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ASU Football: Sun Devils’ field goal unit, aggressive play call halts upset aspirations

Arizona State’s costly 89-yard pick six was a result of poor field goal execution on Saturday.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 21 Arizona State at Washington Photo by Jesse Beals/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

SEATTLE, Wa — Head coach Kenny Dillingham said he copuld have a bingo card for how Arizona State would lose its six games this season. It seems to be different aspects of the game each week that are failing. Against the fifth-ranked team in Seattle on Saturday night, Dillingham checked another box off the bingo card in what has been a turbulent Sun Devil season.

Following a 47-yard field goal from Washington to cut the Sun Devil lead to one early in the fourth quarter, Saturday night’s Sun Devil meltdown was another instance in which questionable decision making haunted Arizona State.

What began as a promising drive into Husky territory, ended in a ghastly turn of events on a controversial decision to throw on a fourth and 3 from the Washington 12-yard line. The pass was intercepted and returned 89 yards for a UW touchdown and the lead for the first time all night. Husky momentum ensued, and the Sun Devil confidence, which the team had showcased greatly up until then, crumbled. Arizona State lost the game 15-7 to put them at 1-6 on the year, and officially in the cellar of the Pac-12 after their fourth conference loss in as many games.

Arizona State v Washington
In the fourth quarter, a controversial decision to pass the ball on fourth and 3 costed the Sun Devils after the field goal unit struggled.
Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

In the initial fourth down formation, junior running back Cam Skattebo lined up to receive the snap in the wildcat formation. Washington, with their defense in dismay, wisely called a timeout to check into a better defensive look. It was during this timeout that head coach Kenny Dillingham and offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin decided to put the offense back on the field, instead of attempting a 29-yard field goal.

The decision to go for it on fourth down had more to do with the personnel available for ASU, as the Sun Devils have been notoriously thin on both sides of the line all season.

“We were down two linemen, and we went in saying “if we lost two more linemen, we can’t kick field goals,” said Dillingham.

Earlier in the first quarter, ASU attempted a 31-yard field goal for the first points in the ballgame. Graduate student placekicker Dario Longhetto pushed the ball to the right, clanking off the upright to keep the game scoreless. This was one of the many missed opportunities for Arizona State on Saturday night.

Arizona State v Washington
The Arizona State field goal unit of 0-2 in Seattle on Saturday night, forcing Dillingham to get aggressive with his play call in enemy territory.
Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

In fact, ASU drove inside the 35-yard line on four separate occasions against the fifth-ranked team and couldn’t put a single point on the board to show.

Later in the third quarter, with a 7-3 lead, the Sun Devil field goal unit missed again. This time a breakdown on the right side of the line led to a Husky hand deflecting the kick as the ball tumbled short of the cross bar.

The desperation to button up the field goal unit has reached an all time high for Dillingham.

“We’ve got to clean up and get more consistent on field goal,” said Dillingham. “I don’t know if there’s big bodies at ASU who just go there that want to play field goal for us, if you weigh 330-pound, and I mean it, like reach out to our team, 320-pound, reach out to our team because we need big bodies to put in there on field goal and we’re down a lot of them.”

When it came down to the fourth and 3 decision in the fourth quarter, after a missed and blocked field goal earlier, Dillingham felt confident in his decision after the timeout saying there was no doubt about going for it.

When looking at the play call, Dillingham said the snap count was too late forcing the motion man, graduate student wide receiver Melquan Stovall, to be too wide. By the time the ball was snapped, the Washington safety coming down to cover had already been outside the intended wide receiver pick, giving the Husky safety the ability to undercut the route.

“Right now, we’re trying different ways to lose football games,” Dillingham said. “We’re playing good enough football to win, we’re just finding different ways to lose. That was another way to lose and it’s really unfortunate.”