Rachaad White vs Washington

Arizona State's Rachaad White (3) carries agianst Washington during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

SEATTLE (3TV/CBS 5) -- Here we go again.

Like they had before, Arizona State fell behind early on the road, in large part due to some costly self-inflicted errors. As a steady rain fell in chilly Seattle, the Sun Devils trailed Washington by 10 as the fourth quarter began.

In crucial losses to BYU and Utah earlier this year, ASU had squandered opportunities to rally. Saturday night was setting up to be the latest heartbreaking example.

But this time, the Sun Devils had a different ending in mind.

A punishing 20-play scoring drive helped key a 21-point fourth quarter that propelled ASU to a 35-30 victory.

“When we were down, everybody was so locked in," said ASU offensive lineman Ladarius Henderson. "The energy was high, and the energy never took a dip. That’s why we were able to perform the way we did tonight.”

Thanks to a stifling defense and 237 yards from scrimmage by running back Rachaad White, the Sun Devils pulled off the victory to keep their South division hopes alive for another week.

“The perseverance of getting down and dealing with adversity really said something about those guys," said ASU head coach Herm Edwards.

The Sun Devils improve to 7-3 on the season and 5-2 in Pac-12 play.

The Hermism

“That’s a long drive.” - on 20-play touchdown drive to open the fourth quarter

The Result

In a weird twist of fate, Washington was the third consecutive opponent with an interim head coach ASU had faced. Heading into Saturday's game, the Huskies were mired in struggles, with the firing of offensive coordinator John Donovan and the suspension of head coach Jimmy Lake dominating this week's headlines.

Yet early on, the Huskies showed no ill effects of the distractions. 

Washington marched down the field on the game's opening drive and went up 7-0 on a Cam Davis touchdown run. Following an ASU punt, they doubled the lead after quarterback Dylan Morris ran for a 3-yard score.

Just 10 minutes into the game, the previously stagnant Husky offense was approaching their weekly scoring average.

“They hit perimeter on us on some plays, and we didn’t get it adjusted," Edwards said.

Meanwhile, the Sun Devil offense was able to move the ball for stretches but was unable to finish drives. ASU's first drive of the second quarter showed promised after eight straight runs set up a first-and-goal from the Huskey 3-yard line. However, the Sun Devils failed to punch it in and turned it over on downs after a fourth-down sack.

“There was a lot of adversity," said ASU offensive coordinator Zak Hill. "You never saw the guys get down. You never saw them hang their heads.”

With the offense struggling, ASU's defense stepped up to keep the Huskies out of scoring range. That bought enough time for the Sun Devil offense to find a rhythm just before halftime. Keyed by a one-handed catch along the sideline by Rachaad White, ruled a reception after review, ASU finally found the endzone thanks to an 18-yard touchdown from Jayden Daniels to tight end Curtis Hodges. 

“When we were down 14-0, we didn’t blink," Henderson said.

The one-score gap did not make it to the half, however. An ASU squib kick was returned 43 yards into ASU territory. The Huskies managed to get in range for Peyton Henry to kick a 37-yard field goal to make it 17-7 at the break.

As the temperature dropped and the rain picked up, the defenses remained in control early in the third quarter. ASU was in dire need of a break, and White felt one coming midway through the quarter.

With the Huskies starting their second drive of the quarter, White thought The defense is about to get a crazy turnover. He was right.

A pitch play by Washington was fumbled, and ASU defensive end Tyler Johnson recovered and returned the ball 32 yards to set up the Sun Devils just inside the Husky 10.

“I just stuck to my keys, got in leverage, saw the quarterback pitch it," Johnson said. "The running back was fumbling it. I was trying to see if he was going to dive on it or something. Just run to the ball, scoop, and get going with it.”

“He’s a game-saver," White said. "The momentum really shifted.”

Two plays later, White scored on a 5-yard run to pull ASU to within 17-14.

The momentum appeared to continue in ASU's favor on the next drive. Washington faked a punt, but punter Race Porter's run came up a yard short, and the Sun Devils took over at the UW 39-yard line. However, Daniels overthrew Ricky Pearsall and the ball was intercepted by Alex Cook, who returned it just inside ASU territory.

Over nine plays, all runs, Washington marched down and Kamari Pleasant scored from a yard out on the final play of the third quarter.

Staring at a 10-point deficit, it was gut check time for the Sun Devils. As the offense looked to respond, White felt confident based on what he saw on the sidelines.

“We shot ourselves in the foot and everyone saw it," White said. "I just looked into the guys’ eyes, and it was just so amazing, because it makes me feel that on the sideline we have a comfort level with each other and we believe in one another.”

ASU knew their strength was in the run game, and despite the late two-score hole, they stayed on the ground.

A few solid runs got things in motion before Daniels broke off a 30-yard run!

However, that was called back due to a holding penalty.

ASU was able to move the chains and White scored on a dazzling 47-yard touchdown run!

However, that was also called back by a holding penalty. 

Facing a third-and-16, and having not to that point converted a third down (0-for-8), Daniels connected with White for 18 yards. Then it was back to the ground for seven consecutive rushes. Soon, Daniels scored on a 4-yard run to cap a 20-play drive that consumed over nine minutes of clock.

“When you fall behind on the road, we didn’t want to get into a passing game because of the weather," Edwards said. "Our strong suit is running the football, and we didn’t get away from it.”

It was now down to the ASU defense to get the ball back, which they did on a three-and-out.

“If you keep sticking to your keys, doing what you're doing, something is going to happen in your favor," Johnson said.

ASU took possession at their 44 with 4:06 left. Three plays later, they faced a do-or-die fourth-and-1. White powered ahead to get just enough to move the chains. Daniels, shaking off a poor passing night, ran for 10 and 19 yards on consecutive plays to get to the Husky 10.

“He put it on his legs and getting it for us," Henderson said of his quarterback.

On the next play, White scored.

”Rachaad has done a fabulous job of running," Edwards said. "The more you see him carry the ball, the more you go, ‘Wow.’”

“It’s awesome to, on a game-winning drive, just run the ball," said White, who finished with 184 yards rushing.

ASU held their first lead of the game 28-24, with 1:11 left for Washington to respond. But four plays later, Morris was intercepted by Merlin Robertson, who returned it for an apparent game-sealing score.

But being #Pac12AfterDark, there were a few more twists left.

With ASU in a prevent, and aided by Sun Devil penalties, Washington scored a touchdown with three seconds left, a 2-yard pass from Morris to Devin Culp. The Huskies then recovered an onside kick with one second left.

A Hail Mary attempt was surely forthcoming. Except, Morris instead threw a short pass that was broken up to end the game.

“We continued to play, and we dealt with the adversity," said Edwards.

The (20) Critical Moments

Down two scores on the road, most teams would feel the need to air it out. But to the Sun Devils' credit, they stayed true to their identity when starting their first possession of the fourth quarter.

"It says something about the team in the fourth quarter and having to do that on the road," Edwards said.

They were going to run the damn ball.

White for 6. White for 12. DeaMonte Trayanum for 4. Trayanum for 5. White for 3 on fourth-and-1.

“There was a ton of effort plays," Hill said.

Even after holding calls called back a 30-yard run by Daniels and a 47-yard touchdown run by White, the team never panicked. 

After a 18-yard reception by White on third-and-16, it was back to the ground. 

White for 5. White for 4. White for 2.

The drive became a mindset. Who could finish it?

“You gotta fight, and you gotta finish," Henderson said. "Like Coach Joe (ASU strength coach Joe Connolly) said, those are those dominators and those 20-rep squats we do in the offseason.”

That offseason work paid major dividends on Saturday night, even as they pushed through the fatigue.

“I was so tired, to be completely honest," Henderson said with a laugh after the game. "I was looking at the D-lineman look at me, and I as trying to act like I wasn’t tired. I was tired.”

On the 20th play, Daniels scored to pull within three and invigorate the team's comeback.

“As an offensive lineman, if we can do that every game for the rest of my life, I'd be so down for that," Henderson said.

The Offense

Just like last week, it was the Rachaad White Show for the Sun Devils.

The running back carried 32 times for 184 yards and also led the team with five catches for 53 yards. He accounted for 63 percent of ASU's yards from scrimmage, and over the last two weeks, he's been 59 percent of the team's yards.

“It felt great for me because I want to step up," White said. "My team needed me, and I’m going to be there for them."

White has established himself as a true lead back over the last two weeks and is surely moving up NFL Draft boards.

“He’s literally carrying the offense on his back right now," Edwards said. "The offensive line is doing a nice job of creating some running lanes for him.”

After two rough showings, the line has had back-to-back strong efforts. The Sun Devils rushed for 284 yards and averaged 5.0 yards per carry.

“Knowing you can just run the ball whenever you want to and get the yards, it’s an amazing feeling," Henderson said. "I feel like that’s what complete domination feels like.”

Even as he struggled passing, Daniels came up big with his legs late in the game, finishing with 56 yards.

“Jayden did a nice job of making some big time runs at the end," Edwards said.

However, the passing game remains a major concern, even with the weather conditions and focus on the run game on Saturday. Daniels' accuracy issues were on display on the interception, and he threw for 90 yards on 10-for-16 passing. ASU wide receivers combined for two catches for eight yards.

For the second straight week, ASU was terrible on third downs. After starting 0-for-6 against USC, ASU failed to convert their first eight tries on Saturday. They finished 3-for-12.

But while Daniels will face continued questions for his passing performance, he received praise for his teammates for leading the fourth-quarter comeback.

“He’s a competitor, and he’s got so much poise that I’ve never seen in anybody," White said.

The Defense

As the Sun Devil offense tried to find a groove, the ASU defense continues to be stout, even without some key pieces. 

ASU allowed just 266 yards to the Huskies, with 63 of that coming on the final drive with the Sun Devils in prevent. After the disastrous start in which they gave up two touchdowns, the Sun Devil defense played very well.

“You just play the play and fight the fight," Johnson said.

On third down, ASU allowed Washington to convert just four of 12 chances.

“We made some big stops on defense," Edwards said.

ASU held the Husky run game in check, allowing just 95 yards and a 3.2 yards-per-carry average. 

Linebacker Darien Butler (eight tackles, one TFL) and tackle D.J. Davidson continue to be the leaders of the group up front, while a shorthanded secondary without safety Evan Fields stepped up to limit Washington to 171 yards through the air.

One area of concern remains the pass rush, which has not logged a sack in 16 quarters dating back to the win over Stanford on Oct. 8.

The Big Picture

With Utah's win over Arizona, the path to the Pac-12 South title is very thin. However, ASU is still in play for a quality bowl, a 10-win season, and has an outside chance at a Rose Bowl berth, should Utah struggle down the stretch and Oregon earn a Playoff spot.

For now, the 7-3 overall and 5-2 Pac-12 start are ASU's best marks since 2014.

The Questions

Following their disheartening losses to Utah and Washington State, ASU came under heavy scrutiny for the manner in which they lost those games. After their win over USC last week, some players pushed back at the perception that the team had given up on the season.

The rally on Saturday night helped show that last week's win, during which Edwards says his team found its swagger, was no fluke.

“It shows our fight and our tenacity," Henderson said. "We’re not a frontrunner team. We will fight, and we we will finish for four quarters.

Can they keep it up with a trip to face a strong Oregon State team before the Territorial Cup battle against Arizona?

The Sun Devils feel confident for now.

“Every week you get a new opportunity," Edwards said.

The Next Step

ASU will be back in the Pacific Northwest next Saturday night when they take on Oregon State. This will be the third consecutive year that the Sun Devils will play in Corvallis, following a loss in 2019 and a win last season. The Beavers are coming off a 35-14 win over Stanford which made them bowl eligible for the first time since 2013.

“We’re going to play a tough Oregon State team, and they like to run the ball," Edwards said.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. PT/8:30 MT.

The Extra Points

  • ASU is now 13-1 under Edwards when rushing for over 200 yards.
  • Chase Lucas made his 47th career start for ASU, tying him with Dexter Davis for most in school history.
  • The 35 points given up by Washington was the most they have allowed in 84 games.

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