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Originally published October 17, 2009 at 10:51 PM | Page modified October 18, 2009 at 2:16 AM

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Huskies left stunned in desert by Arizona State, 24-17

Danny Sullivan throws 50-yard TD pass to Chris McGaha with 5 seconds left

Seattle Times staff reporter

Latest from the Husky Football & Basketball blogs


TEMPE, Ariz. — Now the Huskies know how the other half lives.

A week after getting a win on one of the more miraculous plays in school history, Washington suffered a loss here Saturday night just as breathtaking.

With the game seemingly headed to overtime, Arizona State quarterback Danny Sullivan hit receiver Chris McGaha with a 50-yard touchdown pass with five seconds left to give the Sun Devils a 24-17 win.

"It's the worst feeling ever," said Huskies cornerback Desmond Trufant, who made a futile attempt to chase after McGaha. "We just messed up pretty much."

The Huskies were playing a cover-3 defense designed to keep the Sun Devils from breaking a long gain. McGaha burst off the line and was bumped by UW safety Victor Aiyewa, then shot into the open with no one in sight.

Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian said, "We jumped a route, a crossing route, and left the middle of the field wide open."

Said cornerback Adam Long, who was on the other side of the field: "They ran four [receivers] vertical and we had three people deep. It was a mismatch in a way."

The loss came in a heated game that featured a combined 21 penalties for 223 yards and left the Huskies at 3-4 overall and 2-2 in Pac-10 play. Washington now has lost 10 straight road games and six in a row to Arizona State.

And as much as the final play stung, Sarkisian was left ruing the fact the Sun Devils even had the ball in the first place.

Washington's last possession began at its own 10-yard line with 1:17 to play, and the Sun Devils had just one timeout. After the Huskies ran two plays for 9 yards, Jake Locker threw a pass incomplete to James Johnson on third-and-one, stopping the clock with 22 seconds left and forcing UW to punt.

"Just a poor call," Sarkisian said later. He said that the Huskies thought they had a chance to break a big play, but later acknowledged it wasn't worth the risk.

"That's hard for me to swallow," he added.

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After taking a 7-0 lead just 12:28 into the game on a 49-yard pass from Locker to Devin Aguilar — who had the best game of his career with seven catches for 154 yards — UW was dominated for much of the middle of the game, staying close thanks again to a defense that often bended but rarely broke. Washington held four ASU possessions inside its 23 to just three points as the Sun Devils missed two field goals and another time fumbled the ball through the end zone, killing an apparent touchdown.

Washington, though, also missed a field goal — on the last play of the first half after ASU called two timeouts — and threw an interception at the goal line.

"We left a lot of yards out there, a lot of points out there," said Locker, who took a hard hit on the final play of the game that aggravated a back injury that dates to the Notre Dame game, though he said later he's fine. "You've got to convert those when you get an opportunity."

But it was a sloppy game throughout, with players on both sides perhaps feeling out of sorts due to record heat that reached 102 degrees at midday. There were eight personal-foul penalties, including three by ASU freshman middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict, one coming when he hit Locker late.

"There were just a lot of emotions in the game," said Locker.

The second quarter was especially strange, featuring a handful of game stoppages by the officials to try to get the time right.

"The whole game was out of sync," Sarkisian said.

The Huskies rallied from a 17-7 deficit midway through the third quarter to tie the score on a 23-yard run by Chris Polk late in the third quarter, then a 29-yard field goal by Erik Folk with 3:50 left. Sarkisian, though, regretted that UW couldn't get into the end zone.

Arizona State appeared ready to win the game when it drove to the UW 43 with just over two minutes left. But three incomplete passes forced a punt, with the Huskies taking over at their 10 to set up the dramatic ending.

"They didn't throw a deep ball all game where a guy was wide open, and then they did it with five seconds left," lamented Sarkisian.

Now the Huskies, who have shown a marked increase in resilience all season in Sarkisian's first year as coach, will get a big test in that department as they return home to face conference leader Oregon on Saturday.

"It's not easy after a loss like this," said Locker. "We thought we were going into overtime, and it didn't work out. I don't know how many games I've seen end like that."

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