A matchup that’s been circled on Stanford fans’ calendars for over a year now looms even larger as it approaches. This time, Stanford’s matchup against Washington will be a battle between two top-ranked teams as Stanford enters at No. 5 and Washington at No. 15.
“There’s no wonder why they’re nationally ranked,” Shaw said. “[They present] multiple problems — the nation’s leading rusher, a quarterback that’s been great, the best tight end in the nation. Those are three huge problems for our defense.”
Stanford has certainly been no stranger to high-tempo offenses after facing several such units in the Pac-12 and in nonconference play, but Shaw doesn’t believe that makes it any easier.
“It’s never easier; they’re all so different,” Shaw elaborated. “We still have to approach them from a scheme standpoint. Their scheme is different from Oregon’s scheme, a little different from Arizona’s scheme, a little different from Arizona State’s scheme, so it’s different….They’re such different offenses that it’s hard to carry a game plan from one game to another.”
Stanford will enter the matchup with restored depth after playing at less than full strength last weekend against Washington State. Senior cornerback Barry Browning is expected to return for Saturday’s game and senior left guard David Yankey returned to practice on Monday.
“It was big because he’s the captain,” Shaw responded when asked about Yankey’s return to the team. “When he’s not there you miss him [as] that vocal leader, to be that mainstay of our offensive line.”
Sophomore guard Joshua Garnett put together a strong performance in place of Yankey against Washington State last Saturday, helping Stanford amass 560 yards of total offense, including 238 on the ground. In addition, Garnett played back in his home state of Washington. A native of Puyallup, Wash., Garnett felt right at home on the field.
“I felt good, I had some good blocks,” Garnett said. “I did well but I think I could have done better; there were some mistakes I made…but it definitely felt good getting out there and trying to play for David and fill that void he left.”
The offensive line will be a major key to Stanford’s success in the upcoming game against Washington. Last year, Stanford only rushed for 68 yards, its lowest total of the season, and averaged only 2.4 yards per carry in a 17-13 loss at CenturyLink Field. Those numbers will have to improve for Stanford to be successful this weekend.
“We definitely can’t take back last year’s loss,” said Garnett. “We can just move forward; we want to be 1-0 this weekend. But I think a lot of the guys really remember — and it really hits close to home— what happened last year and how they moved us and we didn’t move them. It kind of hits us guys on the offensive line a little harder because we want to be the guys who move them. A lot of guys are definitely excited for this game.”
After the past weekend’s diverse rushing performance, it’s difficult to imagine anyone shutting down Stanford’s ground game. Six different players registered two carries, including junior Remound Wright who rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown on two carries and sophomore Barry Sanders who added 34 yards and a touchdown on three carries.
“I think it was good to see those guys do what they do every day in practice,” Garnett said. “I think it was good for everyone to see that we have four, five, even six running backs who can score touchdowns in games.”
Kickoff against Washington is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. this Saturday at Stanford Stadium.
Contact Michael Peterson at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.