The Arizona State Sun Devils completed one of the biggest wins in program history Saturday, knocking off the No. 5 Washington Huskies 13-7 at Sun Devil Stadium. The win marked the first over a top-5 team since 1996. The defense turned in the best performance of the Todd Graham era, carrying the O to a major win.
While unspectacular, redshirt junior quarterback Manny Wilkins was effective, completing 29 of 41 passes for 245 yards. He found targets all over the field, keeping Washington’s offense off it and converted a couple first downs with his legs. In the most flattering way possible, Wilkins was the platonic ideal of a game manager against the Huskies, at it led to a Sun Devil win.
Running backs: C
The Sun Devils ran the ball just 17 times for 40 yards with senior backs Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard, but they came at important times. Ballage scored ASU’s lone touchdown and Richard picked up a key first down on the game’s final drive to ice the win. The duo has been hot and cold, but Saturday was definitely not their best effort.
Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends: B
Each outside target contributed a play of 20-plus yards, but the biggest receiving impact came in the short game. Sophomores N’Keal Harry and Kyle Williams both proved reliable for Wilkins again Saturday, catching nine and eight passes respectively. The only tight end reception of the day came on its most important play, as junior Ceejhay French-Love went 30 yards on fourth and 3 to put the game on ice. The biggest demerit goes to redshirt senior Ryan Jenkins, who dropped a pass in the end zone in the third quarter that could have busted the game open for ASU.
Offensive Line: B
The line lost the battle in the run game, but kept Wilkins clean in the passing game. Washington, who entered Saturday with 21 sacks, managed just two of Wilkins. The much-maligned unit was able to do just enough to stay on the field. While the run game couldn’t get much going, the Husky front line is the best ASU will play this season, so it’s to be expected that it wouldn’t be easy to move them.
Defensive Line: A
The Sun Devil front was able to keep Washington junior quarterback Jake Browning on the run and off his mark. The increased role for redshirt junior Renell Wren paid off with a shared sack and an additional tackle for a loss. Senior Tashon Smallwood and junior JoJo Wicker each contributed a shared sack of their own and helped stymie the Washington run game by neutralizing the offensive line and allowing linebackers to make plays.
Ideally, most tackles are being made by your linebacking corps, and that came to fruition for the Sun Devils. Seniors DJ Calhoun and J’Marcus Rhodes and junior Christian Sam had 11, 6 and 6 tackles respectively, leading the way. Redshirt senior A.J. Latu added a sack of his own, rattling Browning’s cage. The group managed to keep junior Myles Gaskin in check as well, keeping him to 67 yards on the ground.
This unit looked like a completely different group from the one we saw for most of the season. Sophomore Kobe Williams and redshirt freshman Chase Lucas put the clamps on Dante Pettis and company. Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett pointed to Das Tautalatasi as a major reason for the success of the unit against the Huskies.
Special Teams: B+
Aside from a 47-yard missed field goal by freshman Brandon Ruiz, the Sun Devils were very good. Redshirt sophomore Michael Sleep-Dalton kept the ball away from the dangerous Pettis for the most part and redshirt junior Ryan Newsome had a 16-yard punt return. The difference in the game, though, were two Ruiz makes from 52 and 25 yards respectively, giving ASU a cushion it would need at the end.