For a second, it looked as though the Mess on Montlake would make way for some moxie.

For a minute, it looked as though the Huskies might provide their fans with a distraction from their debacle.

Their head coach, Jimmy Lake, had been suspended after striking and shoving linebacker Ruperake Fuavai on the sideline against Oregon one Saturday earlier, and he appears unlikely to coach another game at UW. Washington responding with its most impressive win of the season? Suspend that thought.

With its 35-30 win Saturday, Arizona State handed the Huskies a loss that, in a way, epitomized their season. Once again struggling to stop the run, Washington blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead and fell to 4-6 overall and 3-4 in the Pac-12.


It looked so promising in the first half, as UW scored touchdowns on its first two possessions to go ahead 14-0. The rest — much like this year as a whole — is something the team would like to forget.

“This is how college football can be,” Washington defensive back Trent McDuffie said. “We know what the standard is, and we haven’t lived up to it yet.”


This past week was the most tumultuous one the Huskies have experienced in years. Given Lake’s sideline scuffle, then the firing of offensive coordinator John Donovan, then Lake’s suspension and rumors of his imminent dismissal — it would be almost impossible for the players not to be affected by that. And yet, in the first quarter against ASU (7-3, 5-2) UW looked like a team that could knock off anyone in its conference.

With Dylan Morris as their starting quarterback, the Huskies made interim OC Junior Adams look like a genius, marching 60 yards on eight plays for their first score, then 67 yards on eight plays for their second score. Two defensive stops — including a goal-line stand — followed, and then … a curious substitution.

For much of the season, fans have speculated whether five-star freshman Sam Huard should replace the inconsistent Morris as UW’s starting quarterback. Morris did enter the game having thrown nine interceptions on the season, after all.

But Washington, which is still bowl eligible, was rolling with Morris before Huard took over behind center on Washington’s third possession. A three-and-out followed, and then UW’s offensive momentum disappeared.

This isn’t a criticism of Huard, who would trade off with Morris as Washington’s signal caller throughout the rest of the game. Interim coach Bob Gregory said that was the plan throughout the week.

But might you not ride Morris’ hot hand until he turns the ball over or the Sun Devils force a punt? In Gregory’s mind, that was never an option.


The offense, however, wasn’t the primary problem Saturday for the Huskies. They managed 30 points — the most against a Pac-12 opponent in regulation this season (they scored 31 in an overtime win against Cal).

No, what doomed them was the always-awful run defense mixed with missed opportunities on third and fourth down. Washington had this one — until suddenly it didn’t.

Down 24-14 at the start of the third quarter, ASU — which finished with 286 rushing yards on 57 carries — went 81 yards on 20 plays to cut the deficit to three. In that drive was a fourth-down conversion in which running back Rachaad White broke what should have been a tackle for a loss, along with an 18-yard completion on third and 16.

Washington, almost predictably, followed with a three-and-out when it got the ball back with 5:46 left in the game, then Arizona answered with an eight-play 56-yard touchdown drive that included another fourth-down conversion.

That wasn’t quite it for the Huskies, who trailed 28-24 with 1:11 to go. When Morris threw a pick-six to ASU’s Merlin Robertson four plays later, it was. Washington scored an essentially meaningless touchdown with three seconds left, but there was no coming back.

Saturday could have been a monumental lift for Washington, who have very beatable teams in Colorado and Washington State still on its schedule. A win could have temporarily wiped away the stress and sadness that comes with the likely loss of a head coach.

But once again, the game got away from these Huskies. Sad to say, it’s been the story of their season.