No. 5 Washington hoping to avoid a letdown against Arizona State
Oct 21, 2023, 7:52 AM
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
SEATTLE (AP) — The thought of having a letdown after the hype and emotions of last week would seem a very real possibility for No. 5 Washington.
Except there is built-in motivation for Saturday’s matchup against Arizona State that should help dampen the chance of a disappointing effort from the Huskies.
It’s been more than a year since Washington last lost a game and its 13-game win streak is the second-longest active streak in the country. The Huskies’ last setback came at the hand of these same Sun Devils in a 45-38 loss at Arizona State last October.
While both teams are significantly changed from a year ago, the memory of that loss should make it easier for the Huskies (6-0, 3-0 Pac-12) to refocus after last week’s thrilling victory over No. 9 Oregon.
“If it was just a coaching staff that was trying to bring it together, it would be hard. But we have enough guys that are just completely invested and have had a voice and want it extremely bad,” Washington coach Kalen DeBoer said. “They are holding each other accountable.”
Washington captured the attention of the country last week with its 36-33 win over Oregon that came down to the final play. Given a prime stage, the Huskies laid claim to being the top program in the Pac-12 and watched quarterback Michael Penix Jr. jump clearly into the lead in the Heisman Trophy conversation.
Arizona State (1-5, 0-3) was watching, too, thanks to having the weekend off.
“I would say this is one of the rare teams that has a difficult scheme with good players and a great quarterback, and not often do you have to play all three,” Arizona State coach Kenny Dillingham said.
It’s been a rough first season with the Sun Devils for Dillingham, punctuated by a pair of three-point losses in conference play right before the off week. Arizona State lost by three at California before returning home and nearly spoiling things for Colorado before falling 27-24 to the Buffaloes.
The Sun Devils are heavy underdogs again this week, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, and will need some breaks like they got last year when Penix had a pass deflect off the helmet of one of his linemen and it was taken back for a pick-six by ASU.
“I challenged our guys that we have to have explosive plays, not just on offense but we have to have those explosive plays on defense and on special teams to put us in position to win the football game,” Dillingham said.
Washington is blessed with one of the deepest groups of wide receivers in the country and that was on display again last week. Jalen McMillan aggravated a leg injury in the first quarter against Oregon, which moved Giles Jackson into a bigger role in his first game of the season. Jackson responded with six catches for 58 yards. He made a 26-yard touchdown catch for his first reception of the year.
McMillan, Rome Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk grab the headlines among Washington’s pass catchers but there is far more depth to the position group.
ON THE SLIDE
Arizona State has lost five straight after opening the season with a win over FCS program Southern Utah and has not beaten an FBS opponent since a win over Colorado on Oct. 29, 2022. A loss to Washington would match the longest losing streak in Arizona State’s history — the Sun Devils have never lost more than six straight. The last time that happened was the final six games of the 2009 season.
REVIVE THE PAST
The last time Washington reached No. 5 in the rankings was in 2017. The Huskies were there for all of one week before losing 13-7 at Arizona State. The Sun Devils have been a thorn in the Huskies’ side for the better part of the past 20 years. Since 2002, the Huskies are just 2-13 against Arizona State. Both of those wins have come in Seattle, in 2016 and 2018. The Sun Devils got the better of the Huskies in their last visit to Husky Stadium, coming away with a 35-30 win in 2021.