The last thing the slumping Huskies needed was a stormy night and swirling wind making it even more difficult to find a spark against No. 14 Arizona State.
"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."
Taylor Kelly threw two touchdown passes after missing more than a month with a foot injury, the second a 7-yarder to Gary Chambers with 3 minutes left in the Sun Devils' 24-10 victory over Washington on a blustery Saturday night.
With waves of heavy rain blowing in sideways, the guys from the desert managed the difficult conditions for their ninth straight win over Washington. Arizona State (6-1, 4-1 Pac-12) remained in control of the race in the Pac-12 South and set up a huge matchup with Utah next week in Tempe.
Meanwhile, Petersen is facing a rarity in his tenure as head coach. Washington (5-3, 1-3) suffered its second straight loss to a ranked opponent. It's the first time a 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.
Petersen has never lost three straight games as head coach.
"We just got to get better and more efficient on offense," Petersen said. "That's going to be the tremendous urgency around here. We've got to take a step and play better offense."
Troy Williams made his first career start at quarterback after Cyler Miles was cleared from a concussion suffered last week at Oregon, but didn't get enough practice time this week, Petersen said. Williams showed his inexperience and with the blustery conditions struggling to throw downfield. Williams finished 18 of 26 for 139 yards, was intercepted twice and also fumbled deep in his own end.
"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," said Arizona State safety Jordan Simone, who intercepted Williams' pass in the third quarter.
Washington was also thinned at running back, and the Huskies turned to linebacker Shaq Thompson as their primary ball carrier. Thompson finished with 98 yards on 21 carries.
"We just wanted to keep running it downhill," Thompson said. "They weren't that good when we went downhill. The focus was just to keep going downhill so they couldn't get lined up."
Kelly was 14 of 25 for 180 yards making his first appearance since suffering a foot injury on Sept. 13 against Colorado. Mike Bercovici filled in more than admirably with Kelly out, leading the Sun Devils to back-to-back wins over ranked opponents — USC and Stanford — for the first time since 1997.
Kelly was sacked seven times — including two from Hau'oli Kikaha, the national leader. Kelly also made a critical mistake in the third quarter when John Timu returned an interception 63 yards for a touchdown to give Washington a chance. The Sun Devils also failed to score twice in the second half when having the ball inside the Washington 10.
The Huskies had a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter, putting together their best drive of the night. Washington ran on 13 of 14 plays, but Thompson was stopped for a loss of 4 yards on third-and-goal at the 2. The Huskies settled for Cameron Van Winkle's 23-yard field goal and a 10-10 tie with 7:14 left.
Kelly then answered. He was 3 of 3 for 36 yards and ran for another 12 on Arizona State's final drive. Kelly found Jaelen Strong for 23 yards to get into Washington territory and Darmrio Richard's 18-yard run got Arizona State inside the 10.
Kelly then lofted a pass as he was being pulled down by Kikaha and Chambers adjusted to make the TD catch. Armand Perry returned an interception 61 yards for a touchdown with 52 seconds left when Williams attempted a desperation throw on fourth-and-25.
"That last drive when they scored on offense wasn't our series. We got to be more stout than that," Timu said. "I feel like we could have helped the offense a little bit more, especially with the new quarterback in."