The No. 5 Huskies were hapless on offense, unrecognizable on defense and appalling on special teams in a stunning 13-7 loss to Arizona State late Saturday night.
TEMPE, Ariz. — En masse, they rushed out of the student section and onto the field to celebrate Arizona State’s stunning 13-7 upset of No. 5 Washington late Saturday night.
Truth is, the dam broke hours earlier on the field, hammered apart bit by bit by an Arizona State defense that hounded Jake Browning and the Huskies’ offense in a way no Pac-12 team has done the past three years.
The Huskies (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) were hapless on offense, unrecognizable at times on defense and appalling on special teams before 51,234 at Sun Devil Stadium, putting a major dent in Washington’s push for another College Football Playoff berth.
UW (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) lost at Arizona State for the seventh straight time and hasn’t won in Tempe since 2001.
“Tough day at the office,” UW coach Chris Petersen said. “We just could not get any rhythm going whatsoever.”
Add another chapter to UW’s strange history of desert debacles.
Washington, a 17-point favorite, has lost seven in a row in Tempe — its last win here was in 2001 — and 13 of its past 14 games in the state of Arizona. Something strange always seems to happen to the Huskies in this neighborhood, and this listless showing by the UW offense was as puzzling as anything that’s happened in Petersen’s four seasons with the Huskies.
Inexplicably, it came against an Arizona State defense that came into the game ranked 120th in the nation and 127th in yards per play allowed. UW came into the game averaging 44.0 points per game, tied for first in the Pac-12.
Asked after the game what the offensive breakdowns were, Petersen shrugged.
“No idea,” he said.
Arizona State (3-3, 2-1) held the Huskies to 230 yards of total offense, the fewest UW has had against any Pac-12 defense under Petersen.
“I don’t think many people thought we could do that,” ASU coach Todd Graham said. “That’s our best defensive performance since I’ve been here. That was phenomenal.”
Browning hit a “low point” in his life as a true freshman two years ago when he threw three fourth-quarter interceptions in a loss here. He was foiled again by the Sun Devils’ aggressive defense. Five times Arizona State sacked the Huskies quarterback, who was often running in the wrong direction attempting to flee from a relentless pass rush.
In 12 seasons as a head coach, Petersen has never been shut out. That streak was in jeopardy until the Huskies marched 71 yards on 14 plays in the fourth quarter, capped by Browning’s 1-yard surge with 5:32 left in the game. That cut ASU’s lead to 13-7.
But the Sun Devils sealed the victory by driving to the UW 7-yard line after Manny Wilkins completed an improbable pass on fourth-and-three to CJ French-Love for a 30-yard gain. At the end of the play, UW cornerback Jordan Miller suffered what appeared to be a serious left leg injury and had to be carted off the field.
Wilkins took a knee three times to end it.
“Any loss sucks,” UW senior receiver Dante Pettis said. “It doesn’t matter how much we’re favored by … if you lose a game, it’s tough. Especially with the way we were playing, we were playing at a pretty high level. Today wasn’t really up to the standard, and we know that.”
The Sun Devils, coming off a bye week, sacked Browning three times in the first half and held the Huskies to 42 yards of offense on 20 first-half plays.
The Huskies had just 12 net yards on their first 13 plays of the game. And just when it looked like things couldn’t get worse, they did when junior left tackle Trey Adams exited with an apparent right-knee injury late in the first quarter. He did not return.
Arizona State scored on its first possession, driving 63 yards on 16 plays and taking a 7-0 lead after Kalen Ballage’s 1-yard touchdown run.
UW’s defense, to its credit, buckled down after that, keeping the score within reach the rest of the game. Arizona State managed just 285 yards of offense, 123 in the second half.
UW’s special teams, on the other hand, were unusually bad. Joel Whitford had a punt blocked early in the second quarter, which set up an Arizona State field goal to extend its lead to 10-0.
Brandon Ruiz added a second field goal, from 25 yards, to give the Sun Devils a 13-0 lead at halftime.
His counterpart, UW redshirt freshman Van Soderberg, missed both of his field-goal attempts, two chip shots from 27 and 21 yards.
His second miss, in the final minute of the third quarter, hit the right upright in front of Arizona State’s student section. It came after Petersen decided not to go for it on fourth-and-two from the ASU 4-yard line. Petersen said he considered going for it there but wanted to get some “sure” points on the board. It backfired.
“We’ve got to play better red-zone football so it doesn’t come down to (a kick),” Petersen said. “It’s never going to be pointed at any one person around here.”