The Huskies embark on the second half of the season with a trip down to Tempe, Arizona to take on Arizona State (4-2, 2-1), Saturday.
Call Saturday’s game, the opening drive of the third quarter. Luckily for the Huskies (4-2, 1-2), that is one area where the team has really excelled this season.
However, in suffering consecutive losses to top-5 teams over the past two weeks, Washington has struggled to get the offense going early in games. That has led to second half deficits and the team being forced to play catch up. Against Stanford, playing catch up resulted in the type of offensive numbers most came to expect from this UW squad.
Quarterback Keith Price passed for 350 yards and two touchdowns on 48 attempts. Those are numbers that are a much better representation of success for an offense with as many weapons as what UW features. It will be important for the team to see the passing game return to that form not just against the Sun Devils, but in every contest from here on out. And, have it happen from the outset.
Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian said he has not made being aggressive a focus this week, but knows the importance of staying aggressive as an overall theme to how the offense always operates.
“I love being aggressive, you know if you’ve been around me for years, I love taking our shots,” Sarkisian said. “But they need to be calculated or you put yourself in jeopardy of being behind in the downs and facing second and third-and-longs and that makes it difficult for us. We really focus on being efficient and converting third downs.”
All of which will be critical against the Sun Devils who boast one of the nation’s leading offenses behind junior quarterback Taylor Kelly. Kelly is averaging 327.5 yards passing a game and has thrown for 16 touchdowns to go with six interceptions in an up-tempo offense very similar to the style in which UW plays. Starting tailback Marion Grice has added 10 touchdowns on the ground.
It should be a high-scoring affair, one which the Huskies need to start fast in if they are to have any chance. In fact, Washington has not won in Tempe since 2001 and has lost seven straight to Arizona State.
Key matchup when Washington has the ball:
I may sound like a broken record, but sooner or later the Washington offense is going to have to return to its dynamic ways. In order to do so, getting the ball to tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins down the field is critical. The responsibility of covering Sefarian-Jenkins could fall to junior linebacker Carl Bradford or safety Alden Darby. Price needs to find his All-American tight end consistently beginning this weekend.
Key matchup when Arizona State has the ball:
Wide receiver Jaelen Strong is Kelly’s favorite target. The sophomore Strong already has 42 catches for 678 yards and four touchdowns. He will assuredly be a major focal point again this week and the job of covering him will come down to Husky corners Marcus Peters and Greg Ducre.
Facing a team that wants to push the offensive tempo as much as they do, Washington will have to come out with a strong, fast start and keep the pressure on a Sun Devils defense yielding nearly 30 points a game, all night. They will. Meanwhile, the UW defense will return to its dominant ways.
Washington 45, Arizona State 17
-Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan
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