SEATTLE — Defensive issues surfaced again Saturday for Arkansas State as the Red Wolves ventured to the Pacific Northwest for their first road game of the season.
And this time, ASU was unable to generate enough offense to stay in the game.
Washington shook off its offensive woes of the first two weeks in a 52-3 rout of ASU at Husky Stadium. Dylan Morris passed for 367 yards and three touchdowns as the Huskies (1-2) rolled up 598 total yards.
The Red Wolves (1-2) gave up 680 yards a week earlier in a 55-50 loss to Memphis. They produced 680 yards themselves against the Tigers, but managed just 268 against Huskies and failed to reach the end zone for the first time since a 55-0 loss at Georgia two years ago.
First-year head coach Butch Jones said ASU’s performance was unacceptable in all three phases of the game.
“When you play a quality opponent like Washington, everything is magnified – every critical mistake you make, not being locked in, not trusting your keys, not reacting,” Jones said. “So we have to go back and look at all that, but all this is on me.
“I’m the head football coach, my name is on this program. I’m responsible for it and I can promise you we’re going to get it rectified. We’re going to get it corrected. We’re going to keep driving to do that. It’s maintaining intensity for 60 minutes, it’s discipline to execute, it’s all the above.”
A preseason Top 25 team that won the Pac-12 North in 2020, Washington scored just 17 points while losing to Montana and Michigan to open the season. The Huskies were dominant against the Red Wolves, leading 14-0 after the first quarter, 28-0 at halftime and 35-3 after the third period.
Morris completed 23 of 39 passes. Ten of those passes went to Jalen McMillan, who racked up 175 yards. The Huskies netted 200 yards rushing after gaining 115 in their first two games combined.
Jones said the Red Wolves talked about the first eight minutes of the game being critical. ASU forced Washington to punt on its first drive, but stalled after one first down on its initial possession and then watched the Huskies drive 88 yards in 10 plays.
Morris threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cade Otton on fourth-and-1 with 8:21 left in the first quarter. “We knew what was coming, we’re in three deep (coverage) and we jump (the play fake),” Jones said. “Again, we have to figure out why these things are happening.”
ASU moved from its 25 to the Washington 16 on its longest drive of the game, but stalled there and Blake Grupe missed a 34-yard field goal with 6:10 left in the first quarter. Grupe gave the Red Wolves their only points in the third quarter by making a 26-yard field goal that was set up by Jeffmario Brown’s interception at the Huskies’ 33.
James Blackman started at quarterback for ASU, completing 16 of 38 passes for 176 yards. Layne Hatcher entered in the fourth quarter, completing six of 11 passes for 44 yards.
Running back Lincoln Pare caught seven passes for 69 yards to lead ASU in both categories. The Red Wolves generated just 48 rushing yards.
“When you play a team like that, every dropped pass is magnified, every missed block is magnified,” Jones said. “We had way too many dropped passes out on the perimeter and they’re kind of momentum-type plays that we dropped. We turned the football over, you can’t do that, and our players have to understand the expectations from the standard of performance each and every time out, not just on game day but in practice every day.”
Washington scored 28 points in the first half on a pair of touchdown passes from Morris to Otton and McMillan (33 yards) and rushing scores by Sean McGrew (13 yards) and Richard Newton (2 yards).
McGrew plunged across the goal line on a 2-yard run for the Huskies’ lone touchdown of the third quarter.
The Huskies closed the game with 17 fourth-quarter points. Morris found Terrell Bynum for a 42-yard score before Peyton Henry tacked on a 38-yard field goal. Washington’s last score came with 3:34 to go, when Bralen Trice returned a fumble recovery 72 yards for a touchdown.
ASU continues a three-game road swing next Saturday at Tulsa, where kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. The Red Wolves open Sun Belt Conference play Oct. 2 at Georgia Southern before returning to Jonesboro to play 16th-ranked Coastal Carolina five days later.
“We knew this schedule was top heavy, and we knew it would be a challenge, but it is what it is,” Jones said. “You have to have everyone committed. Right now it’s still early and there’s a lot of football left to be played, but the mind is a powerful thing and right now a lot of us, a lot of individuals on this football team, are under a character check.
“What type of relentless competitor are they? Are they really bought into the program? What are they willing to do to correct the deficiencies? How are we going to improve our practice habits? I know our players are prideful, I know they’ll bounce back, but we can have no wasted minute of the day to improve on all our deficiencies.”