Defense allows Dawgs to survive in desert

  • JOHN SLEEPER / Herald Writer
  • Saturday, October 14, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

By JOHN SLEEPER

Herald Writer

TEMPE, Ariz. – Chalk one up for the University of Washington defense.

It certainly wasn’t the offense and CERTAINLY not special teams that the Huskies can thank for their 21-15 Pacific-10 Conference victory against Arizona State Saturday night before 61,370 snoozing fans at Sun Devil Stadium.

Overcoming five lost fumbles, the 11th-ranked Huskies (2-1 Pac-10, 5-1 overall) survived with an outstanding defensive effort that bottled up the high-flying Sun Devil aerial show all night.

Until true freshman tailback Rich Alexis scampered 86 yards for a touchdown with 12:29 left in the game to put Washington up 21-6, the Husky offense showed little inclination to move the ball – or even hold onto it.

The game was horribly stuffed with miscues, with the two teams evenly splitting 12 turnovers.

Through three quarters, ASU had six fumbles, losing four; Washington had seven fumbles, losing five.

Alexis, who finished with 127 yards on 16 carries was the lone highlight on offense. His run was the sixth-longest in school history and was the longest since Napoleon Kaufman went 91 against San Jose State in 1994.

The defense, however, had many heroes.

ASU (1-2, 4-2) came into the game with a feared attack that averaged a conference-best 279.2 passing yards a game. But the Huskies’ defense was nothing short of magnificent, batting away passes, forcing turnovers and stuffing the run with apparent ease.

The Huskies even came up with two interceptions, their second and third of the year. One was by free safety Hakim Akbar, who also had Washington’s first interception of the season. Omare Lowe added an interception in the fourth quarter.

The Huskies got one touchdown from wideout Wondame Davis (a 5-yard pass from Marques Tuiasosopo in the second quarter) and two by Alexis (the other a 1-yard dive in the fourth quarter). The three touchdowns were more than enough, considering Washington’s defense and Arizona State’s offensive ineptitude.

Two ASU quarterbacks were a combined 15-for-46 in passing for 202 yards. Starter Griffin Goodman was 3-for-13 for 32 yards.

ASU mustered just two field goals, a meaningless touchdown with three minutes left and a safety, occurring when Washington was whistled for a holding penalty in the end zone during punt by Ryan Fleming.

It was that kind of night.

The game (here’s a surprise) was a defensive struggle in the first half, when the teams split six turnovers. ASU managed just two field goals by Mike Barth, both set up by Husky fumbles.

Washington’s only first-half TD, a 5-yard pass from Marques Tuiasosopo to Wondame Davis, was set up by a punt block and recovery by true freshman Marquis Cooper, who prepped at nearby Gilbert, Ariz.

ASU quarterbacks Jeff Krohn and Griffin Goodman combined for just five completions on 21 first-half pass attempts. The Huskies held the Sun Devils 46 yards on the ground before intermission.

The Huskies set up the Sun Devils early when tailback Paul Arnold lost a fumble on the second play of the game. The fumble, forced by freshman defensive end Terrell Suggs and recovered by linebacker Eric Fields, led to a 27-yard field goal by Barth. The Sun Devils led, 3-0.

Barth hit a 24-yarder in with 9:25 left in the half after another Washington fumble. Toure Butler fumbled a punt return after being leveled by Christon Rance and ASU’s Alfred Williams recovered on the UW 13. When the UW defense held, Barth converted and the Sun Devils led, 6-0.

Late in the first half, the Huskies failed to capitalize on a fumble recovery. Derrick Johnson pounced on a fumble by tailback Mike Williams on the ASU 30-yard line. But the Sun Devils defense held, and John Anderson missed a 43-yard field-goal attempt with 6:20 remaining before intermission.

But then, the Huskies got a break. Cooper blocked a punt by Nick Murphy and recovered at the Sun Devils 5-yard line.

Two plays later, Tuiasosopo found wideout Davis for a 5-yard TD pass and the Huskies led 7-6 with 5:45 left in the half.

UW defensive end Marcus Roberson forced a fumble out of Krohn in the third quarter, but Washington couldn’t take advantage.

Linebacker Tyler Krambrink picked up the fumbled ball and advanced it to the Sun Devils 38-yard line, where he fumbled himself and recovered.

But the Huskies hurt themselves, primarily via a holding penalty by Chad Ward, and Anderson had a 36-yard attempt blocked by 6-foot-5 reserve tight end Mike Pinkard.

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