Goes without saying that If the Huskies miss a bowl game this season — and it’s going to be a lot harder now — this will be the one that will serve as the turning point.
The difference between a game above .500 or below .500 at this point in the season — and with Oregon coming up — is obviously immense.
And as Steve Sarkisian said afterward, it was an “excruciating” loss, especially that last play.
Frankly, our deadlines meant my head was down most of the time at the end of the game and I haven’t had a chance yet to get a real good look at the winning TD on replay — as was the mantra in the UW interview room afterward, I’ll have to look at the film.
Obviously, it was a major breakdown somewhere. Sarkisian said a player jumped a route, and the easy conclusion is that it was Nate Williams — Sarkisian didn’t name a player — simply because of the alignment and now it appeared as if the area that Chris McGaha ran into is where Williams was supposed to be. But what we also saw was Victor Aiyewa appearing to brush McGaha at the line and then let him run by. So hard to know exactly who was at fault here. Sarkisian’s comment that it was a jumped route seems to indicate not so much a miscommunication but simply someone trying to make a play instead of handling their specified assignment — a strategy that worked last week when Mason Foster jumped a route to help create the winning TD against Arizona.
But we figure to need until Monday and film review to get a clearer sense of exactly what happened.
Not that there isn’t plenty of blame to throw around for this one.
Sarkisian took full blame for the third down call on the last series that helped hand ASU the ball. Seems as if they should have just tried to run for the first down and take it into overtime — the Devils seemed to be conceding that.
And once again there were some fundamental issues that hurt the Huskies as well, specifically, an inability to run the ball with any consistency — 99 yards on 27 carries, 41 coming on two plays. It seemed at times as if UW was fortunate to still be in this one — times when the fact that this team is trying to rebound from an 0-12 season a year ago again became apparent. Reality is UW trailed for about 41 minutes of this game, a time when ASU simply appeared better.
Preamble over, the grades:
QUARTERBACK: Another yeoman’s effort by Jake Locker who threw one bad interception early on but also was throwing off his back foot much of the night in the face of a constant rush. Despite all of that, he completed 22-38 passes for 279 yards and made several fantastic plays with his feet. Without Locker, this would have been an ugly offensive performance for the Huskies. GRADE: B-plus.
TAILBACK: Chris Polk aggravated the injury to his shoulder and had to sit out for a while, a disconerting turn of events as he hasn’t seemed to have quite the same spark to his game the last two weeks since he was injured. He had one great 23-yard TD run but otherwise was held to 28 yards on 11 carries. Hopefully he gets healthy in time for Oregon but you worry a little he’ll need the bye week to get healthy — though he said somewhat ominously afterward he figured this will bother him all season. Johri Fogerson got more run with Polk limited and had 16 yards on five carries. But reality is that neither really had anywhere to go with the ASU front seven dominating the Huskies. GRADE: B-minus.
WIDE RECEIVER: Devin Aguilar had the best game by a UW receiver in years with seven catches for 154 yards and appears to be becoming Locker’s go-to guy. And James Johnson did indeed bounce back with six catches, though for just 29 yards, and Jermaine Kearse had five catches. A couple of drops but overall, a solid day. A down note — no catches by TEs and looked like they never really tried to throw to them, though in part, they needed the TEs to block more tonight. GRADE: B-plus.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Well, frankly a night when the line was just physically outmatched much of the night. Huskies appeared to go with the same five all night, so obviously they feel like that’s the best they’ve got right now. ASU’s front seven is a talented, if kind of undisciplined, bunch and it got the better of the Huskies tonight. Despite that, the Huskies played hard and helped the team gain enough yards to be in the game at the end, so not giving them a failing grade. GRADE: C-minus.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Take away a couple of long runs and the Huskies played the run pretty well. And as the game wore on, the Huskies got more pressure on Sullivan, stopping the last play on ASU’s second-to-last series with a four-man rush. The Huskies finished with three sacks, two by Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, who had one of his better games. On the other hand, there was no pressure on the final play when the Huskies could have obviously really used some.GRADE: C.
LINEBACKERS: Mason Foster turned in another big play with the strip that prevented an ASU touchdown in the first half that would have made the game 21-7 and might have turned it into a rout early. But there were a few too many missed tackles overall. GRADE: C-plus.
SECONDARY: Pretty hard to get past that last play. And the Huskies also allowed an ASU pass offense that hasn’t done much a lot of the season to complete 22-36 for 295 yards without an interception. A bright spot was Adam Long getting his first start and appearing to do a credible job with a game-high eight tackles and a sack on a corner blitz. But ASU wasn’t at full strength at receiver and still able to come up with the big plays when it needed it. GRADE: D.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A couple of really costly errors with the missed field goal at the end of the first half and the Johri Fogerson fumble. And once again, not a lot of action in the return games. James Johnson got his first kickoff return as the Huskies continue to explore options there. And the punt by Will Mahan at the end of the game wasn’t great, keeping ASU in position to win it. GRADE: C-minus.
COACHING: Well, the big picture is that UW is 3-4 and a nemisis to every team it plays a year after going 0-12 and getting blown out by everyone, including this same Arizona State team at home. But the immediate thought is that there are a few really big decisions at the end of the game they’d love to have back. You can’t completely discount that this team was ready to play a road game and made a nice comeback from 10 down in the third quarter to appear ready for overtime. But the ending is also hard to swallow — and the sideline penalties have got to stop, as well. GRADE: C.