Arizona State’s Jordan Simone bristled at talk about the Sun Devils being bowl eligible.
”We have way bigger goals,” the safety said.
The 14th-ranked Sun Devils remained in control of the race in the Pac-12 South behind Taylor Kelly’s two touchdown passes and a stingy defensive effort in a 24-10 victory over Washington on a blustery Saturday night.
Playing in strong swirling wind with waves of heavy rain blowing in sideways, the guys from the desert managed the difficult conditions for their ninth straight win over Washington. The win set up a huge matchup next week in Tempe with Arizona State (6-1, 4-1) hosting Utah.
”We expect to be great and part of being great is winning,” Simone said. ”Obviously we are bowl eligible now but we have bigger goals than that.”
Kelly threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Jaelen Strong in the first half, but was at his best on Arizona State’s final drive. On second-and-goal at the Washington 7, Kelly got his pass off as he was being pulled down by Washington’s Hau’oli Kikaha. Gary Chambers made the adjustment on the throw and hauled in his only catch of the night for the go-ahead touchdown.
Kelly was 14 of 25 for 180 yards, but was 3 of 3 for 36 yards and ran for another 12 yards on Arizona State’s final drive.
Armand Perry provided the capper, returning an interception 61 yards for a touchdown with 52 seconds left when Washington’s Troy Williams attempted a desperation throw on fourth-and-25.
”Something clicked and we believe in our system, we believe in our coaches and we believe in the guy next to us and that’s what good defenses, great defenses have got to do,” Simone said.
Kelly made his first appearance since suffering a foot injury on Sept. 13 against Colorado. Mike Bercovici filled in more than admirably with Kelly on the sidelines leading the Sun Devils to back-to-back wins over ranked opponents – USC and Stanford – for the first time since 1997.
The good in Kelly’s return outweighed some inconsistency early and mistakes in the second half.
John Timu intercepted Kelly’s pass and returned it 63 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter after Washington had done little offensively to that point. Arizona State also twice failed to come away with points in the second half after having the ball inside the Washington 10.
”I thought (Taylor) showed great courage, it being his first game back,” Arizona State coach Todd Graham said. ”Obviously, the one thing that we always emphasis is 100 percent ball security so that’s the one deal and then the turnover on downs, that’s almost like a turnover.”
Washington (5-3, 1-3) suffered its second straight loss to a ranked opponent. It’s the first time a Chris Petersen-coached team has lost consecutive games since the end of the 2007 season when Boise State lost at Hawaii and then to East Carolina in the bowl game.
Shaq Thompson moved almost exclusively to running back with injuries thinning the Huskies ball carries. The linebacker finished with 98 yards rushing on 21 carries. Williams was 18 of 26 passing for 139 yards.
”The wind was hard. It was hard,” Petersen said. ”You’re going against a really good defense anyway first and foremost and then to have to deal with that was obviously too much.