TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State’s run defense was supposed to be weak, unable to stop much of anyone, much less the nation’s leading rusher.
The Sun Devils took it as a challenge and, boy, were they up to it.
Clogging lanes and jumping into the
backfield on seemingly every play, ASU swarmed Washington’s
Bishop Sankey while dominating both sides of the ball in a 53-24 victory
over the 20th-ranked Huskies on Saturday afternoon.
“We were flying around,” ASU
defensive end Gannon Conway said. “We had a good night, did what we were
coached to do.”
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
The big knock on ASU’s defense
under coach Todd Graham was that it couldn’t stop the run. The Sun
Devils had trouble with it for most of the 2012 season and had similar
issues in losses this season to power-running programs Stanford and
Facing Sankey was supposed to be their
most daunting task yet. The junior came in leading the nation at nearly
150 yards per game and appears to be well on his way to shattering
nearly all of Washington’s single-season rushing records.
The Sun Devils (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) flipped
the tables on Sankey with a dominating defensive performance, holding
him to 22 yards on 13 carries.
And they didn’t stop with him.
ASU held Washington to
minus-5 yards on 25 carries — matching the second-fewest ASU has
allowed since 1996 — and limited the nation’s eighth-best offense to
212 total yards.
The Sun Devils also knocked around
Huskies quarterback Keith Price all game and finished with seven sacks
against a team that had allowed 12 in its first six games combined.
“That was embarrassing,” Washington
coach Steve Sarkisian said after the Huskies’ eighth straight loss to
ASU. “We weren’t good enough; we weren’t well enough coached;
we didn’t perform well enough; and we weren’t physical enough, nearly
physical enough, against a good football team.”
ASU’s offense was just as overwhelming.
The Huskies (4-3, 1-3) were worried
about Taylor Kelly’s legs as much as his arm and ASU’s
quarterback still hurt them with both. He threw for 268 yards and two
touchdowns and ran for 84 yards and two more scores.
Marion Grice did what he does best,
scoring three touchdowns — that’s 18 already this season — while
running for 161 yards on 22 carries. The nation’s leading scorer had two
touchdown runs in the fourth quarter and had a spectacular TD catch
that triggered ASU’s 26-point second quarter.
Zane Gonzalez kicked four field goals,
extending his streak to 11 straight, and ASU racked up 585
yards while scoring its most points ever against the Huskies.
“Man, what an impressive performance;
it might be the most impressive performance that we’ve had as a team
since I’ve been here,” Graham said. “We’ve got a heck of a football team
and I love watching them. Man, it’s exciting to watch.”
Not for the Huskies.
They appeared to be in good shape at
the start, moving 60 yards in 11 plays for a 1-yard touchdown run by
Sankey on its opening possession.
It was almost all ASU after that.
After settling for Gonzalez’s first
field goal in the first quarter, Grice opened the second with a
highlight-reel touchdown, pulling down a one-handed, 15-yard pass while
falling along the sideline. Gonzalez followed with two more field goals,
Kelly scored on a 1-yard dive and the Sun Devils put together a
quick-hitting drive in the final minute of the first half, capped by a
14-yard touchdown pass to Chris Coyle that put them up 29-7.
Good as ASU’s offense was, its D was even better.
The Sun Devils clogged up all running
lanes against Sankey, meeting him with multiple tacklers often before he
even reached the line of scrimmage. He had 11 yards on nine carries at
Price didn’t do much to offset the
Huskies’ ground struggles, getting several passes swatted down early and
repeatedly overthrowing receivers while facing constant pressure.
Washington had 74 total yards on 36
plays and went three-and-out six times in the first half after doing it
nine times in the first six games combined.
“We obviously had a great first
drive,'” Sarkisian said. “I felt we could’ve moved the ball better than
we did today, that’s for sure.”
The Huskies finally showed some life to
start the second half with Kevin Smith catching a pass from Price over
the middle and turning it into a 70-yard touchdown.
Turned out to be just a blip in the Sun Devils’ runaway.
ASU answered with an 11-play,
77-yard scoring drive, capped by a spinning 1-yard touchdown run by
Kelly. Grice followed with a 1-yard scoring run and another from 14
yards out to give ASU a 53-24 lead.
“We beat a really good football team,” Graham said. “We dominated a really good football team tonight.”