Beware college football teams: Tempe, Arizona, is dark and full of Pac-12 After Dark terrors.
Though Arizona State had not previously beaten a top-five AP poll team since 1996, the Sun Devils upset no. 5 Washington 13-7 on Saturday night behind a defensive performance that, frankly, made little sense. Coming into this matchup, Arizona State featured the nation’s 120th-ranked total defense. Washington, meanwhile, boasted the 10th-ranked scoring offense. Nothing had to give, but the typically unfettered Huskies offense did.
The Sun Devils pass rush haunted junior quarterback Jake Browning all night, forcing him out of the pocket and yielding five sacks. “We mixed it up,” Arizona State head coach Todd Graham told ESPN after the game. “We sacked [Browning], we hit him, we got after him.” Washington kicker Van Soderberg missed field goal attempts of 21 and 27 yards, respectively, and the Huskies finished with 230 yards of total offense—their lowest output since a loss to Alabama in last season’s College Football Playoff semifinal.
“We just could not get any rhythm going whatsoever,” Huskies head coach Chris Petersen said postgame. “It was one of the more frustrating nights we’ve had in a long time.”
Washington finally scored a touchdown on a Browning quarterback keeper with 5:32 left in the fourth quarter, but it was ultimately to no avail. Its defense couldn’t keep Arizona State from putting together a subsequent boa constrictor–like drive that swallowed up the remaining time on the clock and cemented one of the program’s biggest wins in more than a decade.
Manny Wilkins : 29/41 for 245 yards (Game-clinching 30-yard pass to Ceejhay French-Love with 1:56 left) pic.twitter.com/gG5jGsmJxz— Lee Harvey (@MusikFan4Life) October 15, 2017
This result was the capper on a chaotic two-day stretch during which four top-10 teams (Clemson, Washington, Washington State, and Auburn) fell to unranked opponents. It throws the playoff race into flux, and puts the Pac-12 in a precarious spot: It is the only power conference that has no remaining unbeaten teams. As we’ve seen with Ohio State and Clemson in the past, though, one loss doesn’t spell doom for a team’s national title hopes.
Arizona State’s triumph over Washington made little sense. But then again, neither did much about this messy and thrilling weekend of college football.