Huskies have the magic touch

Tyrone Willingham (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)

SEATTLE - With five minutes left in Arizona State's 39-19 win over Washington in Husky Stadium, seagulls started circling. The Sun Devils were treating to a free meal, but the carcass had already been picked clean. For all the potential the Huskies showed in the first half Saturday night, they proved once and for all that they own the magic formula for any program looking for a boost.

Since the winless Huskies - the only D1 program not to taste success this year - have no idea how to beat their opponents on offense or defense, they've unknowingly created a tonic for success: The success for others.

Haven't ever won at Husky Stadium? Arizona State Head Coach Dennis Erickson hadn't - until Saturday night. Riding a six-game losing streak, like ASU? Come to Husky Stadium!

"We'll take any win after six losses," Erickson said afterward. "It's just good to get that feeling back."

The 57,013 they said were there sure looked a lot more like 17,013. So there's no noise problem for opposing offenses. Only able to score an average of 11 points in those six games? The Huskies will be more than happy to let you triple that with ease. Can't find a consistent ground game, like the Sun Devils? Not to worry! Those amiable canine companions will let you knock them back to the tune of 182 rush yards, the most this year for ASU by over 50 yards.

Give the ball away on fumbles or blocked kicks? It's OK. The Huskies, sans their best player Jake Locker, have to settle for field goals because they are seemingly incapable of getting in the end zone. Keep UW drives alive with penalties, like the Devils did four times? Apparently part of the Huskies' formula is not take advantage of those situations with something more than three points at a time. A big part of that was the Huskies' inability to run anywhere. They totaled 52 net yards on the ground, 39 of those coming via a Terrance Dailey romp with 2:35 left in the game and the result already out of reach.

Hey - feel good for Ryan Perkins. The junior from Olympia - who will most likely require a knee replacement at some point after his UW career is done - went 4-4 in field goals, his longest from 34 yards out. A kicker hadn't scored that much since John Anderson went ape over in the Palouse during the Huskies 29-26 3OT win in the 2002 Apple Cup.

But this year's formula almost always includes no UW momentum coming out for the second half, and a four-down stop to end the game. Saturday night was no exception. Down three, Washington seemingly came out of the gates with a 'sudden-change' play - a 63-yard Matt Mosley kickoff return. But true to form, Mosley was called for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty when he decided to spin the ball and admire his handiwork.

A pass from Ronnie Fouch to Alvin Logan put the ball inside the Devils' 5-yard line, but the Huskies couldn't convert. And at the end of the game, the Huskies were also inside the ASU 5 with a first down - but no go. Overall, Washington had 17 yards of total offense in the third quarter, and -9 yards in the fourth quarter before their fateful final drive.

"We just didn't make the plays," Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham said. "There were no drastic changes. We didn't wrap up, we didn't tackle. On offense we had some opportunities."

By that time, even the UW band wanted to go home. When Willingham was calling timeouts with less than three minutes left, the boo birds joined the seagulls. As I was watching Washington's final plays, I could hear calls of 'Take a knee!' 'We want to go home!'. This was as Washington was inside the Sun Devil red zone.

"I thought our young men gave effort," Willingham said. "They bounced back and fought. But we didn't make enough plays at the appropriate times. But I do think our guys gave effort."

And even when the Huskies were jacked up, when there was effort and energy and intensity - it all went for naught anyway, as UW trailed Arizona State going into halftime 16-13. It was one of their better halves of the entire season, and they still couldn't find a way to come out on top.

No question this game was a far cry from the ass-kicking Washington absorbed at USC. But at 39-19, it wasn't far off from what that Huskies have been averaging either. They've been scoring 15 points a game and giving up 41.

In other words - nothing's changed. And at 0-9 and currently riding an 11-game losing streak, don't expect the formula to change. In fact, with UCLA riding a two-game slide of their own, Washington fans can fully anticipate the Huskies to be gracious hosts and treat Rick Neuheisel's return like a cause celebre, complete with his Bruins nabbing a much-needed win - and most likely a double-digit triumph to boot.

After all, it's a formula that's worked all year long. So why stop now?

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