By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
SEATTLE — It was the kind of decision that makes a head coach either a genius or a goat.
On the final play of the third quarter, with his team trailing 13-3 and facing a fourth-and-1 at his own 39-yard line, University of Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian kept his punt squad on the sideline and instead went for the first down.
As it turned out, Washington’s eventual 17-13 victory over eighth-ranked Stanford on Thursday night was largely due to what happened next.
A UW offensive line that had trouble against the Cardinal’s defensive front much of the night opened a huge hole on the right side for running back Bishop Sankey. The first down was a piece of cake, but Sankey broke a tackle as he cleared the line of scrimmage and then darted past the safety in the secondary, and was on his way to a 61-yard touchdown run.
“The hole was just wide open,” Sankey said. “I hit the hole hard, slipped out of a tackle, and it was off to the races after that.”
“It was well blocked,” Sarkisian said. “Bishop made the safety miss and he got in the end zone.”
Hanging in there
Washington’s makeshift offensive line, which is missing four players who were expected to be starters or top reserves this season — Colin Porter, Eric Koehler, Colin Tanagawa and Ben Riva — was getting pushed around by Stanford’s defensive front early in the game. But in the second half, the young UW offensive front seemed to play with more confidence.
“I thought our (offensive line) bounced back there in the middle of the third quarter because we were wavering a little bit,” Sarkisian said. “But they fought back. And I thought we established ourselves on the ground late in the third quarter and then obviously in the fourth.”
But the Huskies were never able to give quarterback Keith Price a pocket to throw down the field. Washington’s passing game was reduced to short routes either over the middle or in the flat.
“Obviously from a pass-protection standpoint, this was disappointing,” Sarkisian said. “I wanted to throw it down the field. I thought there were some things there for us, but we just couldn’t do it.”
Junior kicker Travis Coons had his first punt of the season in the opening quarter and it was an adventure. Coons mishandled a low snap, had to chase down the bouncing ball, and then executed a left-footed kick — he’s a usual right-footed kicker — that trickled dead at the Stanford 16.
Coons had been solely a place-kicker in Washington’s first three games, but was asked to handle both kicking duties against the Cardinal. Korey Durkee had punted in Washington’s first three games.
Coons finished the night with nine punts for a 38.9-yard average, including a long of 53 yards.
In addition to his game-winning touchdown reception, Kasen Williams — Washington’s big-play wide receiver — had a huge night for the Huskies with 10 receptions for 129 yards. Both are career highs.
UW’s win was its first against Stanford since a 27-9 UW victory in 2007. … Geoff Meinken, a graduate of Lynnwood High School and a fourth-year Stanford junior, has yet to play this season because of a knee injury. … Sam Shober, a freshman from Monroe and Archbishop Murphy High School, is a Stanford walk-on, but was not on the team’s traveling squad.