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ASU Football: A shut down passing game halts Sun Devils’ upset attempt

The passing game was sleeping in Seattle.

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been two weeks since the Sun Devils have played a game at Sun Devil Stadium. The last time they played in Tempe they were America’s sweetheart and the feel good story of college football, even climbing in the AP Top 25 poll.

Two weeks later, they’re a .500 team that hasn’t been able to play a complete game since a week one drubbing of UTSA. Very few things have remained the same in the last three games, except for a mid-game lull that has cost them many comeback attempts.

ASU began tonight’s game in the most perfect way possible. After deferring to the second half, Chase Lucas intercepted a pass from Huskies’ wide receiver Andre Baccellia on a trick play attempt.

The Sun Devils began their first drive of the night at the UW 20 and Eno Benjamin punched the ball in from one yard out. ASU had the quick 7-0 lead, but wouldn’t get the ball back in the end zone until only 2:54 remained on the game clock.

There wasn’t enough time to get the ball back, and ASU’s upset attempt fell seven points short. ASU was more than willing to give praise to their opponent on Saturday night, a team that’s difficult to beat under any circumstances.

“Those guys just made really good plays,” said Manny Wilkins. “The deep in-cut to Frank (Darby) that 5 (Myles Bryant) almost intercepted, that’s just a hell of a ball play. Those guys play really sound defensive football.”

Wilkins was a non-factor against the Huskies as he completed 13 of 21 passes for a paltry 75 yards. N’Keal Harry was held to 15 yards on only four catches, as the Washington secondary was flying around the field allowing next to nothing.

Wilkins didn’t perform well on Saturday by any means, but he didn’t turn the football over and kept the offense composed in a hostile environment.

The Sun Devils were able to move the ball on the ground, Benjamin had a nice bounce back performance carrying the football 23 times for 92 yards, and netting two catches in the passing game. Trelon Smith’s performance was mixed as well, he had eight carries for 45 yards, but lost a key fumble in Washington territory during the second half.

“I thought our run game kind of improved, it always helps you if you can run the ball on the road,” said head coach Herm Edwards. “There’s some building things we can take from this, but losing’s not a lot of fun for anyone.”

Despite the offense going lights out in the second and third quarter, Edwards felt that his time was still in a good spot. They were within striking distance as the final quarter arrived.

“We wanted to get it into the fourth quarter. We felt that if we could get it into the fourth quarter we could make a play or two to win it,” said Edwards. “You always feel like if you get it into the fourth quarter on the road there’s more pressure on the home team. We got it there, but couldn’t finish it off.”

Edwards applauded the effort of his young team on the road against a strong opponent, but he did say that none of that takes the frustration away from consecutive losses. Especially when the offense couldn’t get anything going throwing the football.

“There’s a reason these guys are ranked tenth in the country, it’s not by accident,” said Edwards. “When you play a team like that you’re going to be tightly covered.”

ASU now returns home to take on the lowly Oregon State Beavers next Saturday night. The warm weather might be a breeze of fresh air for the Sun Devils following back-to-back games in cool weather.

As for whether or not the team can find an offense that doesn’t shut down mid-game, a little home cooking might do the trick.

But for ASU to have a chance in a wide-open Pac-12 South, they must figure out how to win games on the road.