SEATTLE — Washington’s best defense of the past week came, ironically, from Steve Sarkisian.
The Huskies missed 20 tackles and Arizona State gained 190 yards after contact on Saturday, two numbers Sarkisian called “pretty startling” after the Sun Devils’ 53-24 rout of UW.
But Sarkisian, the UW coach and offensive play-caller, came to the defense of his defense, which faced 93 plays against ASU and was on the field for nearly 39 minutes. Those two numbers are pretty startling, too.
“Justin (Wilcox) will never give you an excuse … but I do believe it’s a direct result of them being on the field too much,” Sarkisian said.
Wilcox, UW’s second-year defensive coordinator, shrugged when asked about his defense being on the field for so long in the Arizona heat while allowing 585 yards. (The temperature was announced at 87 degrees for the afternoon kickoff in Tempe.)
“We need to re-evaluate everything we do, starting with me, on what we’re doing, from the schematics of it on down to how we’re teaching the schemes and the fundamentals,” Wilcox said Tuesday. “But at the end of the day, we have to get guys on the ground. Tackling (is) as important a fundamental as there is in football. No matter what you do, you gotta finish.”
In a “perfect world,” Wilcox said, the Huskies would be able to play the starting 11 defenders for an entire game, “but that’s not reality” with Pac-12 offenses running as many plays as they do.
Washington used 25 players on defense against Arizona State, and all seemed to have a hand in the missed tackles and botched assignments. The Sun Devils scored 29 unanswered points in a first half that featured six three-and-outs and a lost fumble by the UW offense.
“We were trying to rotate guys,” Sarkisian said. “We just couldn’t keep our defense off the field well enough to give them a chance to be refreshed. ... We missed a lot of tackles, I think, as a byproduct of that. I thought fatigue played into our inability to tackle them in some pretty obvious tackling situations that we normally make.”
Said defensive lineman Evan Hudson: “We’re not going to point fingers at anyone. We’re going to lock up and get through this together.”
After taking Monday off from practice, UW returned to the field for an 8:30 a.m. practice Tuesday that included live tackling.
“I think we’re a little salty,” UW linebackers coach Peter Sirmon said. “I think guys came out to practice today with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder, which you would expect.”
The Huskies (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12), looking to end a three-game slide, host California (1-6, 0-4) at 8 p.m. Saturday at Husky Stadium.
“We’re fighting like hell,” Wilcox said, “and we’re going to continue to do that because that’s what we’re about. Nobody in our program feels good or is OK with what happened.”
Keith Price did not make any warm-up throws during the opening 20-minute window of UW practice open to the media Tuesday. Sarkisian said afterward that it’s unclear if the senior quarterback will be available against Cal after Price aggravated a thumb injury on his throwing hand against ASU.
“We don’t know yet,” Sarkisian said, when asked about Price’s status. “We’re going to monitor him throughout the week. Obviously, we’re hopeful that he can play, but are fortunate (that) we’ve recruited that position very well with Cyler Miles and Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams all behind him.
“We’re hopeful Keith can go and is healthy enough to go, but that decision has yet to be made.”
• Linebacker John Timu said he is “feeling good” after spraining his right ankle against ASU, but he’s unsure if he’ll play against Cal.