Party like it’s 1996.
In a Pac-12 after dark blackout, the night grew dark, then ominous, then pitch black for No. 5 Washington (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12), as Arizona State (3-3, 2-1 Pac-12) shocked the Huskies, handing the Washington its first loss of the season, winning 13-7.
The Sun Devils had been 0-10 against top-5 teams since beating No. 1 Nebraska in 1996, that changed Saturday.
On a 4th-and-3 from the Washington 37-yard line and around two minutes left, ASU head coach Todd Graham put his full trust in quarterback Manny Wilkins who mustered a 30-yard pass over two Washington defenders crashing together and into the hands of tight end Ceejhay French-Love.
“We wanted to seal the game. We wanted to put the game away,” Wilkins said. “We wanted to make sure we had the best play possible for us to be able to win the game... Coach Napier (offensive coordinator) made a hell of a call.”
Wilkins then kneeled three times and the madness began. The blackout in the stands turned to the field, as the Sun Devils partied their way to the locker room.
“It may come across the wrong way, but we were not surprised,” Graham said. “I think you saw character, smart, discipline, tough tonight... I got to see [ASU president] Dr. [Michael] Crow before the game. He doesn’t usually walk on the field. He walked on the field. I said ‘hey, we’re bringing you that winning game ball when we’re done.’”
Arizona State’s dominance was characterized by sacks, long time-ticking drives and ultimately limiting Washington offensively. In the first half, the Huskies had just two first downs. Overall, Washington converted just three of 14 attempts on third down, was held to just 230 yards of offense and Jake Browning was sacked five times, as he threw for a season-low 139 yards.
Before playing in Saturday’s matchup, Washington averaged 43 points per game. The Sun Devils held UW 36 points below that number.
“The defensive staff did a tremendous job of wanting to come in... bring three, bring four, mix it up,” Graham said. “That’s what our guys were recruited to do. I thought it was a great job by everybody on that standpoint.”
Taking just over eight minutes to do so, the Sun Devils ran 16 plays to score the first seven points of the game on their first drive, but of course, with a gutsy play call. On 4th-and-1 from the UW 5-yard line, in what appeared to be a running play, Wilkins instead rifled the ball to N’Keal Harry who converted in the clutch. Kalen Ballage then scored a rushing touchdown, giving ASU a 7-0 lead with just under five and a half minutes left in the first quarter.
The Sun Devils and Huskies then exchanged scoreless drives on their next two possessions, but then the blackout, turned ominous for the Huskies.
Alani Latu and Renell Wren combined for a 16-yard sack on Browning who fumbled the ball, but it was recovered by UW offensive lineman Kaleb McGary. Moments later, Joel Whitford’s punt was blocked by Curtis Hodges, setting ASU up at the Washington 34-yard line.
The sack was the first of five for the Sun Devils. Browning had only been sacked five times throughout the season prior to Saturday night.
“He was shook,” defensive linemen JoJo Wicker said of Browning. “He was far back. He drops back like 10 yards. Then you’ve got to take a good angle on him. They (the secondary) were sticking them so good, so he had nobody open.”
Brandon Ruiz then connected on a 52-yard field goal, putting ASU ahead 10-0 at the start of the second quarter.
Washington took another crack at it, but fell deeply short. On his own 19-yard line Browning was sacked for a 9-yard loss by Tashon Smallwood and Latu, which powered another ASU score.
The Sun Devils’ defense held Washington to just a single first down at the time and had sacked Browning twice.
On a six-minute, 13-play drive, the Sun Devils stormed down to the Washington 7-yard line on a highlight 36-yard pass from Wilkins to Jalen Harvey. After an inability to convert, ASU settled for a 25-yard field goal, making Ruiz 2-for-2 on the night, as ASU took a 13-0 lead with 5:44 left in the half.
For just the second time all game, the Sun Devils and Huskies exchanged scoreless drives to end the half.
The Sun Devils were handed just their second 3-and-out of the night to start the second half, setting the Huskies up at their own 39-yard for what was the beginning of an incredibly threatening drive.
In what appeared a 51-yard touchdown on a bullet-like reverse run by Salvon Ahmed, was then called back because of a Washington holding call. Nine plays later, the Huskies smelled points again, but imploded. Washington kicker Van Soderberg missed his first of two field goals on the night from just 27 yards out with 8:10 remaining in the third quarter.
The missed field goal then sparked three scoreless drives that ended in yet another Husky missed field goal.
After Michael Sleep-Dalton punted from inside the ASU end zone. Dante Pettis returned it 10 yards to the Sun Devil 41-yard line.
Browning then combined two passes to Pettis for 25 yards, which led Washington to the ASU 12-yard line. But ASU put a halt to the Huskies’ progression, stopping Myles Gaskin twice before the goal line and forcing a field goal.
But then, it got ugly.
Van Soderberg’s 21-yard field goal kick darted off the right field goal post, as Arizona State sustained its 13-point shutout lead with 50 seconds left in the third quarter.
While consecutive missed field goals were certainly ASU’s luck, the Sun Devils still held Washington to just one touchdown on three trips to the red zone.
“Those were huge stops to get to fourth down, so that was really big,” Graham said. “You know Browning is a really good quarterback. We effected him tonight... It was a team effort, but the defense. That was the best performance since I’ve been here.”
The Sun Devils’ next drive bled into fourth quarter, but turned to a 3-and-out that ended in an illegal formation. Sleep-Dalton punted 43 yards, but J’Marcus Rhodes was called with the formation penalty, sending the Sun Devils back five yards to the ASU 20-yard line.
Pettis, who entered the contest leading the nation averaging 31.8 yards per punt return, fumbled Sleep-Dalton’s next punt, but gathered it, and returned it for no yardage. Pettis ended the game with three returns for just seven yards.
“We kept the ball away from number eight (Pettis). I mean there was one time when I was like woah. We’re kicking a line drive right to him and I think he was shocked too that he didn’t get a big return,” Graham said. “I thought our special team played really well.”
On the other hand, Washington was held to a three-and-out, setting up a punt to Ryan Newsome, who returned it 16 yards to the ASU 42-yard line.
With decent field position, the Sun Devils ate up three minutes of clock on seven plays, and settled for a field goal. Ruiz, who was perfect from 52, then 25, then missed from 47 yards out, which gave Washington the ball at their own 29-yard line with nine minutes left in the game.
Finally, the Huskies broke their scoring drought.
Browning led the offense 51 yards down the field to the ASU 20-yard line where late game gutsy play calling took center stage. With the game on the line on 4th-and-9, Browning fired a bullet between defenders near the middle of the field into the hands of Quinten Pounds for 12 yards to gain the first down.
Two plays later, Browning took it himself, running for 10 yards to the ASU 1-yard line. On a Browning QB sneak, the Huskies finally lit the scoreboard. Washington trailed just 13-7 with about five minutes and 30 seconds to go.
With momentum against Arizona State’s favor, the Sun Devils took it from their own 25-yard line. Arizona State hadn’t scored since 10 minutes into the second quarter and faced a desperate need to either gain insurance points or waste clock.
Wilkins then orchestrated three straight complete passes, followed by two Demario Richard hand offs that put ASU at the Washington 43-yard line with about two and a half minutes left to play.
Following an ASU timeout on 2nd-and-9, Wilkins used a signature leap over a Washington defender for six yards, but fell short of first down. Then, he missed Harry on an incomplete pass, setting up fourth down.
On a crucial 4th-and-3 from the Washington 37-yard line with just over two minutes to play, the Sun Devils went for it.
Graham described it as an “evil spirit” in his headset telling him to punt, but he didn’t listen it.
Wilkins launched a 30-yard pass to Ceejhay French-Love who caught his only pass of the game to send ASU at the Huskies’ 7-yard line to ensure the win.
Wilkins then took three consecutive knees, ending the night in a historic 13-7 victory.