No. 10 Washington out to rush past Arizona State

Washington Huskies quarterback Jake Browning (3) looks downfield during the first half against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday.Photo Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona State knocked Washington out of contention for the College Football Playoff last season, winning 13-7 in mid-Oct

The teams meet again Saturday, this time in Seattle rather than Tempe, Ariz., with the Huskies having no margin of error in the national race.

No. 10 Washington (2-1, 1-0 Pac-12) lost its opener in Atlanta against Auburn but bounced back to rout North Dakota and post a stifling defensive effort in a 21-7 win at Utah last week.

Arizona State (2-1) followed up a rousing home win over then-No. 15 Michigan State with a 28-21 loss at San Diego State, allowing 311 rushing yards last Saturday night.

Youve got to stop the run, ASU coach Herm Edwards said.

Its a hard pill to swallow when people are running the ball on you because theres hardly anything you can do. Unless you can cause a fumble, it becomes a short game and a long afternoon for you defensively while your offense sits over there and watches the clock being bled down.

Arizona State, thanks to its work against UTSA and Michigan State, had led the nation in rushing defense through two games.

Washington coach Chris Petersen had a potentially potent ground attack, led by senior running back Myles Gaskin and sophomore Salvon Ahmed, an explosive change-of-pace runner sidelined for much of last weeks game. Petersen said Monday there are no concerns about his health this week.

Gaskin delivered his first breakout performance of the season at Utah, gaining 143 yards on 30 carries and scoring on a 38-yard rush.

If were going to give him the ball enough and our offensive line keeps guys relatively covered, hes going to make his plays, Petersen said.

Hes slippery, hes strong, hes fast; hes all those things. Weve just got to give him a chance to get things started and hes going to find creases.

Washington senior quarterback Jake Browning threw an interception for a third consecutive game at Utah, and his up-and-down play in 2018 has contributed to Washingtons low red-zone conversion rate (73.3 percent, No. 113 in the nation).

The aim for Washingtons offense against Arizona State coordinator Danny Gonzales 3-3-5 odd-stack defense is to build on the positives from the Utah win. The Huskies managed 5.0 yards per play and rushed for 172 yards against a stout Utes defense.

Arizona State, meanwhile, will be looking for its running game. The Sun Devils, after rolling off 266 yards rushing in the season-opener, totaled just 44 and 36 yards on the ground in the following two games.

The ineffective run game has made the Sun Devils somewhat one-dimensional, evident in quarterback Manny Wilkins attempting 48 and 46 passes.

Wilkins will be testing a Washington secondary that might be the best in the country and is led by safety Taylor Rapp and cornerback Byron Murphy, who has produced a team-best seven pass break-ups through three games.

Their defense, its outstanding, one of the better defenses in college football in my opinion, Edwards said. What they do schematically, how they built it, they do a nice job with their secondary. Theyre very talented.

ASU counters with, among others, junior NKeal Harry, one of the top receivers in the country. He finished with nine receptions against San Diego State, moving into fifth place in school history in career catches (161).

Big and strong and tough and I think he has really deceptive speed too, Petersen said. Hes such a big guy you dont think hes going to run like that but then hell break the tackle and outrun everybody.

Arizona State has won 11 of the past 12 meetings against Washington, with the Huskies winning 44-18 in Seattle in 2016.

Washington, trying to at least stay on the fringes of playoff possibility, cant afford another loss to ASU, like the one suffered last season. Petersen said that game or any revenge angle wont play a part Saturday.

I think its completely different. Thats the mindset every week, he said. Its not about referencing a game its just like, youve got to play. Youve got to play your best or youre going to get beat. I just really believe that.

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