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Huskies must stop the run

Stanford has one of the best rushing attacks in the nation.

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By Scott M. Johnson
Herald Writer
SEATTLE — The beginning of the end of the 2009 University of Washington football season came with the suddenness of a 235-pound express train.
After Stanford running back Toby Gerhart ran over the Huskies to the tune of 200 yards, UW was feeling as humbled and vulnerable as it had all season.
“They really took it to us last year,” safety Nate Williams said this week. “One of the things we pride ourselves on is, after the game, we want the other team to know that they played the Huskies. Last year, that wasn’t really the case. Just that alone will really motivate us.”
For a reeling team that doesn’t need much motivation, the Huskies have plenty this afternoon when the Cardinal come to Husky Stadium for the rematch.
And while Gerhart has taken his skills to the National Football League, 13th-ranked Stanford (6-1 overall, 3-1 in the Pac-10) has been just as dominant against opposing defenses this season.
The Cardinal have the 16th-ranked rushing offense in the country, and the 15th-ranked offense overall. With a run defense that ranks 104th out of 120 teams, the Huskies would appear to have their work cut out for them again.
“It’s going to be like a heavyweight fight,” Huskies linebacker Mason Foster said. “They’re going to come out physical, and we’ve got to match their physicality. We have to play hard-nosed football because that’s what they play.”
The UW defense walked off the turf at Stanford Stadium last October feeling like a nose that had been broken in 200 places. Led by Gerhart, the Cardinal pounded the Huskies for 321 total rushing yards in a 34-14 win over a UW team that was ranked 24th in the nation but went on to lose six of seven games.
“We came into that game ranked, and they definitely pounded us,” UW linebacker Cort Dennison said. “We look back at that game, and we realize that we got beat up pretty bad. We definitely don’t want that to happen this year.”
In last year’s game, the Cardinal went back to the same ground-and-pound running play over and over against a reeling UW defense. Gerhart had 158 rushing yards by halftime, while Stanford called just 14 pass plays all night.
“They pound the rock; that’s what they’re famous for,” Dennison said. “They’re a really good football team for a reason, and they’re going to bring it.”
While Gerhart is now playing for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, the Cardinal still feature one of the top run games in the country while using a more balanced attack. Stepfan Taylor, a 208-pound sophomore, leads the way with 624 rushing yards while five other Cardinal runners — quarterback Andrew Luck is among them — have more than 100 rushing yards this season.
To say that a more experienced UW run defense is ready for the challenge would lack much statistical backing. The Huskies have been getting gashed by opposing runners to the tune of 202 yards per game. In the past five games, six opposing runners — Arizona’s Keola Antolin, Oregon State’s Jacquizz Rodgers, USC’s Allen Bradford and a trio of Nebraska ball carriers — have gone over the 100-yard mark against UW.
Arizona piled up 467 total yards in a 44-14 win over the Huskies last Saturday.
“All we can do from the Arizona game is look at our mistakes, correct them as best we can and move on,” Dennison said.
What else the Huskies can do is remember the way last year’s Stanford game went and try to use it as motivation.
“They really did take it to us,” Williams said. “We’re happy to be at home, and we’re going to try and take it to them this year.”
And if UW doesn’t, it might be more of the same.
“We’ve got to be ready for a battle, because that’s what it’s going to be,” Dennison said. “It’s going to be a war all night.”
Story tags » FootballCollege FootballHuskies FootballNCAA Football

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