SEATTLE — During the final moments of Saturday’s game, a flock of birds congregated in the air above the west end zone at Husky Stadium. From Arizona State’s perspective, they were not vultures, for a change.
While the seagulls frolicked at one end of the field, the scoreboard at the other end signified something that the Sun Devils had not enjoyed since September: a victory.
The 39-19 win against Washington ended a school-record six game losing streak, provided coach Dennis Erickson his first win in Seattle in five tries and kept ASU’s long-shot bowl hopes alive.
“We’ll take a win,” Erickson said. “We’ll take any win after six losses. It was good to get the feeling back. It’s been awhile.”
After time expired, the Sun Devils (3-6 overall, 2-4 Pac-10) showed that they had not forgotten how to whoop it up after a win.
Jovial running back Keegan Herring, who ran for 144 yards and a touchdown, danced on the track surrounding the field. Players gathered in front of the small contingent of ASU fans among the announced crowd of 57,103. And chants and hollers emanated from the locker room.
“Man, it’s been the longest month — actually, it’s been two months, hasn’t it? — of my life,” quarterback Rudy Carpenter said. “It’s been terrible, but that’s the course our season has taken. I’m glad that the guys hung in there and kept playing hard.”
Washington (0-9, 0-6), the only winless team in the NCAA’s bowl subdivision, put up a fight well into the third quarter. In their second game since coach Tyrone Willingham was let go, effective at the end of the season, the Huskies threw deep often and unleashed an array of trick plays.
One went for a touchdown, when quarterback Ronnie Fouch caught a 6-yard scoring pass from wide receiver Cody Bruns in the second quarter.
But trickery that backfired put the game in ASU’s favor.
A double reverse in the third quarter put the ball back in the hands of Fouch, who was walloped by ASU defensive end James Brooks at the 8-yard line. Two plays later, the Huskies punted, tipping field position to Erickson’s team.
“That play was a turning point,” Erickson said. “They wanted to throw it, and (cornerback) Terell Carr had it covered, and we get a sack. We didn’t have good field position most of the day, but that play changed the game.”
ASU took little time to post two touchdowns that gave it a 30-19 lead, put an exclamation point on a career day for receiver Michael Jones and tied quarterback Rudy Carpenter with John Elway for fourth all time in the Pac-10 in touchdown passes, with 77.
After Brooks’ stop, the Huskies punted, and the Sun Devils took over 41 yards from the end zone. They covered that ground in eight plays, the last a 7-yard TD toss to Jones. Washington went three-and-out, and ASU marched to another score when Carpenter hit Jones from 2 yards out.
“In the first half, they did a couple of things on defense that we didn’t expect, so we had to make a couple of adjustments at halftime,” Jones said. “We did that and came out in the second half on fire. You want to go out and have fun. It hasn’t been much fun around here. That’s what the game is about. We came out, we played hard and won. That was fun.”
Jones had 11 catches for 146 yards, both career highs. Much of his success was due to ASU’s oft-beleaguered running game, which had a 100-yard rusher for the second straight game. Shaun DeWitty, who had 110 yards last week at Oregon State, started and was more physical, while the speedy Herring changed the pace.
“I think the important thing was that the offensive line did a great job, we ran the ball well, and the guys up front protected well,” said Carpenter, who was 22-of-31 for 218 yards and two touchdowns.
The Jones touchdowns relieved some red-zone pain — ASU scored on all five trips inside the 20, but the first three were field goals. The 12 penalties (for 92 yards) were a season high. Troy Nolan scored a touchdown for the second straight week, returning a fumble 44 yards for a score.
For the Devils, though, those are secondary details to be dissected during today’s film study. The main objective was finally met.
“After you lose so many times, just getting a win is all that matters,” Herring said. “People can have faith in us now. We can still turn this around and have a decent season.”