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Oct. 4, 1997

Washington Runs Past Sun Devils

The overcast skies in Seattle was a telling sign of the game to come. It was as if lightning had struck the entire Arizona State team and they were still recovering from the shock during the game. The Sun Devils, in an uncharacteristic performance, lost to the Washington Huskies 26-14, in front of 74,986 at Husky Stadium. The Sun Devils drop to 3-2, 1-1 in the Pac-10 while Washington improves to 3-1, 1-0 in the conference.

Mitchell Freedman
Free safety Nitchell Freedman had a career-best 15 tackles in a losing effort for ASU.
(File Photo)

Offensive tackle Grey Ruegamer offered his thoughts. He said, "I don't think it has anything to do with being a young team. We are finding out about ourselves. We are doing a lot of experimenting. We are just trying to get the best people on the field."

Offensive production was a key factor in the game. While ASU outthrew the Huskies with 180 total yards to their 150 yards, the running game clearly belonged to the Huskies. After being held to only 43 total net rushing yards by Nebraska, the Huskies came out running against the Sun Devils. The Huskies picked up 240 yards on the ground. It was clear that Washington wanted to establish its running game against a Sun Devil run defense that ranked 10th in the nation going into the game. The Huskies ran the ball 51 times out of their 70 total plays. ASU's running game produced 51 yards, its lowest net yards rushing since October 22, 1994 when Washington State held the Sun Devils to 36 yards.

"I don't think we were outschemed and I don't mean that in a way to protect me or the other coaches," said head coach Bruce Snyder. "They made a great commitment to running the ball and it showed. They were physical and they pounded the ball."

The Sun Devil offense kept its balanced attack going, running 39 run plays and 30 pass plays. ASU had 231 total yards to Washington's 390 total yards. Quarterback Ryan Kealy held his poise, completing 13-of-30 for 180 yards, one touchdown and one interception, despite being sacked nine times. Running back J.R. Redmond rushed 21 times for 76 yards and one touchdown. Wide receiver Lenzie Jackson caught three passes for 44 yards to extend his streak of consecutive games with a reception. Wide-out Ricky Boyer also pitched in with three catches for 61 yards.

Kealy noted after the game, "They are a pressure defense. We knew that coming into the game. Sometimes they are going to get you because they rush more than you can block."

On the other side of the ball, ASU held Washington to only one third down conversion out of 11 attempts. ASU opponents are just 14 for 69 on third down conversions. Washington's defense against the run was impressive. Washington allowed only 51 yards rushing after giving up 384 rushing yards to Nebraska just a week ago. On an individual basis for the Sun Devils, safety Mitchell Freedman had a career high 15 tackles and defensive tackle Albrey Battle had eight tackles and forced one fumble.

The wet conditions wreaked havoc on both teams' kickers. Reliable Sun Devil kicker Robert Nycz went 0-for-3 on field goal attempts for the day. Nycz was 8 for 9 this season coming into the game. Husky kicker Nick Lentz sent his first extra point attempt spinning off to the right of the goal posts. Punts and kickoffs were adventures for both teams.

ASU ran toe-to-toe with Washington for much of the first half, but with just over a minute left in the half, it was apparent that lightning had struck twice as the Huskies marched down the field twice in those final minutes of the half to run up the score on a shocked Sun Devil team.

"We came out firing," said Ryan Kealy. "We need to keep that up throughout a whole half and a whole game. We do a lot of things well, but not necessarily at the same time. We need to come out and put a full game together."

ASU's first scoring attempt was a 35-yard field goal attempt by Robert Nycz that fell short of the goal posts. After an unproductive drive by each team, Washington would get the ball back at their own 29-yard line with four minutes left in the quarter. They pushed to the ASU 17-yard line to set up a Brock Huard pass to Jerome Pathon for an acrobatic catch in the front-left corner of the end zone, however, kicker Nick Lentz would send the extra-point attempt wide right to make the score 6-0.

After another exchange of possessions, ASU had the chance to capitalize on a bad punt by Washington. Starting inside Washington territory at the 36-yard line, ASU drove seven yards to set up Nycz for a 46-yard attempt. The kick fell short and was wide right.

Undaunted by the score, the Sun Devil defense came out and immediately forced a fumble on a Washington reverse play gone awry. The offense would reward them by moving the ball to the 3-yard line and scoring on a J.R. Redmond rumble, off-tackle, into the end zone.

The Sun Devil defense did not let up, however, knowing full well that a score of 7-6 did not constitute a blow-out. Linebacker Larry Johnson would step in front of a pass by Huard, pick it off and return the ball upfield for 15 yards.

Starting at Washington's 20-yard line, ASU's offense tried to push towards the end zone, but a sack by Husky linebacker Jeremiah Pharms brought out Nycz once again. His 46-yard field goal was no good, leaving the score at 7-6.

With under five minutes to play, the Huskies brought in backup tailback Maurice Shaw. In the following drive, Shaw single-handedly ran the ball 71 yards in seven plays for a touchdown to put the Huskies up 13-7.

The Sun Devil offense, trying to catch up before the half, came back onto the field and on their first play, gave up an interception to defensive back Nigel Burton. Washington would capitalize by driving 30 yards to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Rashan Shehee. The Huskies went for two and failed, making the score 19-7 going into the half.

The second half brought renewed vitality to the Sun Devils. With their pride and the game on the line and their uniforms nearly dry from rain in the first half, the Sun Devils came out of the locker room with intensity. The Sun Devils would take the ball and move it 52 yards in 10 plays to set up a 14-yard touchdown pass from Kealy to tight end Matt Cercone to tighten the score, 19-14.

"A very significant thing to me was how we came out in the third quarter, " said Bruce Snyder. "I thought the players listened at half-time and they weren't down. They could have been a team that came in and didn't listen, feeling sorry for themselves or in shock, but they didn't do that and I think that's a positive sign."

Later in the third quarter, the Huskies would score again on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Huard to receiver Mike Reed for the final score of the game. The fourth quarter saw both defenses stifle the opposing offense to leave them scoreless for the quarter.

ASU quarterback Ryan Kealy said after the game, "I don't know how you couldn't learn from an experience like this. It's definitely an experience to know that you can play with them. This is definitely a character builder. We need to build upon what we did positively and get rid of the negatives."

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