Returning to the Farm for a three-game homestand, Stanford (2-3, 1-2 Pac-12) will face tough odds against Pac-12 north rival No. 15 Washington (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12). The Huskies have not won in Stanford Stadium since 2007, when now-offensive coordinator Tavita Pritchard was the Cardinal signal caller.
Last year, Stanford fell just short of a second half comeback. Then-junior quarterback K.J. Costello threw two first-half interceptions as Stanford found itself down 21-0, but he came back in the second half with two touchdowns and 214 yards on 14-20. The comeback fell just short, as Costello was picked off on the final play of the game.
This year, Washington is led by the arm of quarterback Jacob Eason, who is averaging just under 250 passing yards per game. The Georgia transfer made his Huskies debut in the season opener against Eastern Washington, throwing for 349 yards and four scores.
Huskies’ running back Salvon Ahmed is averaging 99.8 rushing yards per game this season. Since the 1947 season, Washington is 219-68-3 when it has a 100-yard rusher, including 20-3 in such games dating back to the 2016 season.
The defense for Washington has been consistent and impressive all year, holding opponents between between 14 and 20 points in all five games and allowing just two scrimmage plays over 40 yards. On five Washington turnovers this season, the defense has allowed just one scoring drive, a touchdown.
Washington kicker Peyton Henry is a perfect 9-9 on the season, with a long of 49 yards.
Stanford will once again be without senior captain Costello. Junior Davis Mills will receive his third career start, and head coach David Shaw has liked the development he has seen.
“He’s made great progress since USC, and he’s got a lot more progress to make,” Shaw said. “We don’t want to hang the whole game on his shoulders.”
In his two career starts, Mills is 40-61 with 482 yards and 4 touchdowns. No other Stanford quarterback since 2003 has thrown for as many yards or touchdowns in their first two starts.
Andrew Luck ’12 was 34-57 for 469 yards and 3 scores, while Kevin Hogan ’15 matched Mills’ four touchdowns on 47-65 and 465 yards.
The standout of the year for Stanford thus far has been the special teams. Senior kicker Jet Toner was awarded Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week for his last-second game-winning field goal in Corvallis. Last year, Toner was unavailable for the Washington game due to injury.
“The thing we hang our hat on is trying to create field position for the offense and the defense and score points,” special teams coordinator Pete Alamar said. “We never know what play is going to be a turning point in the game, so we play every play like that is going to be the play that turns the game.”
Also against Oregon State, senior cornerback Obi Eboh blocked a field goal, junior wide receiver Connor Wedington returned a kickoff 43 yards to set up Toner’s game-winner, and freshman punter Ryan Sanborn twice pinned the Beavers inside their own 20.
Stanford’s kickoff return and coverage teams have been excellent all season. The coverage is ranked 35th in the nation while limiting opponents to 17.7 yards, and the return team is 15th with 27.4 yards per kickoff return.
In addition to Sanborn, five true freshmen have made starts so far this season. Two of those freshmen are on the offensive line.
After starting eight different lineups in 13 games last season, Stanford has already started four different offensive line combinations in the first five games of the 2019 season. Nevertheless, the two freshmen on the left side of the offensive line, tackle Walter Rouse and guard Barrett Miller, played well against Oregon State.
“I completely forgot that we had a freshman left tackle and freshman left guard,” Shaw said. “They’re bright kids, they’re competitive kids, and they want to do everything right.”
In spite of the offensive line uncertainty, fifth-year running back Cameron Scarlett has rushed for 434 yards on a healthy 4.4 yards per carry. A huge 45-yard fourth down conversion set up a Stanford touchdown last week, and Scarlett is now on pace for nearly a 1,000-yard season. After the last game, Shaw mentioned that Scarlett was the offensive MVP.
“We are a team with some injuries,” Shaw said. “But regardless of injuries, we’re a talented football team.”
Stanford has not allowed a first quarter touchdown in six of the last eight games it has played, dating back to the final three games of the 2018 season. Meanwhile, Washington has outscored opponents 77-3 in the first fifteen minutes.
Kickoff from Stanford Stadium is at 7:30 p.m. PST on Saturday.
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.