SEATTLE — Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger.
Overmatched in every sense of the word, the Arizona State Sun Devils were ran around, between, and over on Saturday by a Washington Huskies team that still has its sights set on a Pac-12 title and College Football Playoff berth.
The team may have come into Husky Stadium with plenty of hope and aspirations of playing spoiler, but the truth quickly became clear - they never had a chance. The final score was 44-18, but in actuality it didn’t even seem that close.
“They’ve got a heck of a football team,” said head coach Todd Graham after Arizona State’s fifth straight loss. “The defense was very dominating and for three quarters we weren’t able to do a whole lot.”
While the Sun Devils (5-6, 2-6 Pac-12) were dominated for 45 minutes on the offensive side of the ball, some key defensive plays kept the team in this one early.
Looking sharp out of the gate, Arizona State forced a punt on Washington’s (10-1, 7-1) first possession of the night, then held the Huskies to just a field goal after returner Tim White fumbled a punt deep inside his own territory.
The successes continued after that as both of the team’s next two drives ended in interceptions on tipped passes from quarterback Jake Browning. The second of those picks, however, would end up turning the game on its heels, and not in a good way for the Sun Devils.
Just as Koron Crump was about to cross the goal line for a 59-yard interception return for a touchdown, cornerback Maurice Chandler ran into the back of Browning near the five-yard line. The hit was enough to draw a flag from the official, negating the touchdown and the Maroon and Gold’s chance to take an immediate lead.
Terrible block in the back call on the Crump return for touchdown, game changer pic.twitter.com/9Jlr7bAhiL— FOOTBALL365 (@theF00TBALLguy) November 20, 2016
Sure enough, that lead would never come.
Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins threw an interception of his own three plays later, falling victim to an unbelievable one-handed grab in the corner of the end zone by defensive back Kevin King.
“I thought that was huge because (without the penalty) we take the lead right there,” Graham said when asked about the play. “That was big to take seven off the board. It was a very, very costly penalty.”
The penalty - and King’s ensuing interception - seemed to break the backs of the Sun Devils.
No less than two plays later did the home team extend their lead, the touchdown coming on a bubble screen pass to Chico McClatcher that ended up being sprung for 75 yards. That play made the score 10-0, and the advantage would ultimately be lengthened to 24 by the end of the half.
“Obviously we didn’t get any points on the board early on,” said Wilkins. “We have to do a better job of putting points on the board when turnovers happen. That all falls on me.”
The Huskies came out of the locker rooms and promptly marched 70 yards down the field before their drive stalled. The effort was still enough to get a 22-yard field goal off the foot of Cameron Van Winkle, extending their lead to four possessions and putting what felt like a dagger in the side of Graham’s team.
Arizona State would eventually get on the scoreboard with just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter, using a field goal of their own to make the score 30-3.
The final 15 minutes were actually the most eventful from a scoring standpoint, but the Maroon and Gold were never able to stack two touchdowns on top of each other to make a serious attempt at a comeback.
An 18-yard Hail Mary of a throw on fourth down from Wilkins ended up finding the arms of tight end Jay Jay Wilson to cut the deficit to 30-11, but Washington got those points right back 53 seconds later on a 45-yard touchdown run by Myles Gaskin.
The final scores of the night ended up coming on back-to-back plays, the first of which came via another touchdown pass from Wilkins to Wilson. Down just 19 points again after that strike, Graham called for an onside kick to attempt to get the ball back.
That kick would be taken 45 yards to the house, making the score 44-18 and ending any hopes of a miracle comeback in the process.
The Sun Devils are now losers of five consecutive games, meaning a win on Friday in Tucson against rival Arizona is needed for them to become bowl eligible. According to Graham, the rivalry game is more critical to the players.
“Shoot, it’s the Territorial Cup,” said the frustrated coach. “It is the most important game of the year, every year.”
Awaiting Arizona State in the Old Pueblo will be a Wildcats team which has yet to win a Pac-12 game this season.
After watching the Sun Devils get outclassed on Saturday in Seattle, an opponent like that might be more of their speed anyway.