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Originally published October 9, 2010 at 10:48 PM | Page modified October 10, 2010 at 7:47 PM

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Steve Kelley

UW sees a great opportunity slip away against Arizona State

This rainy night on Montlake will haunt them all the way into December. This was the game they absolutely had to win. A home game against a team that is supposed to finish in the Pac-10's second-division, Washington had to beat Arizona State. This game was oxygen for their bowl hopes.

Seattle Times staff columnist

This will be remembered as another Saturday when the Huskies went quietly into the wet night.

A sack of Jake Locker. An incomplete pass. An overthrown pass intended for Jordan Polk. And a final pass that was tipped and fluttered harmlessly to the turf.

A weak four-and-out when Washington needed something fantastic. An opportunity squandered. A loss as painful and telling as any in the last, limping half-dozen seasons.

Coming off the kind of win at USC that could have carried the Huskies to places they haven't been since 2002, Washington lost Saturday night to Arizona State 24-14.

This loss will linger. It will follow the Huskies the rest of this season as they scramble for a berth in one of the last available bowl games.

This rainy night on Montlake will haunt them all the way into December.

This was the game they absolutely had to win. A home game against a team that is supposed to finish in the Pac-10's second division, Washington had to beat Arizona State. This game was oxygen for their bowl hopes.

Washington had to rise to this occasion. After so many heartbreaks for so many falls, these Huskies had to show the 65,000-or-so in attendance that this season was different; that they could build off their SoCal success.

But in the fourth quarter, the same quarter in which they sparkled a week earlier, Washington fell flat as Kansas.

Down only 21-14, the Huskies needed something heroic from their defense. They needed to put ASU quarterback Steven Threet on the ground. They needed to quickly get the ball back for their offense.

But they couldn't do it.

They let Cameron Marshall run up the middle for 11 yards. They left Gerell Robinson open in the middle for 10 yards, then gave up a 22-yard run by Kyle Middlebrooks.

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When it had to stop the Sun Devils, the defense failed. It allowed a 53-yard, eight-play drive that swallowed three minutes, 20 seconds of clock time and led to a 22-yard, chip-shot field goal from Thomas Weber.

This loss was a root canal without the numbing painkillers. It was inexplicably bad.

Locker never got the offense rolling. When Washington needed him to be very, very good, he was very, very ordinary. When the Huskies needed him to make the kind of wondrous plays he made just seven days earlier, he couldn't make them.

After throwing for more than 300 yards and running for more than 100 against the Trojans, Locker was 23 of 38 for 209 yards in the air and gained only six yards on 11 carries.

Questions: On this rainy night, why didn't the Huskies pound tailback Chris Polk at the Sun Devils? Why didn't they try to win this game on the ground, and what was up with that failed fake field goal in the first half?

But this was a team loss. It was a both-sides-of-the-ball defeat.

The game plan was to come at Threet with blitzes. To come in sheets and from all different angles. To rain on Threet harder than the squall that rumbled into Husky Stadium shortly before kickoff.

The plan was for Washington's defense to throw haymakers at Threet. Make him twitchy in the pocket. Make him gimpy on the run. Turn his Saturday night into a nightmare of purple.

And the Huskies came at Threet like wind through a wheat field. Nate Fellner flew off one corner. Nate Williams came off the other. And Mason Foster rumbled repeatedly into the backfield.

Defensive coordinator Nick Holt wanted to blitz ASU's junior Threet as if he were a freshman making his first Pac-10 start. Hit him on every throw. Wear him out. Beat him down.

It didn't work. The blitzes were tardy and ill-timed. And the middle of the defense was open all game long.

In the first half especially, when ASU took a 21-7 lead, Threet read the Huskies' blitzes as if he'd been given the playbook. He stood in the shotgun, oblivious to the safeties and linebackers coming to whack him.

Washington blitzed and cornerback Quinton Richardson was left alone with ASU receiver Kerry Taylor, giving up a 23-yard gain on third-and-eight during the Sun Devils' first scoring drive.

Fellner was late with a blitz in the second quarter and Threet completed a 16-yard pass to Kerry Taylor.

In that first half, when Arizona State made its statement and really won this game, Threet threw for 209 yards and a couple of touchdowns. He completed 13 of 22 passes.

And in this loss that will linger, the mediocre 2-3 Huskies made the Sun Devils, who got earned their first win over a BCS school look like the only bowl team inside Husky Stadium.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

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About Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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