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October 20, 2013

ASU smothers Sankey, potent UW attack

Going into Saturday's game against Arizona State, Washington junior running back Bishop Sankey boasted the nation's No. 1 rushing average, sitting at 149.8 yards per game.

Against the Sun Devils, Sankey found none of the success he had in the team's first games however, and finished with just 22 yards on 13 carries.

"Those guys up front destroyed that line of scrimmage," ASU head coach Todd Graham said. "That's how you play run defense and we pressured the quarterback big time way too."

Entering Saturday, ASU ranked No. 75 in the country allowing an average of 168.8 rushing yards per game. The Huskies came into the game ranked No. 15 in the nation averaging 248.0 rushing yards per game.

On paper, it looked like a ripe opportunity for the Washington rushing attack, but it finishing with a net total of -5 yards rushing. It was ASU's second best performance against the run since its 1996 Rose Bowl season.

"I thought when we got back in conference play we'd see things we saw from our guys last year," Graham said. "You see what we can do, we can get after the quarterback pretty good. Great job defensively. No. 1 rusher in the country, minus five yards, that's phenomenal. The kids deserve the credit. We put together a solid plan and they executed it."

Last year, ASU finished No. 2 in the nation with 118 tackles for loss.

This season, through the game against Washington, the Sun Devils had amassed 35 tackles for loss and rank No. 70 in the nation in the category. On Saturday, the defense totaled 12 tackles for loss.

Seven of the 12 tackles for loss came as sacks and coming into this game Washington ranked No. 50 in the nation only allowing 11 sacks all season, averaging 1.57 sacks allowed per game.

Washington junior quarterback Keith Price came into the game ranked No. 11 in the nation in completion percentage at 69.3 percent. Saturday, Price finished 16-for-39 for 217 yards and a mere 41 percent completion rate.

Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian said the most concerning point of the game was how the Huskies performed in the trenches.

"The line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, quite honestly," Sarkisian said. "Our inability to block them up front, whether it be in the run game or the pass game, and then their ability to block us, to run the football, then to give their quarterback a lot of time to throw it down the field."

Last year, the Sun Devil defense had only one game where they had 12 tackles for loss, coming against Illinois on Sept. 8, 2012.

Before the game against Washington this season, the closest the Sun Devils had come to that was nine tackles for loss against USC on Sept. 28.

"It was a really good week of preparation for us," Conway said. "We came out and really did what we were supposed to do. Did our job, did our one-eleventh, and made plays happen. Everybody did, when the play came to them they made the play happen, so I think the preparation in the week is what really allowed us to have a lot of success on defense."

Even when Washington showed signs of life on certain drives, players said the Sun Devil defensive communication was key to sustaining the level of play and consistency.

"When Will [Sutton] gets talking he really pumps people up," Conway said. "That's really what gets the whole defensive line going. Especially, I felt like tonight (senior linebacker) Chris Young was always around there like, 'hey come on guys let's get going,' and that helped the whole defensive line. Those are the kind of things that pumped the whole defense up, so we can really make plays and do what we're supposed to do."

The ASU defensive line performance not only pressured Price into an atypical performance but also made Washington do a lot of what it wasn't necessarily used to doing all year.

Punting.

The Huskies offense entered Saturday third-best in the nation in three-and-outs, with just nine in 77 total drives. The Sun Devils forced six in the first half alone, and 10 total, more than doubling Washington's season total.

"We were all flying around," Conway said. We had a really good night and we were just doing what we we're coached to do, but of course we can get better, so that's what we are going to work on, especially this bye week. Just getting better every week so we can prepare to ultimately win a championship for our team is our goal."


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