SEATTLE — For years, Stanford University has been one of the premier teams in the Pac-12 Conference.
On Friday night, the Cardinal met their match — and then some.
Before a packed house at Husky Stadium, and on a glorious fall evening for football, the 10th-ranked University of Washington demolished the No. 7 Cardinal 44-6 before a delirious sellout crowd of 70,027, the largest crowd at a UW game since the facility was renovated before the 2013 season. And those fans played a major role, rocking the stadium with a volume of decibels unheard in some time.
Surely that support helped, but the Huskies also seemed super-charged right from the start. With a national television audience looking on, Washington scored on its first four offensive possessions for a 23-0 halftime lead, and then pushed the margin to 30-0 midway through the third quarter. Stanford finally got on the board with a touchdown in the late seconds of the period, but the Huskies tacked on two more TDs in the fourth quarter to turn a one-sided win into a blowout while raising their season record to 5-0 and their Pac-12 mark to 2-0.
“I thought our whole team showed the country,” said UW quarterback Jake Browning. “All these people are talking about ‘Prove it, prove it, prove it.’ But while we’ve obviously got more to prove because it’s only been five games, as far as five games go we’ve put together five good ones.
“It was awesome to have the Husky Nation come out like that,” Browning added. “I felt the stadium shaking a little bit during the game. And then to have (the fans) rush the field afterwards was pretty cool. It’s something I won’t forget.”
Even Washington coach Chris Petersen seemed slightly dazed by the one-sided outcome. “I’m really proud how hard they played and how good they played,” he said. As for the backing of a noisy sellout crowd, “It hasn’t felt like that since I’ve been here,” Petersen said. “It was awesome.”
“It felt great,” said UW safety Budda Baker. “It was a packed house and everyone was loud. First down was loud, and then second down and third down (were loud). That was probably one of the best games I’ve ever been a part of in my entire life.”
The fans “really sealed the deal tonight,” said linebacker Keishawn Bierria. “We lean on them, too. We feel their energy. And you couldn’t hear anything out there. It was just rocking.”
In a game reminiscent of a 31-0 whopping of fifth-ranked USC in 1990 — “All I saw was purple,” Trojan quarterback Todd Marinovich later lamented — the upstart Huskies proved they could play with and ultimately dominate a national power. Washington finished with a 424-213 edge in total yards, forced two turnovers, and sacked a pair of Stanford quarterbacks eight times.
And speaking of defense, the Huskies did something few opponents have been able to do in recent seasons — slow Stanford’s sensational all-purpose player, Christian McCaffrey. Though McCaffrey might be a Heisman Trophy contender, on Saturday night he was just another guy in a white jersey. He managed 49 rushing yards and 30 receiving, and had one good moment with a 57-yard kickoff return, but was never a game-changer.
Washington was sharp right from the start. Save for a person-foul face mask penalty on Stanford’s opening possession, the Huskies stopped the visitors cold. Then, after taking the punt, Washington marched 64 yards in seven plays for a touchdown, a drive highlighted by a 35-yard completion from Browning to wide receiver Dante Pettis up the right sideline, and capped by a 3-yard Browning-to-Pettis TD pass crossing at the back of the end zone. Alas, UW place-kicker Cameron Van Winkle missed the extra point, making the margin 6-0.
Minutes later, another Stanford possession went nowhere and a shanked Cardinal punt gave the Huskies possession at their own 45. Washington needed just five plays to reach the end zone, with tailback Myles Gaskin spinning and diving for the goal line, a TD that was confirmed on replay.
Drive No. 3 seemed equally promising, particularly when the Huskies gained a first-and-goal at the Stanford 4 and third-and-goal at the 1. But a Browning pass grazed the fingertips of fullback Psalm Wooching and Washington settled for a chip-shot Van Winkle field goal.
After another Cardinal punt, the Huskies began from their own 30 and again drove the field, aided by major Stanford penalties for pass interference and roughing the passer. The touchdown was a 19-yard pass from Browning to John Ross and it was a strike on a slant route to the back of the end zone. The extra point made it 23-0, a margin Washington took to the locker room.
Whatever halftime adjustments the Cardinal made no difference. True, Stanford forced Washington to punt for the first time on the opening drive of the third quarter. But the short punt bounced off the Cardinal special teams player Ben Edwards and the UW’s Lavon Coleman dropped on the loose ball at the Stanford 40. Five plays later, Gaskin shot through a gap in the middle of the line and bulled his way through a final defender across the goal line for an 8-yard TD run.
After yielding a Stanford TD, the Huskies closed out the scoring with a 3-yard TD reception by wide receiver Aaron Fuller on a pass from Browning, and a 25-yard romp by running back Lavon Coleman.
Washington can now look ahead to another stiff test next weekend — a visit to Eugene to face the always formidable Ducks and their always raucous fans.
“How long has it been since we’ve beat Oregon (12 seasons)?” Bierria asked. “How many classes of (players) have come through here and not beat Oregon? It’s going to be another emotional game for us and we’re going to get it done.”