TEMPE, Ariz. – Arizona State’s run defense was supposed to be weak, unable to stop much of anyone, much less the nation’s leading rusher. The Sun Devils took it as a challenge and, boy, were they up to it.
Clogging lanes and jumping into the backfield on seemingly every play, Arizona State swarmed Washington’s Bishop Sankey while dominating both sides of the ball in a 53-24 victory over the 20th-ranked Huskies on Saturday.
“We were flying around,” Arizona State defensive end Gannon Conway said. “We had a good night, did what we were coached to do.”
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
The big knock on Arizona State’s defense under coach Todd Graham was that it couldn’t stop the run. The Sun Devils had trouble with it for most of the 2012 season and had similar issues in losses to Stanford and Notre Dame.
Facing Sankey was supposed to be their most daunting task yet. The junior from Gonzaga Prep came in leading the nation at nearly 150 yards per game and appears to be well on his way to shattering nearly all of Washington’s season rushing records.
The Sun Devils (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) flipped the tables on Sankey with a dominating defensive performance, holding him to 22 yards on 13 carries.
Arizona State held Washington to minus-5 yards on 25 carries – matching the second-fewest ASU has allowed since 1996 – and limited the nation’s eighth-best offense to 212 total yards.
The Sun Devils finished with seven sacks against a team that had allowed 12 in its first six games.
“That was embarrassing,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said after the Huskies’ eighth straight loss to Arizona State. “We weren’t good enough, we weren’t well enough coached, we didn’t perform well enough and we weren’t physical enough, nearly physical enough, against a good football team.”
The Huskies (4-3, 1-3) were worried about Taylor Kelly’s legs as much as his arm and Arizona State’s quarterback still hurt them with both. He threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 84 yards and two more scores.
Marion Grice scored three touchdowns while running for 161 yards on 22 carries. He had two touchdown runs in the fourth quarter and a spectacular TD catch that triggered a 26-point second quarter.