Dawgs always a quarter behind

TEMPE, Ariz. - It's bad enough that the Arizona State Sun Devils have outscored opponents 140-29 in the second half of their games this season. For the Huskies, it became even worse when they upped their third-quarter scoring draught to five games. That's right - not one point in the last 75 minutes played in the third quarter.

What's even more stunning is that - according to the Washington coaches - it was the best they had seen their team in the locker room at half. And according to Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham, if anything the Huskies were a little ticked off by the way things went to round out the scoring in the first half of Washington's epic 44-20 collapse in Sun Devil Stadium Saturday night.

"I think we were upset at the way things turned out," Willingham said. After it appeared that Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter would be stopped at the Huskies one-yard line as time expired in the second quarter, the play was reviewed. After said review, the game officials decided that Carpenter had actually stepped out-of-bounds at the 7-yard line - and with one tick left on the play clock. That allowed the Sun Devils' Thomas Weber to belt home a 24-yard field goal, and lessen the Huskies' lead at the time from seven points to three.

From that review on, Arizona State out-scored Washington 34-3.

It was almost like a hangover from the UCLA game, but this one packed a real punch. Instead of one big run - there were two. Dmitri Nance and Keegan Herring - who stepped in for an injured Ryan Torain - combined for 211 yards rushing, and their 57 and 76-yard touchdown runs in the third quarter took a 20-17 ASU advantage and blew the doors off it.

But the Huskies had their chance. They were up four coming out of the half and were getting the ball to start. They had a chance to work their way down the field like they did the first time they had the ball. They started the game with a 75-yard drive; why couldn't they start the second half the same way. A long, sustained drive would keep a potent Arizona State offense on the sidelines, a boisterous crowd of over 64,000 Sun Devil fans on their hands, and would also go a long ways toward showing themselves that they had what it takes to make that next logical step in their development.

And then they promptly took three steps back...as in back three games to Bruin-land. While the Huskies were going fumble, punt, missed field goal, the Sun Devils were going touchdown, punt, touchdown, touchdown.

And that was all she wrote.

"When we missed that field goal, that's when I could kind of feel the wind go out of our sails," Lappano said after the game. "They broke our will a little bit. I thought we were ready, but we were our own worst enemy with stupid penalties. You just can't go against a good team like that and get zero." And while Willingham said he didn't feel like he sensed any flashbacks to that night at the Rose Bowl a few weeks ago, Lappano felt it.

"It's the same thing," he said. "These guys are too good to go into the third quarter and lay an egg."

And defensively, the margin for error between success and failure is razor-thin. "We rolled the dice a couple of times, and it helped us," Washington Defensive Coordinator Kent Baer said. He added that one of the big runs in the third quarter came while the Huskies were in their base defense.

"It never should have happened," he said.

But it did. And not even an extra week of practice, preparation and healing could get this Washington team in a position to make a statement.

But that's not the frustrating thing. The frustrating thing is - they've been in every game they've lost this year, only to lose them by doing things that confound and confuse their coaches to no end.

"There's got to be a lack of focus," Lappano said. "When you have penalties like that, that's focus."

"There's two plays, and all of a sudden we had to play catch-up," Baer added. "It was real frustrating. You give those things up, it's tough."

And the most maddening thing of all? There isn't a sure-fire answer in place - at least not one the current regime has been able to determine. Tackling, for instance. Baer insists tackling has been emphasized in practices, and will continue to be emphasized. Offensively, the running game started to show signs of life, but was nowhere near as consistent as Lappano would like it to be.

"It wasn't great, but it gives him (Locker) a blow," he said. "We need to that, that's something we need to do all the time."

But instead of the 19 yards on 7 carries dispersed between J.R. Hasty and Brandon Johnson - the Husky running backs need to remember that it's not against the law to pick up the slack and do what they were brought to Montlake to do - go to class and run the football like their hair is on fire. It's something Herring and Nance figured out early - and was the reason the Sun Devils went wild running the ball in the second half.

Above all else - the coaches and team refuse to accept that they are repeating history, even if sometimes it feels awful similar to past events. "It's obviously difficult to talk about when you don't have a solution," Willingham said. "I thought we were poised and ready to come out and have a good second half.

"We'll find a way to get it done."

Dawgman.com Top Stories