05-20-2018  9:10 am      •     
The Skanner Report
By The Skanner News
Published: 21 October 2009

SEATTLE (AP) -- Overtime for the second time in three weeks seemed so imminent for Washington.
Then came a blown coverage that allowed Arizona State's Danny Sullivan to find Chris McGaha for a 50-yard touchdown with 5 seconds left to give the Sun Devils a 24-17 win on Saturday night, a harsh blow to the Huskies' hopes of getting back to a bowl game for the first time since 2002.
That stunning final play left Washington coach Steve Sarkisian spending most of Monday explaining what went wrong defensively that allowed the winning touchdown, and explaining his play-calling on the Huskies' final offensive series that gave Arizona State a chance for the victory.
Talking about Saturday's game against No. 12 Oregon was almost an afterthought.
"We try and get ourselves prepared for what might occur, and that's human nature," Sarkisian said. "And then when the game ended the way it did, I think that's why it's so heartbreaking, that's why it's so hard to take, because we didn't get ourselves prepared for that moment mentally."
For the fourth time in five weeks, the Huskies (3-4, 2-2) kept a game in doubt into the closing minutes, rallying from a 17-7 deficit to pull even at 17-all with 3:50 left.
Washington got the ball back at its own 10 with 1:17 left _ and that's when things started to go awry.
A pair of runs left Washington with a third-and-1 at its 19 with 28 seconds left. Instead of running to try for the first down and all but send the game to overtime, Sarkisian took a chance. Seeing what he believed was a favorable coverage, Sarkisian tried for a deep throw to James Johnson in the hopes of maybe getting a chance at a last-second field goal to win.
But Arizona State read the play and quarterback Jake Locker's throw fell incomplete with 22 seconds left.
"There was a reason why he called it and we just weren't able to execute it," Locker said. "I wasn't surprised by (the call), I wasn't shocked by it."
After the game Sarkisian regretted calling the pass. He continued to acknowledge his mistake two days later.
"As I go back and look at it now, the reality of it is I should've ran the ball on third down to get a first down then possibly take our shots to get downfield," Sarkisian said. "I wish we could've gotten the first down on the second-down play; it would've made things a lot easier. But you learn from it."
While willing to admit his offensive mistake, Sarkisian remained convinced the defensive call was correct. The Huskies were worried that Arizona State would try and hit a 15- to 20-yard pass and, with one timeout remaining, get a chance at a winning field goal.
Washington called a 3-deep coverage hoping to limit that intermediate throw and with safety Nate Williams responsible for being the deepest defender on the field. When Sullivan rolled to his left, Williams moved that direction as ASU receiver T.J. Simpson was open running a crossing route in the middle of the field.
Williams followed Simpson, leaving McGaha open running down the opposite hash marks. Sullivan reset his feet and found McGaha uncovered, although it appeared Williams was stuck trying to make a decision between covering one of two open receivers.
Sarkisian indicated that Williams should have stayed in the middle of the field.
"Nate's a middle-third player, in between the hashes and deep as the deepest," Sarkisian said.
But the coach followed up moments later defending his junior safety, saying he could see how the move Sullivan made rolling out and Simpson crossing the field could have led to confusion for Williams.
"In Nate's defense, he saw the quarterback's vision and eyes so hard left that he felt like if he doesn't throw that comeback, the first threat is going to be this crossing route, so let me go take it," Sarkisian said. "That wasn't the case. Again, to the quarterback's credit, his ability to come off his primary read and find a guy that probably wasn't even in his progression for a touchdown was a great play."


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