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Sports >  NCAA

Retooled UW Huskies offense starts hot, then sputters in 35-30 loss to Arizona State

UPDATED: Sat., Nov. 13, 2021

By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

SEATTLE – The Junior Adams Era got off to a sizzling start.

In John Donovan’s last game before being fired as UW’s offensive coordinator last weekend, the Huskies managed seven first downs in a 26-16 loss to Oregon.

In Adams’ first game as UW’s interim offensive coordinator on Saturday, the Huskies gained eight first downs – to go along with 97 total yards – in their first two drives against Arizona State.

There were empty sets. There was misdirection. There were multiple quarterbacks (but more on that later). There were inventive trick plays and run-pass options and tosses outside the tackles.

Most important, there were touchdowns, too.

Just not enough.

After bolting out to a 14-0 lead, UW fell to Arizona State 35-30.

As redshirt freshman running back Cameron Davis plunged ahead to cap UW’s opening drive with a 3-yard score, quarterback Dylan Morris pulled out a spinning fist pump. Roughly 5 minutes later, Morris paid off a 67-yard march by beating a Sun Devils defender to the pylon for a second 3-yard score.

Then, after Morris led UW to back-to-back game-opening touchdown drives, the Huskies made a quarterback change.

Five-star freshman Sam Huard received two first-half drives – resulting in eight plays, 14 yards and a pair of punts. It didn’t help that the drives started at UW’s 5- and 6-yard lines, or that his first drive was essentially extinguished when the ball slipped out of his hands for a 7-yard loss.

Morris completed 16 of 27 passes for 151 yards and a key interception, while Huard went 3 of 6 for 20 yards.

In the first half, Arizona State outgained UW 200-148.

But the Huskies entered the locker room with a 17-7 lead.

That’s thanks to a UW defense that made a critical goal-line stand with 8:18 left in the second quarter, as outside linebacker Bralen Trice chased down ASU quarterback Jayden Daniels for his first career sack (and his first of two on the night). It’s thanks to comprehensively effective special-teams play – featuring a punter in Race Porter who averaged 57.5 yards in four punts (with a long of 73); a returner in Giles Jackson who ripped off 43- and 40-yard kick returns; and a kicker in Peyton Henry who sat through a pair of Arizona State timeouts, then drilled a 37-yard field goal through the rain to end the half on a high.

It’s most certainly not thanks to a typically tepid run defense that surrendered 137 rushing yards and 6 yards per carry in the first two quarters. Arizona State finished with 286 rushing yards, 5 yards per carry and three rushing scores.

Plus, a pair of third-quarter mistakes threatened to derail the Dawgs. Davis failed to field a toss from Morris with 8:11 left in the quarter, and defensive end Tyler Johnson returned the fumble 32 yards to the 9-yard line. ASU running back Rachaad White rumbled in for a 5-yard score two plays later, narrowing the deficit to 17-14.

Then, after it appeared UW was forced to punt, Porter instead took off and was trucked at the Husky 39-yard line – 1 yard shy of a would-be first down.

But Alex Cook made sure the Sun Devils couldn’t capitalize. Three plays after the failed fake, the Husky safety (and former wide receiver) snatched a tipped pass and returned the interception 36 yards, barreling through bodies before finally falling.

That’s when Davis ran his way to redemption. After fumbling earlier in the quarter, the redshirt freshman running back gained 46 yards on seven consecutive carries. Kamari Pleasant added a 5-yard run and a 1-yard score.

But trailing 24-14, Arizona State answered with a mercilessly methodical 20-play, 81-yard, 9-minute march, ending in a 4-yard Daniels scramble touchdown with 5:46 left. The drive could have ended at the ASU 46-yard line, when linebacker Alphonzo Tuputala met White in the backfield on fourth-and-1 … only for the redshirt senior running back to bounce off a tackle attempt for a 3-yard gain. It should have ended again on third-and-16 from the ASU 43-yard line, when Daniels hit White along the sideline for an 18-yard gain.

After the Huskies went three-and-out, the UW defense failed to make another potentially game-saving fourth-down stop. On fourth-and-1 from UW’s 47-yard line, White fell forward for just enough. He also capped an eight-play, 56-yard drive consisting exclusively of running plays for the 10-yard go-ahead score, giving ASU a 28-24 lead with 1:11 left.

Needing a touchdown to improve to 5-5, Morris instead threw a 37-yard pick-six to linebacker Merlin Robertson on fourth-and-1 to effectively end the game.

The Junior Adams Era started hot.

But as rain poured inside Husky Stadium, the fire went out.

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