By Kendall Black
The Seattle Medium
It was a stormy night in Seattle with wind gusts of up to 15 miles per hour and cold rain falling down on the field in slants. Many speculated that these conditions could be considered favorable for the University of Washington Huskies (5-3) compared to their opponents the Arizona State Sun Devils (6-1), but they were wrong as the Sun Devils posted a 24-10 win over the Huskies last Saturday night at Husky Stadium.
Statistically, the Huskies held their own in every category except for the kicking game, as both UW punter Korey Durkee and placekicker Cameron Van Winkle had a tough nights kicking the ball. Durkey punted seven times for an average of 30.1 yards, including punts of 24 and 15 yards, respectively, that set up ASU scoring opportunities.
“I think the wind kind of surprised us a little bit,” said Husky Head Football Coach Chris Peterson after the game. “We started hearing about these wind reports late last night. We thought it might rain a little bit, but we play in the rain and I think these guys can handle and deal with that, but that wind was hard. You’re going against a really good defense anyways first and foremost and then to have to deal with [the wind] that was obviously too much.”
University of Washington quarterback Troy Williams, who started his first game as a Husky, had a tough time battling the wind and the Arizona State defense. Williams finished the game completing 18 of 26 passes for 139 yards and two interceptions. Williams was also sacked five times during the game.
“It was tough, but I could’ve done better,” said Williams after the game. “I’ve got to take accountability of the offense because I’m the leader.”
“I played hard, but obviously it wasn’t good enough,” added Williams. “I’ve got keep my head up and keep grinding.”
Ultimately, the game was a defensive battle with a hard-fought tug of war to see who would falter first and allow the other team to score. The first quarter was a scoreless stalemate. Drive after drive the Husky defense held Arizona State off and outside of field goal range. Mid way through the first quarter, Arizona State quarterback, Taylor Kelly, who passed for a total of 180 yards on the day, tried rushing the ball, but was met with a hard-hitting Husky defensive line and was sacked twice.
The Arizona State defense returned the favor on the other end of the field, containing the Husky offense and sacking Williams once. Despite being without the services of running backs Dwayne Washington and Lavon Coleman, the Huskies relied heavily on the running game. Husky linebacker Shaq Thompson handily took on the role of running back with grit and determination as he broke tackles and fought for extra yards racking up a total of 98 rushing yards. Husky running back Deontae Cooper also had a productive night with 70 rushing yards.
The second quarter started with a promising Husky drive up the field to the 23-yard line with behind the running efforts of Cooper and quarter back Jeff Lindquist. But Arizona State refused to give up any points, as ASU lineman Paul Crawford blocked Husky kicker Van Winkle’s field goal attempt to thwart the Huskies attempt to get on the scoreboard.
In the second quarter, ASU was able to capitalize on some Husky miscues. After an unsuccessful attempt to convert on third down, the Huskies gave up field position with a short 24-yard punt to the 50-yard line. Arizona State running back Demario Richard barreled up the field for 34 yards and Kelly sealed the deal with a 16-yard pass to Arizona State receiver Jaelen Strong for the first touchdown of the night. Arizona State kicker Zane Gonzalez, who is second on the NCAA active D-I leader list in field goals per game, converted the extra point attempt to give the Sun Devils a 7 – 0 lead.
In their next drive, the Sun Devils were gifted advantageous field position again as Van Winkle had a 15-yard punt to the ASU 40-yard line. The Sun Devils took full advantage of this miscue, and drove deep into Husky territory to set up a 33 yard field goal by Gonzales as ASU extended their lead to 10-0.
Despite having some success running the ball, the Huskies were unable to get into an offensive flow throughout the second quarter. After a long punt return by Husky kick returner John Ross was called back to the 20-yard line because a holding penalty, it seemed that nothing was going their way.
Then things changed at the half. The Husky defense took the field with new focus. Arizona State quarterback Kelly was sacked three times during one drive, twice by Hau’Oli Kikaha and once by Kieshawn Bierria, as the Husky defense started to impose their will on the Sun Devils..
In the next Husky drive, Williams continued trying to get into an offensive flow, but was sacked and fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Arizona State and run to the 1-yard line. With yet another advantageous field position handed to them, the Sun Devils were poised to put the Huskies away with another touchdown. But the Husky defense had other plans. Led by Husky defensive linemen Andrew Hudson and Danny Shelton, the Husky defense executed a dramatic goal line stand. After multiple attempts, one of which was ruled a touchdown and then reversed after review, the Huskies held down the 1-yard line and linebacker John Timu forced a fumble on 4th down preventing the Sun Devils from scoring at all.
There was a shift in the air, and things started to get interesting. The Husky offensive drive came up empty, but when the defense hit the field, they showed that they can score too. Husky linebacker John Timu intercepted a pass and ran without hesitation for 63 yards for a touchdown. Husky kicker Van Winkle’s field goal was good and the Huskies were in the game at 7 – 10.
The fourth quarter showed glimmers of hope as the Huskies had an effective drive to get another field goal to tie the game at 10 – 10. However, the Sun Devils scored two touchdowns in the game’s final three minutes, including a 61 yard interception return for a touchdown by defensive back Armand Perry, to seal the victory for ASU.
Despite the loss, the Husky defense held Arizona State to 285 yard of total offense, while recording 7 sacks and twelve tackles for loss. With the two sacks on the night, Hau’Oli Kikaha became UW’s all-time career sack leader and tied UW’s single-season sack record.
“I think our defensive played really, really well,” said Peterson. “I’m proud of those guys and how hard they fought. And I’m proud of how hard our offense played as well. Obviously it wasn’t efficient enough, it wasn’t good enough.”