It’s hard to think of a more confusingly frustrating win than one in which your team jumps to a 21-point lead in the first 17:40, and gets outscored 23–6 in the remaining 42:20. But as we all know, a win is a win, and tonight’s 27–23 Washington Huskies victory over the Stanford Cardinal means that the Dawgs still own a realistic path to the Pac-12 championship.
The Dawgs couldn’t have played better to start the game, limiting Cameron Scarlett to a 23-yard return and forcing a three-and-out on Stanford’s first drive. In response, the Washington offense came out firing, driving 60 yards in six plays to set up a first down at the Stanford 16-yard line. Thanks to a timely hands-to-the-face penalty on Stanford that negated a sack, Jake Browning was able to find the end zone on a two-yard run to give the Dawgs an early 7–0 lead.
On Stanford’s ensuing drive, the Washington home crowd made their presence felt by forcing the Cardinal to take a delay-of-game penalty before their first snap. On third down, Keith Taylor (starting in place of an injured Jordan Miller) made a clutch breakup on what would have been a first-down completion to JJ Arcega-Whiteside, ensuring that Stanford’s second drive was as unproductive as its first.
Washington’s next drive started promisingly enough and was nearly capped by a 22-yard Salvon Ahmed touchdown run, but an unfortunate chop block penalty called on Nick Harris set up a second-and-19 at the Stanford 37-yard line. Three plays later, Jake Browning stood tall in the pocket on fourth-and-11 and hit Aaron Fuller on a drag route for a 16-yard gain and a first-and-goal from the 13. They completed the drive two plays later with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Browning to Drew Sample to seize a 14–0 advantage with about a minute left to play in the first quarter.
On third-and-five of Stanford’s next drive, Byron Murphy came up with his first interception of the year to give the Huskies possession at the Stanford 26. One clutch fourth-down conversion later, Myles Gaskin plunged in from six yards to give the Dawgs a 21–0 lead with 12:20 left in the first half.
Stanford finally caught their first break of the game when JoJo McIntosh was (rightly) disqualified for a targeting penalty, allowing the Cardinal to advance past midfield for the first time in the evening. Even after advancing into the red zone, though, Stanford’s run of bad luck continued as Ben Burr-Kirven tipped a ball into the air that Greg Gaines dove for and made his first career interception.
Despite the swing in momentum, the Stanford defense stiffened up and forced a three-and-out punt against the Huskies offense, which gave the Cardinal the ball back at their own 27. For the first time, Stanford’s offense seemed to get into a rhythm (despite injuries on the drive to both Bryce Love and Arcega-Whiteside), going 36 yards in 10 plays and converting two first-downs before the drive fizzled on a fourth-and-six incompletion.
Taking over at the UW 37, Washington needed 11 plays to move a mere 29 yards before a failed fourth-down conversion gave Stanford the ball at their own 34-yard line with 19 seconds left to play. The Cardinal completed several explosion pass plays to get close to the Huskies end zone but ultimately failed to put points on the board, and went into halftime trailing 21–0.
Coming out of the half, Washington’s offense took possession at the 25-yard line and promptly went three-and-out in what was unquestionably the Stanford defense’s best drive of the day to that point. Stanford fielded Joel Whitford’s punt at the Cardinal 39, and the Stanford offense overcame an early second-and-14 scenario to drive the length of the field into the red zone. There, KJ Costello stood in a clean pocket and found Kaden Smith in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown reception to make the game 21–7 in Washington’s favor.
Washington’s ensuing drive advanced into Stanford territory on the strength of Gaskin’s 37-yard run to the Cardinal 38, as well as a well-executed shovel pass to Salvon Ahmed that gained 17 yards. Unfortunately, Washington’s first-and-goal opportunity from the 10-yard line fizzled, but Peyton Henry’s kick split the uprights to extend Washington’s lead to 24–7.
Stanford’s offense continued right where it left off, going 67 yards in six plays (thanks to a pair of penalties against the Washington defense, only one of which was clearly warranted), and Bryce Love bounced into the end zone from five yards out to cut Washington’s lead to 10 points, 24–14.
Needing badly to regain the game’s momentum, Washington’s offense instead went three-and-out for the second time in three drives. Making matters worse, Whitford badly shanked his punt for just 17 yards, giving Stanford the ball at Washington’s 47-yard line. Thankfully, the Washington defense immediately answered by delivering two consecutive tackles-for-loss on Bryce Love rushing attempts, and Costello missed his receiver on a third-and-13 attempt to move the sticks, resulting in a Stanford punt that went for a touchback.
The Huskies offense did absolutely nothing to capitalize on that opportunity, turning first-and-10 from the 10 into fourth-and-18 from the 2. Whitford’s punt from the back of the end zone gave Stanford the ball at UW’s 33, and one 25-yard pass later, the Cardinal were knocking on the door of Washington’s end zone with first-and-goal from the 8-yard line. On third-and-goal from the 3, the Husky defense bottled Love up at the line of scrimmage, and Collin Riccitelli split the uprights on his 21-yard attempt to narrow the score to 24–17, Huskies.
Taking over with nine minutes left to play, the Washington offense quickly went to third down before Browning hit Aaron Fuller for a clutch 18-yard gain for first down. Two plays later, Ty Jones beat Alijah Holder on a 50/50 jump ball for an 18-yard gain. The Dawgs were unable to earn another first down, and Peyton Henry nailed his 38-yard attempt to give the Huskies a 10-point lead, 27–17, with 5:09 left to play in regulation.
Stanford’s drive took over at the 20-yard line, and on the first play from scrimmage, Bryce Love exploded for a 28-yard gain to the Stanford 48. Two plays later, Costello threaded the needle on a completion to Colby Parkinson for 18 yards. On third down, Costello hit Trenton Irwin for a 33-yard touchdown, beating Byron Murphy in coverage. However, Riccitelli’s point-after attempt went wide right, leaving Stanford trailing 27–23 with 3:24 left to play.
Washington’s offense took over at the 25, and Gaskin made what could have been a disastrous fumble on the first play from scrimmage. Thankfully, Drew Sample fell on the ball, and Washington retained control. Unfortunately, the Dawgs weren’t able to convert a first down, forcing a Whitford punt that was downed at the Stanford 15-yard line with 2:05 remaining.
The Cardinal started their attempt at a game-winning drive by feeding the ball to Bryce Love and freshman Michael Wilson, whose 13-yard third-down reception kept the drive alive. Connor Wedington’s 15-yard catch brought the ball to the UW 34-yard line, and Stanford had one final attempt to win the game with three seconds remaining. On that play, Costello’s hail mary was intercepted by Taylor Rapp, who took a knee in the end zone to end the game.
- The Huskies couldn’t have hoped to start this game better. The game’s first six drives went as follows: Stanford: three-and-out, Washington: eight plays and a touchdown, Stanford: three-and-out, Washington: 14 plays and a touchdown, Stanford: three plays and an interception, Washington: six plays and a touchdown. During that run, the Huskies outgained the Cardinal 179 yards to 21.
- Considering how dominant they began the game, it’s hard to think that Myles Gaskin’s presence wasn’t the key factor in UW’s loss on the road against Cal last week. The senior running back earned 148 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries in his first game action since the Oct. 13 game against Oregon.
- Washington entered this game having scored touchdowns on 51.2 percent of their red zone opportunities. Tonight, they went three-for-four (75 percent).
- The Dawgs converted two of three fourth-down attempts, averaging 5.7 yards per play.
- It took the Stanford offense 18:25 to gain their first first-down.
- Washington’s three interceptions on the evening doubled their season total to six.
- If he continues to develop the way he has to this point, Keith Taylor has a legit shot to be named to the all-conference team in 2019.
- David Shaw will be rightly furious with the Pac-12 officials for the way they mishandled to clock on the game’s final drive, allowing Washington to improperly substitute defenders while the clock continued to run down.
A well-deserved bye week, then a reunion with Jonathan Smith when the Oregon State Beavers come to Husky Stadium on Nov. 17.