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by Ben Burns - 10/19/2009
How do you blow a coverage when you are in basically your Hail Mary defense?
Ask the Washington Huskies.
With 13 seconds to play in a tie game with Arizona State, the Huskies allowed not one but two Sun Devil receivers to get behind their defensive backs deep. Arizona State quarterback Danny Sullivan simply dropped back and heaved a 50-yard winning touchdown pass to a wide-open Chris McGaha.
It was Sullivan’s longest completion of his career and McGaha’s only reception of the game. For Washington bettors, who had to be feeling good about their 6.5 points heading into overtime, it was an unexpected body blow in the day’s final game.
“We were in three-deep coverage ... dropping eight guys into coverage sitting back,” Huskies’ coach Steve Sarkisian told reporters. "We thought we had the deep ball taken care of and had our guys deployed underneath to where if they threw something underneath we could tackle them so they couldn't just dump it down and get a bunch of yards and get into field-goal range. So you're kind of in the middle there. But we thought we had our deep ball covered there and unfortunately we didn't."
Here’s the video of the play. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lANcioqeCo4&feature=related Clearly, there are only two deep safeties and both somehow are trailing the play.
According to Seattle Times UW beat writer Bob Condotta, the Huskies had their base defense in the game, with two safeties, two corners, three linebackers and four defensive linemen. That’s certainly a unique personnel group for a Hail Mary defense. And it was a first-down play, after a punt, so the Huskies had plenty of time to set their defense.
Sarkisian’s excuse of not wanting the Sun Devils to be able pick up enough yards on a dump-off pass to set up a field goal doesn’t fly either. Earlier in the fourth quarter, Arizona State kicker Thomas Weber, whose range was limited by a groin injury, missed badly from 40 yards. The Sun Devils would have needed at least 30 yards to put Weber in field goal range. Basically, Washington needed to cover from their 20-yard line to the end zone. They couldn’t get it done.
But it gets worse for UW backers. Arizona State shouldn’t have even had an opportunity for a final possession.
After a Sun Devil punt, the Huskies took over on their own 10 with 1:17 to play. With the score 17-17, the Huskies had all three timeouts. Sarkisian called running plays on first and second down. He did not use any timeouts and appeared to be satisfied with going into overtime. But then, on third down, Sarkisian elected for a deep, play-action pass, hoping to catch the Sun Devils off guard. Jake Locker’s pass into double coverage fell incomplete, stopping the clock and forcing the Huskies to punt.
Arizona State did have one timeout remaining. If Washington had ran the ball on third down and been stopped short of the first down, the Sun Devils likely would have called time out. But we’ll never know.
It was questionable clock management to say the least, something that seems happening more frequently than ever this season. (See Charlie Weis).
Congratulations to those of you who were on the Sun Devils, who were favored by 6.5 points (though a U-Dub backer could have found a +7 during the week). May your good fortune continue, but make sure to remember this game the next time a break doesn’t go your way.