SEATTLE — While the rest of the world returns to the scene of the crime tonight when ESPN telecasts the University of Washington-Stanford game from CenturyLink Field, all the Huskies are looking for is some team defense.
In four consecutive wins over UW, Stanford has scored 175 points — an average of almost 44 per game. The low point, from a defensive standpoint, came when the Cardinal piled up 446 rushing yards and scored 65 points in a blowout win last October.
It’s a game that remains fresh in the memories of Huskies who were at Stanford Stadium that evening. The returning UW defenders weren’t exactly at a shortage of adjectives this week when describing the feelings in the locker room following that game.
“That was terrible,” sophomore linebacker John Timu said. “That was a terrible feeling that we don’t want to experience again.”
The memory of last year’s game is fueling UW (2-1) as the Huskies head into their Pacific-12 Conference opener against the eighth-ranked Cardinal (3-0).
“You never want to get embarrassed like that,” sophomore wide receiver Kasen Williams said. “You still have that bad taste in your mouth from years past. You want to get back, some way, somehow. We’ve waited a whole year to do it.”
In last year’s game, the Huskies hung with Stanford for a little more than a quarter. A pair of long Chris Polk touchdown runs, from 46 and 61 yards, put UW within three at 17-14 90 seconds into the second quarter. The Cardinal scored 31 unanswered points to turn it into the rout after three quarters, and UW never could stop Stanford’s ground game on the way to a 65-21 loss.
“It was awful,” junior quarterback Keith Price said this week. “I didn’t play my best game. I’m sure a lot of guys felt that same way. We’ve just got to be ready this time.”
Two weeks ago, this Stanford team didn’t look nearly as daunting as the one that hammered UW last season. No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Luck has moved on, along with All-American guard David DeCastro (a first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers), tackle Jonathan Martin (a second-round pick, by Miami) and tight end Coby Fleener (a second-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts).
But any questions about Stanford’s rebuilding process were answered 12 days ago, when the Cardinal knocked off second-ranked USC 21-14 to move into the national top 10. That game opened the eyes of the nation, and the Huskies certainly took notice.
But they aren’t planning on coming into tonight’s game wide-eyed and awestruck.
“To me, it’s just another chance to play against an opponent in our conference,” junior safety Sean Parker said. “I’m excited to play, and we’re out to win it.”
Sophomore defensive tackle Danny Shelton said earlier this week that Stanford’s offensive line isn’t as daunting as the DeCastro-led unit that manhandled UW defenders last season.
“I see the potential in them,” Shelton said, “but I don’t think they’re the same as last year.”
For the most part, the Huskies are trying to put last year behind them. That was one of the lowpoints of the 2011 season, and this year’s team would prefer to forget about it.
“I just felt like we weren’t really in it,” Williams said. “As soon as (Polk) broke those two long runs, after that I felt like we didn’t have any momentum. We had nothing really going for us that game. And I think this year’s going to be different.”
The Huskies are certainly hoping for a different outcome, even if that means a controversial officials’ call in the corner of the end zone — a la the Seahawks-Packers game on Monday night. Just having a shot to win in the final seconds would be quite a step in the right direction for a UW team that’s served as little more than a blocking sled to Stanford in recent years.
“I think we have a better game plan this year,” Williams said. “We’re more prepared, and we’re at home, coming off a bye week. It’s the first game of the Pac-12 Conference. There’s a lot more going with this game, and a lot more riding on it.”