Twelve tackles for loss, seven sacks and a 29-point victory.
No, this isn’t the 2012 ASU football defense, but on Homecoming weekend, it sure looked like it.
The Sun Devil defense was everywhere against No. 20 Washington, propelling the Sun Devils (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) to a 53-24 victory over the Huskies (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) and the most complete win in the Todd Graham era.
“What an impressive performance,” Graham said. “It might be the most impressive performance as a team that we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
Impressive is an understatement for the Sun Devils’ defense, which held Huskies’ junior running back Bishop Sankey, the nation’s leading rusher entering the game, to only 22 yards on 13 carries and the entire Huskies’ rush offense to -5 yards.
“When you have 317 yards rushing and the other team has minus five, you have a good chance to win,” Graham said. “I am so proud of those guys. We spent a lot of time teaching this week and you know we have great teachers on this staff.”
Leading the charge was redshirt senior defense lineman Gannon Conway, who finished with two tackles for loss, including a sack.
Conway, like Graham, said the preparation leading up to the game provided a springboard for the Sun Devils’ success.
“It was a really good week of preparation for us,” Conway said. “We came out and really did what we were supposed to do and made plays happen.”
Graham said Conway played his “best game” of the year, but the defensive performance was an entire team effort.
Five Sun Devils finished with at least two tackles for loss, including three from senior defensive lineman and All-American Will Sutton.
Graham also said senior linebacker Chris Young, who recovered a muffed punt and had three tackles, really enhanced the defensive performance.
“I’m really proud of (senior linebacker) Chris Young tonight,” Graham said. “You know he is from Washington so this was a big, big game for him and he played outstanding and I’m just so proud of him. I know his parents are probably listening he is and I’m just really proud of him. It was big win for him and he was definitely motivated this week.”
The tackles for loss and pressure on the quarterback translated into a poor passing performance from Huskies’ redshirt senior quarterback Keith Price, who completed only 41 percent of his passes (16 of 39) after entering the game 11th in the nation with a 69.3 percent completion rate.
The Sun Devils pressured Price so often he was forced to limp to the locker room late in the fourth quarter, his body and morale battered.
The seven sacks came against an offensive line for the Huskies which allowed only 12 total the first six games of the season.
“We were all flying around,” Conway said. “We had a really good night and we were just doing what we were coached to do.”
The Huskies finished with only 212 yard of total offense, far fewer than their 500-plus average entering the game.
Graham was so impressed with the defense he sat them down prior to the conclusion of the victory, which moved the Sun Devils into first place in the Pac-12 South.
“Finally, with about four minutes left in the game, I kneeled down in front of them and said ‘Guys, we have only given up about 200 total yards of offense, so we have done pretty well,’” Graham said. “We don’t have to be frustrated because we played pretty well.”
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