SEATTLE – Coach Herm’s Sun Devils don’t quit — that and a few bucks will get you a cup of coffee in the home of the Huskies.
“Effort was there,” Herm Edwards said after Arizona State fell to Washington 27-20 at Husky Stadium in Seattle. “We had good effort. But unless you win, it’s still a loss.”
It’s more than a loss.
It’s an infuriating loss because in San Diego, a loss to San Diego State came down to a referee’s call that could have gone either way.
And this week, it’s a maddening loss because it was a simple matter of execution against one of the best teams in the conference.
Edwards doesn’t betray any of this with his demeanor or tone. It’s clear that he’s disappointed. And it’s clear why.
“We’ve lost two in a row now,” he said.
“We let ’em out,” he added. “Can’t let ’em out. You just can’t let good teams out.”
ASU (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12) executed a good game plan offensively against UW (3-1, 2-0). Arizona State ran the ball, chewed clock and kept it close.
But the Sun Devils are in the details, and they missed enough to keep the game just out of reach.
Trelon Smith lost a fumble.
N’Keal Harry couldn’t adjust to a bad ball on a deep slant.
Manny Wilkins couldn’t lift a pass over the hands of Washington safety Taylor Rapp.
“The one that we ran a wheel route out of the backfield down there,” Wilkins said. “The ball got tipped. I think we kicked a field goal on it. It was like a scramble play. Man, you get a touchdown instead of a field goal there, and it’s a different game.”
Wilkins smacked the table as he spoke. Any of those three plays could have led to a touchdown.
But there was something optimistic in his frustration. They’re almost there.
Head coach Herm Edwards discusses ASU football’s loss to Washington in Seattle on Saturday.
Could it be that he remembered Jalen Harvey tracking down Michigan State running back LJ Scott and shoving him out of bounds at the 3? The next play Dasmond Tautalatasi came up with an interception in the end zone.
Harvey didn’t quit on that play.
Could it be that Wilkins remembered marching down the field at San Diego State? The Sun Devils had been down two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but came storming back. If a targeting call doesn’t rip a catch away from Frank Darby, ASU has the ball first and goal with a chance to win the game in the closing seconds.
Darby didn’t quit on that one.
Or could it be that Wilkins remembered Harry, bottled up all night by a strong Washington secondary, popping a 42-yard punt return that set up a scoring drive. ASU pulled to within one score with three minutes left.
“(That’s the) attitude of this football team,” Wilkins said.
His coach recognizes it, too.
“Love their fight,” Edwards said. “They fought. That’s one thing these kids’ll do. They’ll fight. Fight until the bitter end.”
But he and Wilkins know that for as close as they are, that’s probably the most frustrating, infuriating and maddening thing in sports.
Good players and teams spit when they say those words.
Coaches can build on fight and effort, but eventually, somebody’s got to make a play.
“That’s where the maturity has to develop as a football team,” Edwards said.
“Knowing the situation, you gotta get off the field. And you gotta make a play on offense.
“And putting yourself in these situations, I think you learn from ’em, you grow from ’em. But eventually, you gotta make those plays. Continue drives, or stop ’em and make ’em punt.”
Wilkins gets it. And as a senior, he gets that his time is running out. This could be the best ASU team he’s been a part of. But only if it translates to wins.
“These were two tough games,” Wilkins said. “It’s one thing to go into a spot and get blown out. Then you just have to be like, ‘Hey, man, the other team’s better.’ But when you make critical errors on your own side of the football, and you do it to yourself, you just know that when you fix those little mistakes it’s gonna turn on. And we can’t say that every single week. We’ve gotta fix it, and we’ve gotta do it to make sure we roll the right way. Self-inflicted errors, turning the football over, missing opportunities, that’s on us.”
He smacked the table as he spoke.
Defensive back Chase Lucas heard him loud and clear. He’s not going to quit.
“We just gotta keep pressing,” he said. “Gotta get better.”