Oct. 22, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. - The dominant theory was that Stanford could attack Washington's defense through the air -- the Huskies had been allowing over 300 yards passing per game.
Stanford instead took the ground route, and buried the Huskies, 65-21, underneath an avalanche of rushing yards in a matchup of undefeated Pac-12 North Division teams on Saturday night before a sellout crowd of 50,360 at Stanford Stadium.
Stanford (7-0 overall, 5-0 Pac-12) rushed for 446 yards to set a school single-game record, and averaged 10.1 yards on each of its 44 carries.
"We were very aware of it when we broke it," said Andrew Luck, who completed 16 of 21 passes for 169 yards and threw for two touchdowns with no interceptions. "What a testament to the O-line, to the coach, the tight ends, to the fullbacks and wide receivers."
Stepfan Taylor rushed for 138 yards on 10 carries and Tyler Gaffney, running out of the Wildcat formation, gained a career-high 117 on nine. Each scored a touchdown, and it marked the first time Stanford had two 100-yard rushers since Toby Gerhart and Anthony Kimble did it against Arizona in 2007.
"It's been like that every game," Taylor said of the Cardinal's running prowess. "We just try to get the ball, follow our aiming points and linemen assignments, and the holes are there."
The Cardinal nearly had a third back reach 100. Anthony Wilkerson gained 93 yards on 14 carries and scored two touchdowns, on fourth-quarter runs of 18 and 62 yards.
Stanford's rushing total broke the mark of 439 set during the Darrin Nelson-era of 1981, in a 63-9 victory at Oregon State under coach Paul Wiggin.
Taylor and Gaffney combined to average 13.4 yards per carry in a game which Stanford of a winning record - an accomplishment that as recently as two years ago was a big deal. But, in winning for the 10th consecutive time by 25 points or more, it was just another step in a much larger picture.
Stanford, No. 8 in the BCS ratings, will likely leapfrog No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 6 Wisconsin, which lost for the first time, and could gain ground on No. 5 Boise State.
"We told the guys the only thing we've done is put ourselves in a position to go to a bowl game," said David Shaw, Stanford's Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football/Head Coach. "That's it."
Stanford, which gained 615 yards altogether, scored on its first eight possessions - on six touchdowns and two field goals. In doing so, the team kept alive three streaks: The Cardinal has never trailed this season, remains perfect in the red zone, and extended the nation's longest winning streak to 15 games.
This was the game Stanford defensive back and captain Michael Thomas said was the beginning of the Cardinal's season, with a schedule backloaded with its strongest opponents, including a game at USC next week.
Stanford, No. 7 in the AP poll, was playing a ranked opponent for the first time. The Huskies were ranked No. 22 by AP.
Washington (5-2, 3-1) indeed put up a fight. With play-making dual-threat quarterback in sophomore Keith Price and a game-breaking junior tailback in Chris Polk, the Huskies appeared early to be able to match the Cardinal in offensive fireworks.
Polk, who rushed for 144 yards on 15 carries, broke for scores covering 46 and 61 yards - the latter cutting the Washington deficit to 17-14 with 13:34 left in the second quarter.
"We had them right where we wanted them," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. "We had a lot of momentum and our offense was really clicking. At that point, if we did what we needed to do, we felt they couldn't stop us."
But any momentum the Huskies gained was extinguished on the next play from scrimmage when Taylor burst through the right side of the line to sprint 70 yards untouched for a score.
The Huskies' next drive stalled and Kris Polk's 46-yard field goal try deflected off the right upright and Stanford responded with a 10-play, 72-yard drive that ended with Luck's second scoring pass - a five-yarder on a rollout that was caught by a leaping Drew Terrell in the back corner of the end zone for a 31-14 lead.
With 3:44 to work with and two timeouts, and receiving the second-half kickoff, it was conceivable that the Huskies could score twice before Stanford would even touch the ball and cut the deficit to 31-28.
However, Washington's longshot opportunity instead resulted in Stanford's dagger-like touchdown.
With trips right, Price took a short drop and fired toward receiver Jermaine Kearse coming across the middle. But Stanford's Thomas jumped the route, intercepted the pass and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown, giving the Cardinal a dominant 38-14 lead with 56 seconds left in the half.
That was "the real killer," Sarkisian said. "That was a real blow to our psyche."
The Cardinal defense held Washington to only 109 yards in the second half, partly because of a convincing halftime discourse from defensive coordinator Derek Mason.
"He told us that if we continue to play like this, then the offense is going to have to win this game for us," Thomas said. "Everyone got the message."
Stanford and Oregon (6-1, 4-0) remain on a collision course for the Pac-12 North title, with their Nov. 12 matchup at Stanford looming ever larger.
"We're not as good right now as we were at the end of last year," Shaw said. "The execution was outstanding. I think we're getting close, but we're not there yet."
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics