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Huskies bully Stanford to defeat in top-10 football matchup
Sophomore safety Justin Reid (right) lunges for an escaping Husky in Friday's 44-6 demolition of the Stanford football team. The injury-plagued Cardinal struggled defensively all game long as the notorious backfield partiers allowed quarterback Jake Browning plenty of time to methodically pick apart the thinned out secondary. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)

Huskies bully Stanford to defeat in top-10 football matchup

When he took over the Stanford football program in 2007, former head coach Jim Harbaugh vowed to “build a bully” and create the meanest, most physical team on the West Coast.

Flash forward a decade later. The Cardinal have indeed morphed into a physical juggernaut and a hallmark of stability in a tumultuous era of college football. But, on a chilly Friday night in Seattle, the longtime bruisers took numerous brutal punches while hardly delivering one of their own.

A new bully from even further up north had emerged on the playground, and No. 15 Stanford (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12) had no choice but to cough up its lunch money in the form of a 44-6 defeat at the hands of the Washington Huskies (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12).

In seeking to contextualize this game, bringing up Harbaugh’s name is especially apt. The Cardinal last suffered a defeat of this magnitude in 2007, a 41-3 loss at home against Arizona State.

For the Huskies, the win marked the program’s largest margin of victory over a top-10 team and the first time the Dawgs prevailed over such an opponent since a 20-17 victory over then-No. 7 Oregon State in 2012, a resounding signal that the rebuilding project under third-year head coach Chris Petersen has come to an end. Washington now owns the inside track in the Pac-12 North and stands as the conference’s best hope of sending a representative to the College Football Playoff.

Within the game, the Huskies dominated nearly every matchup. UW stunted Stanford’s opening drive, forcing the Cardinal to punt after four plays, and got to senior quarterback Ryan Burns twice in that span, both on four-man rushes. The possession sent a rippling roar amongst the sea of purple in attendance, setting the tone for the remainder of the game.

“They played extremely well, they just did,” head coach David Shaw said of Washington’s front seven. “Third and long in the noise, with the pass rush that they have, it’s going to be really tough.”

The Cardinal ultimately gave up eight sacks to the Huskies’ ferocious front while managing to convert just two out of 12 third down attempts and reaching the end zone no more than once all evening.

Junior running back Christian McCaffrey pulled off several impressive runs to make positive gains in spite of the struggles of the Stanford offensive line, but finished with just 49 total yards on the ground – his lowest rushing output since the 2014 Big Game where he had three carries. McCaffrey did, however, cross the 200-yard all-purpose yard mark in large part thanks to his 144 return yards on kickoffs, a result prompted by both Washington’s willingness to kick it towards No. 5 and by the sheer number of times the Huskies scored.

Washington’s physicality up front, coupled with the Dawgs’ stout coverage on the secondary, also rendered quarterbacks Ryan Burns and Keller Chryst largely ineffective. Burns, who took the majority of the snaps, finished 15-for-22 for 151 yards and a touchdown while Chryst, who took over the Cardinal’s third offensive possession for the third time this season and returned for much of the second half, completed three of his five passes for 33 yards.

In total, Stanford accumulated a meager 213 yards of offense, nearly half of Washington’s total and the lowest output in a game during Shaw’s tenure.

“Well that was about as poorly as we could play from start to finish, and that’s the bottom line,” Shaw added. “That team that went out there tonight is not the team that played last week, it’s not the team that practiced all week to come up and play a really good team in their house.”

Stanford’s offensive struggles were compounded by the Huskies’ equally merciless dominance on the other side of the ball. In their preparations leading up to the game, the Cardinal emphasized the importance of keeping Washington’s speedy receivers in check, but slowing down the real deal proved to be overwhelming, especially for a secondary down its two starting corners in junior Alijah Holder and sophomore Quenton Meeks.

The Huskies took shots downfield early and often and scored on each of their four possessions in the first half, including three touchdowns. The Cardinal front, who entered the game with 11 sacks to their name, came home empty handed. In fact, Stanford registered just one tackle for loss all evening – a stop by safety Justin Reid in the game’s waning moments. The party in the backfield never got going in Seattle.

UW quarterback Jake Browning, who missed last year’s matchup with an injury, turned in a stellar performance, going 15-for-21 for 210 yards and tossing three touchdowns. Browning also excelled at moving around the pocket, often dancing around the Stanford pressure and converting downfield. Amongst the Huskies’ receivers, John Ross, Dante Pettis and Chico McClatcher all delivered stellar performances. Each of Washington’s big three in the receiving corps caught four passes for a combined 186 yards and two touchdowns.

“They ran a lot of things that we saw on tape and practiced,” fifth-year senior safety Zach Hoffpauir said. “I just don’t think we executed in a timely manner … They’re a good receiving corps. Probably the best we’ll see.”

After heading to the locker room room down 23-0, the Cardinal began the second half on a positive note, forcing a three-and-out for the first time all game. The ensuing Washington punt, however, proved to be emblematic of Stanford’s nightmare of an evening. After UW’s Tristan Vizcaino booted one away towards Christian McCaffrey, the ball hit the turf and took a bounce backwards into Stanford safety Ben Edwards, allowing Washington to recover the ensuing live ball.

The turnover was one of two from Stanford in the game. The Cardinal also committed 11 penalties for 100 yards, compounding their struggles on the field with numerous miscues.

The remainder of the second half featured a heavy dose of UW pounding the football on the ground behind backs Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman. The culmination of Washington’s physical running attack came in the fourth quarter when the Huskies pulverized their way to a 16-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 3-yard Browning touchdown pass to Aaron Fuller, taking 9:47 off the clock.

All of a sudden, Stanford wasn’t just grappling with any talented juggernaut. They were looking into a mirror.

With Washington further pulling away in the final 30 minutes, freshman wide receiver Donald Stewart burned his redshirt and received abundant playing time. Stewart was one of a number of young Stanford receivers to log a career-high number of snaps once the game got out of hand. Sophomore JJ Arcega-Whiteside made a leaping grab in the corner of the end zone to notch his second career touchdown catch in as many games. Junior Isaiah Brandt-Sims also recorded his first career catch late in the fourth quarter.

When the final whistle sounded and the Washington student section began flooding the field of Husky stadium in a sea of purple, the shock on the Stanford sideline gave way to thoughts on how to bounce back from its most lopsided loss in a decade.

“I’ve got a locker room full of Stanford guys. They’re leaders,” Shaw said. “I expect them to bounce back.”

“You don’t want to think about this game forever, but you need to take what you did wrong and apply it to next week and learn from it,” fifth-year senior safety Dallas Lloyd said. “I know on Monday we’re going to bring it with a lot of energy.”

Hoffpauir added that he will share a message with the team he received from a famous Stanford football alum: “Doug Baldwin once told me: ‘When you fail, you’re one step closer to success.’ I think we’ll learn from this and be better.”

The Cardinal will return to action on Saturday at home against Washington State. The game will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN2. Meanwhile, the Huskies will travel to Autzen Stadium to take on rival Oregon.

 

Contact Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Vihan Lakshman

Vihan Lakshman's journey at The Stanford Daily came full-circle as he began his career as a football beat writer and now closes his time on The Farm in the same role. In between, he has served as an Opinions columnist and desk editor, a beat writer for Stanford baseball, and as a member of The Daily's Editorial Board. Vihan completed his undergraduate degree in Mathematical and Computational Science in 2016, and is currently pursuing a master's in Computational Mathematics. He also worked as a color commentator on KZSU football broadcasts during the 2015 season. To contact him, please send an email to vihan 'at' stanford.edu