SEATTLE - Last season, Stanford walked off a rambunctious CenturyLink Field with its perfect season no longer intact. With a 17-13 defeat at the hands of Washington to give the Cardinal its first (and only) Pac-12 loss of 2012, the Farm Boys owed this building.
And, nearly one year to the date after last year’s loss to the Huskies, the Cardinal can officially call it Even-Steven with The Link after a 55-17 thumping of Washington State thanks to a career passing day from quarterback Kevin Hogan and two touchdowns from the Cardinal defense. Stanford (4-0), which extended the second-longest active winning streak in the nation to 12, dominated on both sides of the ball and outgained the Cougars, 560-373, in total yardage.
“We played a good 60 minutes. We didn’t play perfectly, but we played well. Guys played hard and didn’t worry about the score,” said David Shaw, Stanford's Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football. “We had a chance to play a lot of young guys … It was nice to get those guys on the field and get them some experience. I told the team those reps are going to pay off for us big in the future.”
After the teams traded field goals on their opening possessions, Stanford took off for good. On the ensuing possession following an Andrew Furney field goal, Hogan found Devon Cajuste down the middle of the field for a 57-yard touchdown hook-up. The third-and-9 long-distance connection was the first of three TD tosses for Hogan, who passed for a career-high 286 yards by completing 16 of his 25 attempts with one interception.
The Cardinal defense forced a quick 3-and-out after Isiah Myers dropped a pass on third down, setting up the Stanford attack with an opportunity to create some separation. Hogan and Co. took advantage, as the quarterback scrambled for a first down on third-and-6 and then hit Cajuste on a 33-yard strike the very next play to push the edge to 17-3 early in the second quarter. Cajuste finished with his first collegiate 100-yard receiving game, amassing 115 yards on four receptions and two scores.
Washington State (3-2) kept it within shouting distance for the remainder of the first half in large thanks to Deone Bucannon’s interception of an underthrown Hogan pass in the end zone, thus stalling a 17-play Cardinal drive. Connor Halliday led the Air Raid-minded Cougars into scoring position but could not inch closer to the Card before the break, as Furney pulled a 45-yard field goal attempt wide late in the first half.
If there was any doubt about which side would be victorious going into the locker room, the Farm Boys quickly erased that uncertainty in the third quarter. After punter Ben Rhyne pinned the Cougars inside their own 10-yard line, Trent Murphy blasted Halliday, who could not step into his throw and lobbed it right into the hands of safety Jordan Richards for a pick-six. Richards’ interception gave the Stanford defense its 28th straight game with a takeaway, another streak that is second-longest in the nation (Missouri has a 34-gamer). Halliday, hobbled by the Murphy hit, would have to leave a few plays later and finished the night 24-36 with 184 yards and that interception.
Stanford’s 24-3 lead quickly became 31-3 the next time the offense touched the ball, as Hogan needed just two plays to drive the Cardinal 54 yards into the end zone; the bulk of it coming on a 45-yard touchdown bomb to Washington native Michael Rector with 8:45 remaining in the third.
Stanford’s 31-3 lead quickly became 38-3 the next time the defense touched the ball when Washington State backup quarterback Austin Apodaca threw it right into the mitts of Murphy, who ran it back 30 yards to the house in a play that was eerily similar to his pick-six of Keith Price at The Link last season.
“We knew it was going to come out quick. Washington State did a good job early moving the ball, but if we could make them hold the ball, we knew we were going to have a chance to get after them,” Shaw said. “We got to the quarterback a bunch. They floated a couple of balls, we got our hands on a lot of balls, intercepted two and could have possibly had four. But defensively we stayed aggressive, and guys played well."
The Cardinal took some flak for letting Arizona State cut a 32-point lead down to 11 last weekend at home, but no such comeback was to be had for the Cougars in Seattle this time around. Stanford won the fourth-quarter by a score of 17-14, and the Cougars didn’t burst through until they fell behind 48-3. Although the game had been well out of hand by the time the final frame of regulation rolled around, Stanford was able to show off just how explosive the rest of its backfield can be with long touchdown runs from Remound Wright (53 yards) and Barry Sanders (22 yards) to provide the final Cardinal tallies of the evening. Despite getting just three carries, Sanders looked much like his father, making great cuts and forcing defenders to hug air as he juked his way past the defense
Meanwhile, Washington State punched it in on fourth-quarter scores thanks to two Apodaca touchdown passes - a 47-yard hook-up with Gabe Marks with 8:24 remaining to make it 48-10 and an 8-yard connection in the end zone with Rickey Galvin in the final 30 seconds to provide the final score. A redshirt freshman, Apodaca finished the evening 15-29 with 138 yards, two touchdowns and a pick.
Shaw’s boys return to The Farm next Saturday to take on nationally-ranked and undefeated Washington in a chance to completely erase the Ghosts of CenturyLink Field’s Past.