November 8, 2008

Washington preview

Arizona State can't afford another loss.

The Sun Devils are in the midst of their longest losing streak since 1929, and if they lose their seventh consecutive game on Saturday it would mark the longest losing streak ever for a team that played its first season in 1897.

The players and coaches are painfully aware of how bad the team needs a win. They are all sick of losing.

Even running back Shaun DeWitty, who had his first career 100-yard rushing game last weekend, wasn't excited afterwards because of the sting of another loss overshadowed his individual performance.

"I really didn't feel any different than I did the week before because we still didn't get the win," he said.

Last week ASU showed signs that it is moving in the right direction with a narrow 2-point loss to Oregon State, but there are no moral victories in football and the Sun Devils know that.

"You can't look at it as anything other than a loss, but there were some positives you can take out of that game," coach Dennis Erickson said. "We played with great effort. I like the energy we played with against Oregon State.

"We obviously had chances to win the football game, we're just not making plays when we need to."

While heading to Seattle to face a winless Washington team seems like exactly what ASU needs to right the ship, the Sun Devils have to make sure they aren't overconfident.

The Huskies are having a historically bad season and could wind up being the first Pac-10 team ever to not record a win in conference play, but ASU still needs to head up there very focused.

"You can't be confident by looking at our record," linebacker Mike Nixon said. "Last time we checked we're 2-6. We haven't won in about two months so we have to go out and treat it like any other game.

"They really have nothing to lose. Teams like that, especially at home, can be extremely dangerous. We're going to try to come out and get the lead and make them play from behind and hopefully we can get a win."

Also, ASU isn't really sure what to expect from Washington after the Oct. 27 news that coach Tyrone Willingham will not return to the sidelines next season.

Last week the Huskies got waxed by USC 56-0, but this team could be going through an emotional rollercoaster; so ASU doesn't know what to expect.

"Obviously they are in an unusual situation losing their coach," Erickson said. "They have some talent. They've played good at home.

"They're very similar to us in that they have a lot of young players. It's a difficult situation. Who knows how they'll react to that situation."

ASU will have all of its receiving weapons back this weekend with wide receiver Kyle Williams returning from a concussion.

Williams will also resume his kickoff return duties, but wide receiver Nate Kimbrough will return punts for the Sun Devils.

Also returning after missing last week's game is defensive end James Brooks.

The Sun Devils could also feature a shuffled offensive line this weekend.

Throughout the week left guard Shawn Lauvao played right tackle and Zach Schlink was inserted in Lauvao's old spot. However, Erickson said Thursday that he and the coaching staff would need to watch more film before making any final decisions.

But regardless of who is playing where, or who is or isn't injured, ASU knows it can't make any excuses.

The Sun Devils just need a win.

"We have to get this thing off our back," Lauvao said. "We need to get a win. We're tired of losing."

About Washington

Head coach: Tyrone Willingham (4th season -- will not return next year)
2007 season: 4-9 (2-7 Pac-10)
2008 record: 0-8

Offense

When a team is winless this late into a season, chances are very good its offense isn't potent.

The Huskies were shut out last week and only managed 184 yards of offense against USC.

Washington averages only 14.1 points and 277.6 yards per game and rank ninth in the conference in both categories.

Heading into the season, Washington's focal point offensively was quarterback Jake Locker.

Locker was the Pac-10's leading returning rusher from 2007 and was seen as perhaps the league's most dynamic quarterback because of his ability to throw and run the football.

But in just the fourth game of the season Locker broke his right thumb ending his season, and Ronnie Fouch has been Washington's signal caller ever since.

Fouch is not nearly as mobile as Locker and is only passing for 141.9 yards per game. He has thrown four touchdowns along with seven interceptions.

Washington does not present nearly the same challenges with Fouch, but Erickson said Fouch is making visible progress each week.

"Other than [Florida quarterback Tim] Tebow, there aren't many guys in the country that are like Jake when he was playing," Erickson said. "The other quarterback is a good player. He's getting better all the time."

Although he hasn't played in Washington's last four games, Locker is still the Huskies' top rusher on the season by nearly 100 yards.

Washington uses a running back by committee approach and is averaging 89.5 yards on the ground per game. Its top active rusher is Terrance Dailey who averages 43.5 yards per game. However, Dailey did rush for 102 yards against Oregon State on Oct. 18.

The Huskies top receiving threat is D'Andre Goodwin, who averages more than 12 catches and 66 yards per contest.

Washington has allowed 21 sacks in 2008.

Defense

The Huskies defense has had as many problems as its offense in 2008.

Last week is allowed 56 points against USC, bringing its average to 41.6 points against per game.

The Huskies also allow a league-worst 480.2 yards per game.

All season long, Erickson has talked about the necessity of making plays on defense to win footballs games. Under that philosophy, one look at Washington's defensive stats makes clear why the team is winless.

The Huskies have only recorded five sacks and three picks with no return yards on the season and nobody has more than 66 tackles.

Washington comes to the line with Cameron Elisara and Johnie Kirton at tackle and it has Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and Darrion Jones at the end positions.

Of those four, only Te'o-Nesheim has recorded any sacks in 2008 and he has three on the season.

The Washington starting linebacking corps is made up with Trenton Tuiasosopo in the middle and Donald Butler and Mason Foster on the outside.

Foster is leading the team in tackles and has one interception on the year.

Tuiasosopo is third on the team with 45 tackles and Butler has one sack.

Washington has only gotten one interception from the cornerback position and that came from redshirt freshman Quinton Richardson. The Huskies other starting cornerback, Mason Foster, has 41 tackles this season.

Safety Nate Williams has also recorded a pick this year.

ASU vs. Washington

The Sun Devils and Huskies have squared off 27 times on the gridiron with Washington holding the all-time advantage 14-13.

Washington has beat ASU seven of the 11 times the two teams met in Seattle, however, ASU won 26-23 last time the two teams squared off in Husky Stadium.

ASU beat Washington 44-20 last season in Tempe.


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