After leading by 17 points in the first half, Huskies fall apart in the fourth quarter as the Sun Devils rally for a 27-17 victory on Saturday to drop Washington to 4-6 overall. UW has games at Oregon State and at home against Washington State remaining.
TEMPE, Ariz. — The collapse complete, Chris Petersen was walking off the field when he made a sudden stop near the 30-yard line. He turned and looked back, quickly finding his intended target, Jake Browning.
Together, the coach and the quarterback then made the 250-yard walk back to Washington’s visitors’ locker room behind Sun Devil Stadium. They did so mostly in silence, the clicketyclack of cleats on concrete serving as the soundtrack to a somber defeat.
Perhaps some day, Petersen and Browning will look back at the 27-17 defeat Saturday against Arizona State as something of a pivot point, an important lesson that brought out the emotion and resolve that a young team needed to propel them onto something better, grander.
Big blown lead
2012 The last time the Huskies blew a lead of 17-plus points. UW led WSU, 28-10, entering the fourth quarter of that year’s Apple Cup before falling in overtime, 31-28. The Huskies were up 17-0 in the first half Saturday.
For now, it lingers as just another wasted opportunity in a season defined by them.
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Lingering, too, is the Huskies’ bizarre history in Arizona, this desert debacle becoming as inexplicable as any other in recent memory.
The Huskies (4-6, 2-5 Pac-12) did just about everything they wanted in the first half. UW’s defense was as dominant as it has been all season, forcing Arizona State to punt on its first six possessions. UW’s offense was efficient and explosive, building a 17-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
Then the fourth quarter arrived and, well, nothing worked.
“It was just right there,” UW defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said. “For three quarters, we were great. Fourth quarter, all of a sudden the wheels come off.”
The Huskies’ rushing attack, so potent with freshman Myles Gaskin in the first half — he had 100 yards on his first 10 carries — dried up in the second half, allowing ASU to ratcheted up the heat on Browning, UW’s freshman quarterback.
Washington’s plan was to attack the Sun Devils’ overaggressive defense through the air, and Browning attempted a career-high 52 passes for 405 yards, becoming just the third quarterback in Husky history to surpass 400 yards passing in a game. But he threw three interceptions in the final 6:09, ASU outscored the Huskies 17-0 in the fourth quarter, and that was that.
“They handed us opportunities, and I’ve got to capitalize on those,” Browning said. “I missed on a lot of stuff I don’t usually miss on. That was probably the most frustrating part. …
“I felt I had a good game leading up (to the fourth quarter), and game’s on the line, and throw three picks. I don’t know. Have to keep working hard at it.”
The Huskies’ final four possessions ended like this: interception, interception, fumble, interception. UW does have the youngest offense in the Pac-12, and that raw inexperience showed up again late.
“We did nothing,” Petersen said. “It’s frustrating because you feel like everything has to be just perfect for us to move the ball; to sustain things, all the boxes have to be checked. We’re not there enough to create some things (if) it’s not all perfectly lined up.”
What’s perplexing is that the Huskies actually ran 86 plays and had 547 yards of total offense — both season highs — but they couldn’t finish in the red zone and they couldn’t finish in the fourth quarter.
The Huskies led 17-3 at halftime, but “without question” that margin should have been more, offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said. Overthrows and dropped passes prevented them from really putting the game out of reach early, and that came back to haunt them.
The defeat was UW’s 10th in a row to Arizona State (5-5, 3-4) dating back to 2001. The Huskies have won only two of their past 14 games in the state of Arizona, including nine defeats in a row since 2006 (when they won in Tucson).
The loss also means the UW’s postseason hopes come down to this: Beat Oregon State on the road next week and Washington State at home the day after Thanksgiving, or the Huskies won’t be going to a bowl game.
The defeat, Browning said, will linger, sure.
“That,” he said, “was a game we definitely could have won very easily if we — if I capitalize on a couple more opportunities.”
Surely, they’ll have more opportunities to finish. To that end, Petersen had sought out Browning immediately after the game to deliver one message. It pertained to Browning’s final throw, resulting in his third interception with nine seconds left, when the outcome already was decided.
“Just throw it away,” the coach said, paraphrasing his quiet critique to his quarterback. “We’ll live to fight another down.”
Maybe another day down the road, and maybe because of this, the Huskies will have figured out how to fight for a better finish. For now, they’re still searching.
|Devil of a time|
|The Huskies have lost their past 10 meetings with Arizona State.|
|Overall: Arizona State leads the series 18-15.|