There are bigger problems at hand for Washington than a game that was played more than a year ago, but some Huskies still admit they haven’t completely forgotten about their last meeting with Arizona State.
The final score that day was ASU 53, Washington 24 on a sunny October afternoon in Tempe, the third consecutive loss for a Huskies team that began last year with Pac-12 North title aspirations.
They hope Saturday’s game against No. 14 Arizona State at Husky Stadium bears no resemblance to what happened a year ago — even if they still remember it vividly.
“We went down there and got our butts kicked,” center Colin Tanigawa said.
“We got ran out of the stadium pretty good,” defensive tackle Evan Hudson said.
“We had a lot of family down there, because the trip from California to Arizona isn’t too far,” said junior receiver Jaydon Mickens, a Los Angeles native. “So to be dominated like that in front of friends and family, that hurts. And we know we’re a better team than that, so we want to prove a point.”
And, too, they want to prove that last week’s 45-20 loss at No. 6 Oregon was more of an aberration than an exposure. But questions continue to surround the UW offense, which ranks last in the Pac-12 at 364.6 yards per game, hasn’t run the ball this season the way it would like and could be playing without starting quarterback Cyler Miles.
Miles was limited in practice this week after leaving the Oregon game with concussion-like symptoms. If he isn’t cleared to play, redshirt freshman Troy Williams will start in his place. And top running backs Dwayne Washington and Lavon Coleman are each battling health issues, too.
That all seems to indicate that Washington’s defense, stout against the run prior to last week, might have to carry the Huskies (5-2, 1-2 in Pac-12) in this one.
After sloppy tackling and poor execution allowed 554 yards to Oregon last week, significant improvement will be necessary, anyway — especially against ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly and running back D.J. Foster, both dangerous runners in an up-tempo offense.
ASU (5-1, 3-1) coach Todd Graham said this week that he expects Kelly, who has been out since Sept. 13 with a foot injury, to be healthy enough to start. Still, backup quarterback Mike Bercovici could see action, too — and he’s thrown for 1,322 yards and 10 touchdowns this season while completing 62 percent of his pass attempts.
“They certainly highlight and emphasize different things, but that offense doesn’t change. They still run the same plays,” UW coach Chris Petersen said. “They might run more of certain things with one guy, but they run them all.”
UW linebacker John Timu referred on Monday to ASU’s 38-34 win over USC earlier this season, in which Bercovici completed a last-second Hail Mary touchdown pass to Jaelen Strong to lift the Sun Devils to an improbable victory.
“It doesn’t matter who’s in at quarterback, those guys execute,” Timu said. “They fight. You can see USC was up, (ASU) ran out of timeouts and they still won the game. We’ve got to play a complete game against those guys.”
Unlike last week. And against ASU last year.
“We’ve got to fix that,” Timu said, “and finish the game.”