UW's defense ranks fourth nationally in scoring, but what's up with the third-down defense? That and more of Adam Jude's takeaways from the Huskies' win over ASU.
The good, the bad and the lingering questions from No. 10 Washington’s 27-20 victory over Arizona State late Saturday at Husky Stadium:
It was a creative game plan from Arizona State’s offense. By going away from their strength, the Sun Devils tried to stay away from the strength of the UW defense — its secondary. But here’s the end result: five catches and a mere 20 yards for ASU receiver N’Keal Harry. He might be the most talented player in the Pac-12, but Saturday night he was a nonfactor (outside that impressive 42-yard fourth-quarter punt return from his own 3-yard line). Arizona State’s stubbornness to run the ball kept the game close — the Sun Devils ran it 40 times for 164 yards (4.1 yards per carry) — but the UW defense never allowed ASU to get any real momentum, holding the Sun Devils to 268 yards on 67 plays. The Huskies have allowed one touchdown pass in four games and rank fourth nationally in scoring defense (12.8 points per, tied with Alabama).
Eight different receivers caught a pass for the Huskies. Aaron Fuller had a nice touchdown grab on a Jake Browning play-action pass. Ty Jones made another highlight catch while falling backward for a touchdown. Redshirt freshman tight end Cade Otton (three catches, 40 yards) continues to take on a greater role in the offense, and he did well to find an open pocket in the back of the end zone on UW’s final touchdown. And what a catch of redemption for Andre Baccellia to keep his foot in bounds in the final minutes to allow the Huskies to ice the clock. Browning’s three touchdown passes give him 85 in his career, moving him into a tie with Arizona State’s Rudy Carpenter and Andrew Walter for No. 8 on the all-time Pac-12 list. Already the UW record-holder for touchdown passes, Browning on Saturday broke Cody Pickett’s school record for total offense — now with 10,170.
Nick Harris’ swag
Can’t you picture Nick Harris as the kid at the high-school dance who, in the middle of a quiet night, jumps into the middle of an empty gym floor and rocks the place awake? Anyway, the Huskies were happy to have their junior center back tap-dancing on the Husky Stadium turf. Slowed by an apparent knee injury, Harris started for the first time on his home field this season and the offensive line had its best performance of the season. Browning was sacked only once and the Huskies averaged 6.0 yards per play on offense. Turns out, when the Huskies play an average defense, they have an above-average offense.
Hey, there’s Ahmed!
Where’s Ahmed? Oh, he’s here. Sophomore Salvon Ahmed matched his career high in carries, with 10, and finished with 71 yards rushing Saturday night. (He also had one catch for 2 yards.) He came into the game with 14 combined carries in the Huskies’ first three games, and UW coaches had talked about getting him more involved. Senior Myles Gaskin, by the way, finished with 86 yards rushing on 21 carries against ASU.
The third-down defense
Arizona State converted half of its third-down plays Saturday night, and on the season the UW defense is allowing opponents to convert on 41 percent of their third-down plays. That puts Washington 92nd nationally in third-down defense. No bueno. Worse yet, if you count only the three games against FBS teams (taking away North Dakota’s 3-for-18 showing on third downs), opposing offenses are converting on 49 percent of third downs. That puts the Huskies in a class with Oregon State’s defense in that category. Yikes.
That first-play trick
Uff da. These days, Chris Petersen doesn’t call as many trick plays as many might believe. That, in theory, should make those special plays all the more special when they are called. The first play from scrimmage Saturday night was … well, what the heck was that? Baccellia threw a double pass into double coverage, leading to an easy interception for Arizona State and setting up a short field for the Sun Devils’ first touchdown.
Is, um, BBK secretly Superman?
Ben Burr-Kirven, the Huskies’ “hyphenated and hyperkinetic senior linebacker,” as the venerable Larry Stone so elegantly noted, had 20 tackles against Arizona State. That’s the most by a Washington player since John Fiala had 22 on Sept. 7, 1996 — against Arizona State in Tempe. BBK looks like a lock for his second consecutive Pac-12 player of the week award. Through four games, he has 53 tackles — 11 more than anyone else in the conference and 30 more than anyone else on his team (Myles Bryant is second with 23).
Just how good is Brigham Young?
BYU knocked off one top-10 team on the road already this season. The Cougars will get a chance to do it again Saturday at Husky Stadium (5:30 p.m., Fox). BYU is 3-1 after a rout of McNeese State. The Cougars’ lone loss was to Cal, 21-18, in Week 2.