Well it was fun for a while, right?
There wasn’t much of a crowd there — maybe half or so of the listed 57,013 — but there was a lot of cheering early due to the trick plays and some aggressive defense and the fact that the game was simply close.
But then the regularly scheduled program resumed and the Huskies fell apart, ASU scoring the last 23 points of the game to win going away.
Afterward, UW coach Tyrone Willingham — now 11-35 with the Huskies — was left saying a lot of the same stuff he’s said all too often.
“To me, we just didn’t make the plays,” he said of the difference in the two halves. “There were no drastic changes. We anticipated some things but just didn’t make the plays. We didn’t wrap up, we didn’t tackle. We didn’t do the things we needed to do. On offense we had some opportunities but just didn’t make the right plays to get it in the end zone.”
Willingham, of course, has already been fired so it feels a little like piling on to point out that at some point, not making plays comes back on the coaches — well-coached players tend to make plays when it counts.
It also sounds a little too much like throwing the players under the bus to ascribe the second-half collapse simply to not making plays — before UW’s final drive, ASU had a yardage edge in the second half of 202-8. Given that Dennis Erickson’s Sun Devils did the exact same thing to UW last year — outscoring the Huskies 31-3 in the second half — seems like something is going on.
Ronnie Fouch said that ASU began stopping UW better on first down, forcing a lot of second- and third-and-longs.
Indeed, the biggest issues was that the Huskies simply can’t run the ball right now — they had 52 yards on 28 carries and that includes the 39-yard run by Terrance Dailey on the last drive.
UW now plays the two worst run-defense teams in the Pac-10 the next two weeks other than itself — UCLA and WSU — so maybe there is still some reason for hope in that area. But again that remains the biggest disappointment of this season in my eyes, that UW hasn’t been able to ever get a running game going. At least Dailey finally passed Jake Locker as the team’s leading rusher.
Said Willingham: “If you don’t have a running game, you put too much pressure on the quarterback. That’s something we’ve got to have and it’s something we’ve struggled with.”
The defense, meanwhile, seemed to just wear down at the end.
“We didn’t play as well down the stretch,” said defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. “I thought we came out with some great energy and made some good plays and then it kind of got away.”
Put it all together and it was yet another loss, the 11th in a row andd 18th in 20 games dating to the 2-0 start of last season.
But credit the Huskies for bringing it for most of the night, which also means we’ll give them a full report card, as well.
QUARTERBACK — Ronnie Fouch had a tough night (13-40, two interceptions and about four other passes that could have been picked). But he also has no support from a running game, so the offensive failure is hardly all his fault. Still, he’s showing his youth and he doesn’t necessarily seem to be getting better with experience. Though undoubtedly, all of this should help him down the road. GRADE: D.
RUNNING BACKS — Since there’s nowhere to go, hard to know how much blame to put on the backs. But Willingham was ready to put a lot of it on them, saying the backs were too impatient and didn’t wait for holes to develop. That would mostly be Dailey since he got 14 of the team’s 28 carries — the other running backs only got five. But again, this is also a roster construction issue that falls on the coaches since true freshmen shouldn’t be getting the bulk of the work if they aren’t ready. Seemed to me like Dailey ran really hard and broke a few tackles that some backs might not have. As per the fullbacks, Paul Homer is still struggling with a knee injury so he hasn’t been the factor all year that was hoped. His early fumble was pivotal. GRADE: C-minus.
RECEIVERS — D’Andre Goodwin continues to be a highlight, with five catches for 99 yards, and Jermaine Kearse had another big catch (a 50-yarder). And Cody Bruns was shaping up as the star of the game early on. But UW was just 4-21 passing for 41 yards in the second half, and while Fouch is to blame for some of that, the inability of receivers to get open is also some of it, as well. GRADE: C-minus.
OFFENSIVE LINE — Here’s the biggest area to blame for the lack of a running game. ASU came into the game ranked seventh in the Pac-10 against the run and gave up 304 to Oregon a couple weeks ago,. But other than Dailey’s 39-yard run, the Huskies had 13 yards on 27 rushes. And take out that run, and UW had 34 yards on 19 carries from the tailbacks. Fouch was also under pressure a lot of the night and was sacked four times. The Huskies continue to use the same five guys on the O-line. OL coach Mike Denbrock said this week he’d consider usinig some younger players but also feels he needs to give the team the best chance to win. It may not be the greatest sign for the future that none of the youngsters can get on the field even when the starters seem to be underperforming. GRADE: D.
DEFENSIVE LINE — For about 40 minutes, seemed like a pretty good effort up front — ASU’s 400 yards was a season-low for a Husky opponent. Daniel Te’o-Nesheim had seven tackles and a sack, Chris Stevens lined up at end a lot and had seven tackles, and Johnie Kirton also continued to hustle all over the place. But depth is becoming a problem now and the unit just seemed to wear down at the end. GRADE: C.
LINEBACKERS — If you include Stevens in this group, it was a pretty good day. Mason Foster had nine tackles and a sack, and Donald Butler had seven solo tackles and Trenton Tuiasosopo six total tackles. But like the rest of the defense, couldn’t hold up for 60 minutes. GRADE: B-minus.
SECONDARY — Another not-great day here as Rudy Carpenter was 22-31 and almost all of the incompletions seemed to be drops or poor throws — there was only one statistical pass breakup, by Nate Williams. The Huskies just don’t seem to play the ball real well in the air, and there still seems to be some communication issues in zone defenses. GRADE: D.
SPECIAL TEAMS — Maybe the best day of the season in this area with Ryan Perkins’ career-high four field goals, Stevens’ blocked punt, and the 63-yard KO return by Matt Mosley. Jared Ballman punted pretty well, also, averaging 44.7 on three attempts. Only real quibble is the 13-yard punt return by ASU which helped set up the go-ahead TD in the third quarter. GRADE: B-plus.
COACHING — You have to give them credit for getting the players ready to play and coming up with an imaginative game plan that stole a few points in the early going. You can wonder why they haven’t been more aggressive in that regard in other games this season. But it was nice to see them finally pull some tricks — and it makes sense given the nothing-to-lose status of the team. There were also some defensive wrinkles that paid off in the early going. On the other hand, the fact that the Huskies again collapsed in the second-half of a winnable games (shades of last season) is hard to ignore. And the big picture is 11 straight losses. GRADE: C-minus.
Well it was fun for a while, right?
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