On a night the offense, already last in the Pac-12, was forced into a new starting backfield tandem of QB Troy Williams and RB Deontae Cooper, Washington had to fight blustery conditions at Husky Stadium Saturday night and a stout Arizona State defense. Bad matchup: The Huskies lost 24-10 to the 14th-ranked Sun Devils, who extended their winning streak over UW to nine.
ASU QB Taylor Kelly provided the game-winning score with three minutes left, completing a seven-yard pass while being tackled, to Gary Chambers for a 17-10 lead.
On the Huskies’ penultimate possession, Williams was sacked for a five-yard loss after a holding penalty on C Colin Tanigawa nullified a gain. Facing fourth and 25, ASU’s Armand Perry intercepted Williams and returned it 61 yards for a touchdown.
That the Sun Devils required such heroics to win was surprising, given the first 40 minutes of action.
ASU appeared in control of a wind-shredded game, leading 10-0 late in the third quarter. But LB John Timu intercepted Kelly and returned it 63 yards for a touchdown. It marked UW’s sixth defensive score of the season, beating the 2002 team’s school record that dates to at least 1951.
From there, neither team could muster much until the Huskies midway through the fourth quarter manufactured a surprising 15-play, 80-yard drive, ending with Cameron Van Winkle’s 23-yard field goal to tie at 10.
With incumbent QB Cyler Miles, recovering from a concussion, watching from the sideline, Williams, a redshirt freshman making his first start, went 18 of 26 for 139 yards, with two interceptions and a fumble. UW coach Chris Petersen said Miles will return to the starting lineup for next week’s game against Colorado.
Williams wasn’t willing to make excuses for playing poorly.
“Weather is going to be weather. You got to play in it regardless,” he said. “You have to perform no matter what the circumstances are and that didn’t really happen.”
Petersen admitted the Huskies avoided throwing the ball downfield because of the weather.
“We didn’t fell the ball would stay on course very well at all,” he said. “So we threw some shorter passes.”
And committed to the running game.
Cooper started but almost immediately gave way to converted LB Shaq Thompson, who was UW’s only real source of offense on a night they were without injured running backs Lavon Coleman and Dwayne Washington. He rushed 21 times for 98 yards while Cooper managed 70 on 11 carries. The Huskies finished with 290 total yards.
Swirling wind and rain slowed both offenses in the first half, but the Sun Devils struck first when Kelly, in his first game back from a Sept. 13 foot injury, completed a 16-yard touchdown pass to Jaelen Strong with 4:58 left in the second quarter. ASU added a 33-yard field goal before the end of the half to make it 10-0.
“I think the wind really surprised us,” Petersen said. “We started hearing the reports coming in last night. We’re used to playing in the rain, we can handle that, but ASU played better in the weather tonight than we did.”
The UW defense gave the Huskies a chance to win. They finished with a season-high seven sacks. Senior LB Hau’oli Kikaha recorded two sacks, upping his career total to 31.5, to surpass Daniel Te’o-Nesheim (2006-09) as the the school’s all-time leader. Kikaha’s 14.5 sacks in 2014 tied Jason Chorak’s (1996) single-season mark.
The Huskies dropped to 5-3 (1-3 Pac-12) with five games left, while ASU improved to 6-1 (4-1 Pac-12). Because they play 13 regular-season games, barring an unlikely run to the Pac-12 Championship, the Huskies need seven wins to qualify for bowl eligibility.
First: UW needs to score more.
“We just have to get better and more efficient on offense,” Petersen said. “That’s the urgency around here.”