TEMPE, ARIZ. — Lost in the lamentation last week of the Washington Huskies’ 10th consecutive loss to the Oregon Ducks is another dubious streak of which many might be unaware.
It’s been even longer since the 20th-ranked Huskies have tasted victory against Arizona State, their opponent at 3 p.m. Saturday (Pac-12 Network).
The last time UW left a game against ASU with a win, the year was 2001, and Washington would claim lopsided victories over Oregon in each of the next two seasons.
So, yeah. It’s been a while.
Of course, the Sun Devils and Huskies have played only seven times since that 33-31 UW victory in Tempe, so the streak isn’t quite as pronounced.
ASU has won merely seven consecutive games over UW, a streak the Huskies must end Saturday if they hope to maintain the take-the-next-step pace they established with their 4-0 start.
Losses to Stanford and Oregon added at least a somewhat sour feeling to a season many Huskies
supporters hoped might end with a double-digit win total.
Beat ASU, and that goal remains manageable, if not entirely within UW’s grasp. The Huskies (4-2 overall, 1-2 Pac-12) return home next week for a game against lowly California, then follow a bye week by hosting just-as-lowly Colorado.
So it wouldn’t be presumptuous to look at that schedule and conclude that a win Saturday over ASU would likely mean a strong possibility of Washington entering its Nov. 15 game at No. 9 UCLA with a 7-2 record.
That’s supposed to be for fans to discuss, though. Washington coach Steve Sarkisian would not be pleased if he knew any of his players subscribed to that line of thinking.
“The focus needs to be on this ballgame because when you start looking ahead and looking down the road – which is OK to do so you can understand the path – that path isn’t presented to us if we don’t take care of our business on Saturday,” Sarkisian said. “We understand that there’s possibilities down the road, but the focus is on, and has been on, our preparation for Arizona State, and then ultimately how we play at 3 o’clock Saturday.”
The way Sarkisian sees it, the Huskies are beginning the “third quarter” of their season. He wants them to approach this portion with the same attitude they embrace coming out of the locker room at halftime – get the ball and go score a touchdown.
And wouldn’t you know it, that’s something UW has done in each of its six games this season, using its first possession of the third quarter as a bit of a springboard into a strong second half.
“I feel really good about it,” Sarkisian said. “I feel good about where we’re at. This is a resilient group who have had two hard-fought battles the last two weeks and has not wavered and have come back this week and practiced great.”
ASU might not be Oregon or Stanford, but the Sun Devils (4-2, 2-1) still have one of the Pac-12’s best offenses and are always tough at home. They’re one of three Pac-12 teams that average 43 or more points per game, and while their run defense isn’t exactly stout – they allow 168 yards per game – defensive linemen Will Sutton and Carl Bradford could make things difficult for UW running back Bishop Sankey.
“They’re a good D. They’ve been playing good this whole season,” Sankey said. “So we’ve got to prepare for them just like any other team and just like any other game; go out there and work on the things we need to work on and be as polished as we can.”
And try to polish off that losing streak while they’re at it.
No. 20 WASHINGTON (4-2 OVERALL, 1-2 Pac-12) AT ARIZONA STATE (4-2, 2-1)
3 p.m., Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.
TV: Pac-12 Network. Radio: 950-AM.
The series: Tied at 15. Arizona State won the previous meeting, 24-14, in Seattle in 2010, and has won seven consecutive games against the Huskies.
What to watch: Did you know the nation’s leading touchdown scorer plays for Arizona State? Did you know his name is Marion Grice? It’s the truth. Grice’s name doesn’t come up in many “Who’s the Pac-12’s best running back?” conversations, but maybe it should. He leads the Sun Devils with 395 yards rushing on 90 carries, and provides a dynamic weapon out of the backfield for QB Taylor Kelly to either hand off or throw to. Washington’s ability to keep an eye on him could dictate whether UW can hold ASU below its 44-points-a-game average.
The pick: Arizona State, 35-34.
No. Name, Pos., Ht., Wt., Year
1 Sean Parker, S, 5-10, 195, Sr.
Parker leads the team with three interceptions, and part of the reason the Huskies spent last week chasing Oregon all game was due to their losing the turnover battle.
25 Bishop Sankey, RB, 5-10, 203, Jr.
You may have heard this Sankey fellow is on pace to set some pretty impressive rushing records at UW. Against an ASU run defense that has been less than stellar this year, he has a chance to crack 1,000 yards in just his seventh game of the season.
75 Erik Kohler, OL, 6-4, 294, Jr.
Kohler filled in for injured left guard Dexter Charles last week against Oregon, and it appears he’ll be the starter this week with Charles still battling injury.
88 Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, 6-6, 276, Jr.
Coach Steve Sarkisian has insisted he’s not concerned that Seferian-Jenkins has caught just 16 passes. The big tight end has shown he can be a major factor in the passing game. Will he get more targets?
No. Name, Pos., Ht., Wt., Year
5 Chris Young, OLB, 6-0, 240, Sr.
Auburn High alum was committed to UW before enrolling at a junior college. Now one of the Sun Devils’ better defenders.
10 Taylor Kelly, QB, 6-2, 201, Jr.
Big and difficult to tackle, so he’s a viable weapon in the spread rushing attack. But he throws for 327.5 yards a game, so his arm is of bigger concern.
21 Jaelen Strong, WR, 6-4, 205, So.
Leads team with 42 catches for 678 yards and four touchdowns.
90 Will Sutton, DT, 6-1, 305, Sr.
Reigning Pac-12 defensive player of the year chose to come back for his senior season, and is quite a disruptive force in the middle of ASU’s defensive line.