’s favor in Tempe.

2. All The Time In The World

I can understand wanting to have a section focused on Washington’s secondary being an abomination. This isn’t the first time though that we’ve seen them struggle and while we might have learned they’re a degree worse than expected it’s not as if it’s a complete revelation. The part of the pass defense that was significantly less effective than anticipated was Washington’s pass rush. Or rather the lack thereof.

Coming into the game one of the most consistent elements of the Husky defense was that at least one of Bralen Trice, Jeremiah Martin, and Zion Tupuola-Fetui would step up and make an impact with their pass rushing skills. Bralen Trice led the country among power conference teams in pass-rush win rate per Pro Football Focus. Instead they all failed to have any effect whatsoever. It didn’t help that the interior of the defensive line was also extremely banged up but you still need much better than what the edges gave.

Washington finished the game with 0 sacks and just 1 total tackle for loss. That’s 2 weeks after getting 8 sacks against Tanner McKee and Stanford. If Emory Jones had remained in the game it would be more understandable since he’s an effective scrambler. But Bourget certainly didn’t appear to be overly mobile. None of the Husky linemen or edges finished with more than 1 total hurry and none even managed a quarterback hit. Trice and Martin finished with pass-rush win rates of 5.3% and 4.3% respectively. Those were 2021 numbers when UW had no defender finish with more than 3 total sacks.

It is abundantly clear that UW’s secondary can’t hold up if the opposing QB is given unlimited time. That means that as the edge rushers go, so goes the defense. And when they are a complete non-factor it means we’re going to see nothing but touchdowns for the opponent and an L.

3. Lights, Cameron, Action!

There weren’t many bright spots in Saturday’s game but one of them was the play of Cameron Davis. I didn’t even bring it up in the curse section but you can add to the unlucky plays counter Wayne Taulapapa getting caught by the turf grass monster and falling just short of a 1st down which eventually resulted in UW turning it over on downs. Taulapapa came off the field a little banged up and that gave Cam Davis and Richard Newton opportunities to assert themselves.

Unfortunately Newton also got banged up after managing 42 yards on 4 carries which made Davis the primary ball-carrier. He finished the game with 9 carries for 77 yards and 3 TDs. That’s a pretty efficient little stat line. Davis’ runs in order went for: 19 yards, TD, 42 yards, 2 yards, 0 yards, TD, TD, 2 yards (on 3rd and 1), and 2 yards. That’s a 66% success rate on his carries plus a huge explosive play.

If Taulapapa didn’t suffer a long-term injury then I would expect he will still be the starter against Arizona next Saturday. But he’s a grad transfer who has been officially credited with 2 fumbles though I would say the botched pitch versus UCLA is his 3rd rather than Penix’s. Lord knows that Cam Davis had ball security issues like against Oregon State last year. But I’m certainly not against the idea of phasing him increasingly into the rotation with an eye towards next year while not losing a ton if anything in the rushing game. Injuries made things more difficult to decipher but I could see going into next year feeling good with Davis as the 1st down back, Newton as the backup/short yardage guy, and Will Nixon as the pass catching 3rd down back.