One step forward, two steps back for the Huskies.
A week after winning at USC for the first time since 1996, Washington lost at home to Arizona State 24-14 -- its seventh consecutive loss to the Sun Devils.
And in essence, all the Huskies had gained from beating the Trojans was washed away in a contest played mostly in a torrential downpour.
Washington is now 2-3 and entering a particularly beefy part of the schedule -- vs. Oregon State, at Arizona, vs. Stanford and at Oregon. Washington may not be favored in any of those, and simply winning two might be a big accomplishment.
All of which puts the Huskies right back on the brink in a season in which they have stated that anything less than a bowl game would be a disappointment.
"This is a mentally tough football team," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. "We'll be back."
It didn't help Washington that it was without two of its best offensive players. Guard Erik Kohler (mono) and receiver Devin Aguilar (hip flexor) were both lost during the week. Also, quarterback Jake Locker played the game despite flu-like symptoms that had doctors check him for mono, as well.
Locker tested negative, but wasn't himself, and the running aspect of his game that was so in evidence the week before at USC was missing. He had just 6 yards on 11 attempts (which includes 19 yards lost on three sacks).
Washington never led, falling behind 14-7 at the end of the first quarter and 21-7 at halftime. Arizona State scored with 19 seconds left in the second quarter to conclude a 65-yard drive after Washington had gone for it on fourth down on the other end.
"Offensively, we could not get on track to where we had consistency," Sarkisian said.
Washington's defense wasn't a lot better.
Arizona State quarterback Steven Threet was rarely pressured, and he went 21-for-34 for 288 yards, much coming in the first half (both TDs and 209 yards) before the Sun Devils grew conservative and tried to milk the lead.
Still, Sarkisian pronounced himself pleased with the 24 points given up, saying he would have taken that before the game started.
The real issue was an offense that gave up three sacks to an Arizona State team that had just four coming into the game. The Huskies simply couldn't move the ball when they really had to.
Washington's scoring average of 25 points per game is eighth in the Pac-10, ahead of only UCLA and Washington State, and while the schedule has been tough, it doesn't get any easier.
--Jesse Callier had a 51-yard kickoff return to set up a first-quarter Washington touchdown, the team's longest kickoff return of the season.
--Erik Folk missed a 47-yard field goal in the third quarter, his first miss of the year after making his first seven. He is now 25-for-29 in his Washington career.
GAME BALL GOES TO: TB Chris Polk -- The sophomore was about all the offense Washington had much of the night, as he rushed for 110 yards on 18 carries with a long of 37. He rarely had open holes, usually keeping his legs churning to gain yards after contact.
KEEP AN EYE ON: WR D'Andre Goodwin -- The senior caught 60 passes as a sophomore during the lost 0-12 season of 2008. After suffering a few injuries last season that curtailed his time, he has returned healthy, and he had a career-high eight catches against Arizona State, good for 78 yards, including a TD on a fourth-down play in the fourth quarter.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Obviously, a very disappointing loss. When we weren't able to capitalize (on a few drives into Arizona State territory) it got hard, and ASU did a nice job rushing the passer and getting after Jake (Locker), and we weren't able to throw the ball down the field." -- Washington coach Steve Sarkisian.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: TBs Chris Polk and Jesse Callier combined for 130 yards on 21 carries. The only question was why they didn't get the ball more.
--LB Mason Foster again had a stellar night, with 12 tackles and a sack.
--LB Cort Dennison had his first sack of the season as well as his first interception. He almost had another pick, but it was called back after a review.
--P Kiel Rasp, a walk-on thrown into duty after a season-ending injury to Will Mahan after Week 1, averaged 46.3 yards on three punts.
STILL NEEDS WORK: The offensive line struggled all night, giving up three sacks to an Arizona State team that had just four coming into the game. The Huskies struggle on any run that goes up the middle and calls on the offensive line to get a push.
--The defensive line continues to struggle to get pressure on the quarterback, as all three of Washington's sacks came on blitzes.
--WR Jermaine Kearse had two drops and now has seven for the season. Kearse has all-conference potential but is simply struggling to hang onto the ball.
WR Devin Aguilar missed the game after suffering a pulled hip flexor on the last play of practice Thursday. He suited up and tried to go during warmups but couldn't play. He was replaced primarily by D'Andre Goodwin.
--LG Erik Kohler contracted mononucleosis and missed the Arizona State game. He could be out a few more weeks. He was replaced by senior Greg Christine.
--Backup TB Johri Fogerson sat out for the fourth straight game with a hip flexor injury.
UP NEXT: Washington Huskies
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