Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan

It was as ugly as the 53-24 final score indicated.

For the tenth consecutive season, the Washington Huskies football team has lost three consecutive games during the course of the year, thanks to its blowout at the hands of Arizona State Saturday. This wasn’t supposed to happen in 2013, in Sark’s fifth year on the job.

And yet it did. The entire team with the exception of a few stalwarts, got manhandled by the Sun Devils. This all after taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter and watching the defense force consecutive three-and-outs to start the game.

What happened? How did the defense which had been so good to start the year — and this game — yield 585 total yards? How was star running back Bishop Sankey held to 22 rushing yards? How was the Huskies offense held to just 12 first downs for the entire game?

It all started with the coaching staffs and ended with the play in the trenches with some poor quarterback play sprinkled in the middle.

Here is a position-by-position breakdown of the debacle in Tempe:

Quarterback — Keith Price was downright awful in this game. We will get to the protection his offensive line and tailbacks were able to provide him, as that was certainly a factor, but we must first analyze Price’s play. From the very beginning Price was inaccurate with every throw that was thrown to a receiver five yards or more down the field. He was also immobile, unable or just unwilling to move around in the pocket to avoid the heat he was under for most of the game. And on top of that, he was late on throws and continually missed open receivers. About the only good thing you can say for Price is that he didn’t turn the ball over. Price ended up 16-of-39 passing for 217 yards and two touchdowns. He started the game 2-for-15 on throws five or more yards down the field and captained the Huskies to six straight three-and-outs after UW took its initial 7-0 lead.

Overall Grade: F

Offensive Line — The Arizona State Sun Devils took a page out of the Stanford playbook and came after Price all game long. He was under siege from five, six and even seven ASU rushers and the Sun Devils came away with five sacks. Beyond the sacks, Price was hurried or hit on roughly 80 percent of his drop backs, a ridiculous number. If it weren’t enough to be dominating in pass protection, the line couldn’t create any push in the run game either as UW finished with minus-5 rushing yards,

Looking at the unit individually, left tackle Micah Hatchie and right guard Colin Tanigawa probably had the worst games of the bunch but all struggled mightily. Hatchie could not block either Carl Bradford or Gannon Conway when lined up against either Sun Devil. Tanigawa and Mike Criste had no chance against ASU defensive tackle Will Sutton.

Overall Grade: F

Running Backs —  Sankey, Jesse Callier and the rest of the tailbacks really had no opportunity to do much of anything in this game. Sankey gave the Huskies their early lead by punching in a touchdown from the 1-yard line. However, he really struggled in pass protection and that is something he’s going to have to improve upon if the Huskies are to have any chance at opening up their offense.

Overall Grade: C

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends — One of the few units on the team that did its job throughout. There really isn’t anything negative that can be said about the receiving corps. The group — led by senior Kevin Smith and junior Kasen Williams — got open routinely, caught virtually every pass that was even remotely catchable and just flat out played their respective hearts out. Smith finished with two catches for 70 yards and a touchdown, Williams had four for 26 yards and Jaydon Mickens provided five for 39 yards.

Overall Grade: A

Defensive Line — I’m only going to say this once as we analyze the defensive positions, they struggled because of the position the offense put them in. The offense, using its hurry-up tempo and being unable to generate first downs, left them on the field for a ridiculous 90-plus plays Saturday. Not only that, but because punter Travis Coons didn’t have a good day, the field position they faced was also difficult.

As we analyze the defensive line, they were certainly pushed around most of the game. It had a hard time putting pressure on ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly all game and also lost track of Kelly on quarterback keepers that allowed him to run for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Some individuals did have solid performances. Defensive end Cory Littleton was spectacular, first and foremost. He played virtually every snap and finished with seven tackles including a sack. He was also excellent in coverage. Nose tackle Danny Shelton had a good game, as did backups Connor Cree (one sack), Andrew Hudson and Lawrence Lagafuaina.

Overall Grade: C

Linebackers — The UW linebacking corps — headed by Shaq Thompson, John Timu, Princeton Fuimaono and Travis Feeney — really had a rough afternoon. The group really struggled in pass coverage all game. Now, to be fair, they shouldn’t have been put in the position by the coaching staff to be covering wide receivers and running backs that are much quicker than them. They also missed a fair amount of tackles in open space and lost contain on Kelly multiple times. There were no standouts against ASU.

Overall Grade: D

Secondary — I think for the most part, Kelly racked up his 271 yards over the middle, taking advantage of mismatches with the linebackers in coverage. However, it is on safeties Sean Parker and Will Shamburger to assist in this area, they didn’t, and there has to be some degree of criticism placed on the group for not giving defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox enough faith to go to nickel and dime packages (rather than leave linebackers in to cover the wide receivers, running backs and tight ends that outplayed them) in the first place. The unit’s tackling was OK, not great.

Overall Grade: D

Special Teams — Aside from one nice return by freshman John Ross III, another terrible effort. Coons leaves a lot to be desired in the punt game. With him operating, UW will never be in control of field position.

Overall Grade: F

Coaching — You have to wonder what Steve Sarkisian and Justin Wilcox are thinking sometimes. The offensive scheme has been predictable all season long — rush Sankey on first down and try a swing pass on second. If I know what is coming sitting here watching from my couch, surely the opposing coaching staff knows what is coming. Then there’s the decision to play Price. He couldn’t have been very accurate in practice the way he was throwing Saturday, so why is he your quarterback? You’ve got to be able to adapt and address problem areas during the practice week before games. Defensively, I cannot understand why Wilcox rarely goes to nickel and dime packages when the opposing offense goes to multiple receiver sets, leaving UW linebackers in mismatches against players that are simply faster than they are. You can’t have Fuimaono covering Marion Grice. You can’t put Will Shamburger on Oregon’s Josh Huff like they did last week. This team is getting exposed because of it. So until the coaching staff starts making adjustments, using its personnel better, this team is going to continue to struggle. Period.

Overall Grade: F

– Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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