Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

September 18, 2018 at 10:01 pm.

Revenge game vs. ASU ahead for No. 10 Washington

Two losses denied Washington a return trip to the Pac-12 Conference Championship Game in 2017, and thus, a shot at returning to the College Football Playoff. No more significance can be placed on one than the other, but a 13-7 defeat last October at Arizona State does stick out on the Huskies’ docket.

The two teams reunite Saturday at Husky Stadium.

“Arizona State was coming on a little bit, but we were a big favorite and all that, and we go down there and just don’t do anything on offense,” Petersen said Monday about the 2017 meeting.

“We had a touchdown called back, all those type of things. So you hit a couple big plays, the mindset, mentality, everything changes. You get those taken away, and the momentum of the game completely changes. I’ve been in so many games like that, I can’t even tell you.”

It’s a new season and all that, but Arizona State (2-1) arrival in Seattle for its Pac-12 opener and Washington’s first home conference game invites comparisons to 2017.

The 10th-ranked Huskies (2-1, 1-0 Pac-12) are again capable of winning the Pac-12 crown and earning a berth in the College Football Playoff, and a loss to the Sun Devils would again stand out if the Huskies fail in either endeavor.

Last season’s matchup also bears similarities to 2018 in that offensive inconsistency surfaced in a Week 1 loss to Auburn. It happened again last week in the Huskies’ win at Utah.

Washington failed to score on at least one red-zone opportunity for the third time in as many contests. In last year’s trip to Arizona State, the Huskies went 1-of-3 on such possessions in the loss. Washington won the turnover battle at Utah, but quarterback Jake Browning threw an interception for the third consecutive game.

The aim for Washington’s offense against Arizona State coordinator Danny Gonzales’ 3-3-5 odd-stack defense is to build on the positives from the Utah win.

“We really made some strides on offense,” said Washington coach Chris Petersen in the postgame press conference last Saturday. “We didn’t score the points that we’d like to score, but we know the quality of defense we just went against.”

Washington managed 5.0 yards per play and rushed for 172 yards in total against a Utah defense that held its first two opponents to 46 and 117 on the ground. Similarly, Arizona State limited UT-San Antonio and Michigan State to 2 and 63 yards the first two weeks of 2018.

Against a San Diego State offense familiar with Gonzales’ system — the Sun Devils coordinator was an Aztecs assistant from 2011 through 2017 — Arizona State allowed 311 rushing yards.

The Huskies finding similar success on the ground may prove vital for them to move forward from the 2017 loss in pursuit of a conference title.