SEATTLE — Sky-high in September, Washington football has come crashing back to earth.
Now the Huskies have to figure out how to get moving on the ground again.
Star running back Bishop Sankey averaged just 1.7 yards on his 13 carries in Arizona State’s 53-24 humble-pie smashing of the Huskies on Saturday in Tempe, Ariz. Add in seven sacks by the Arizona State defense, and UW finished with a net of minus-5 yards rushing, the fifth-worst performance in program history. UW had come in averaging 248 yards on the ground. The Sun Devils, meanwhile, piled up 317 yards rushing against the Huskies, the second-most productive day they’ve had running the ball since 1997.
The result was a third straight loss that bumped the Huskies out of national polls on Sunday and left them 1-3 in Pac-12 Conference play entering Saturday’s home game against California (1-6, 0-4). Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. for a Fox Sports 1 television broadcast. UW coach Steve Sarkisian was asked what was most disconcerting about this latest, most lopsided loss.
“The line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, quite honestly,” he said. “Our inability to block them up front, whether it be in the run game or the pass game, and then their ability to block us, to run the football, then to give their quarterback a lot of time to throw it down the field.”
Keith Price was an easy target for ASU’s relentless pass rush. And he was an easy target for fan angst after he finished 16 of 39 for 217 yards and two touchdowns. He was off-target much of the night, but he didn’t blame a right thumb injury that forced him to leave the game early in the fourth quarter. Redshirt freshman quarterback Cyler Miles finished the game for UW. Say what you will about Price’s performance, but there was plenty of blame to go around.
The Huskies’ offense had 10 three-and-outs against the Sun Devils; they had nine total in the first six games. That left the UW defense on the field for almost 39 minutes while it defended 93 plays, the most the program has defended in a game since 1985.
Sarkisian acknowledged the cumulative effects of playing Stanford and Oregon, the Pac-12’s top two teams, in back-to-back weeks might have worn down his team.
“We didn’t appear as fast. We didn’t appear as physical,” he said. “We appeared as a team who got a little bit lethargic. Maybe we’re a little emotionally drained, but I don’t know. That’s an excuse and there are none. We don’t have time for excuses. We have to fix it.”
ASU’s Will Sutton, the reigning Pac-12 defensive MVP, had three of the Sun Devils’ 12 tackles for loss against a UW offensive line playing without regular starting left guard Dexter Charles.
“I don’t want to say that’s the reason (for the loss), but you could definitely feel the effects,” Price said of Charles’ absence.
Price said he would rehab his thumb even more this week and planned to start against Cal.
“I’ll be ready to go,” he said.
Of the many issues that surfaced for UW, the lack of a ground game was perhaps the most startling.
This much became clear: If the Huskies aren’t running, and running well, they won’t get very far.