Little Luck Needed As Stanford Runs Over Washington

By Paul Manzey
October 23, 2011 2:53 am
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The discussion going into Saturday evening’s game may have surrounded Andrew Luck and Keith Price, the quarterback for the two teams, but it was the running game that took center stage as Stanford recorded another blowout victory against Washington 65-21.

Two different running backs (Stepfan Taylor and Tyler Gaffney) ran for over 100 yards, and Anthony Wilkerson added 93 on the ground as Stanford rushed for 446 yards as a team in the contest.  Six different Cardinal players had a carry of at least 10 yards in the game and the team as a whole averaged 10.1 YPC. 

In a night where the top four Heisman candidates were on display during prime time viewing hours (Luck, Landry Jones, Trent Richardson and Russell Wilson), Luck put up a modest performance completing 16 of 21 passes for 169 and two touchdowns.  It was an outing that won’t hurt his chances at the award come season’s end, but it may not have attracted voters like a 300-yard effort might have.

Price, who was on the outside of the Heisman discussion entering the game, completed 23 of 36 passes for 247 yards and a touchdown.  His glaring mistake was an interception at the end of the first half that was returned for a touchdown by senior safety Michael Thomas to push the Cardinal lead to 38-14.  The Washington offensive line simply could not protect their signal caller as Stanford’s defense recorded two sacks and kept pressure on Price throughout the game.

The one bright spot for the Huskies on Saturday night was the play of running back Chris Polk, who led all rushers on the evening with 144 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns.  Most of his production came in the first half when he rushed the ball nine times for 143 yards and both of his scores.

Throughout the game, the announcers stressed the fact that Stanford was a run-first team despite having one of the best quarterbacks in college football at the helm, and they certainly proved it with this performance.  Taylor’s 70-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter swung the momentum squarely in Stanford’s favor, and they held onto it for the remainder of the contest.

The win was Stanford’s tenth consecutive victory by at least 25 points.  This is the longest streak in the history of the FBS Subdivision (going back to when multiple bowl games were played in 1935).  The former streak was held by the 2002 Boise State Broncos (9).  The 65 points was also the most points scored in a conference game in school history.

The loss drops Washington to 5-2 on the season and 3-1 in Pac-12 play.  With the win, Stanford stays unbeaten in the conference at 5-0 (one win ahead of Pac-12 North foe Oregon), and moves to 7-0 overall.  Luck and Co. will travel to the L.A. Coliseum next weekend for a battle against a streaky USC Trojans team.   

5 Lessons Learned:
  1. Andrew Luck still has to be considered the favorite in the Heisman Trophy race, resuming the position he held as he entered the game.  Another win for Stanford and two touchdown passes will help his cause.  Voters will likely look at this game, and the fact that Washington entered the contest as the No. 116 pass defense in the nation, and attribute some of the success in the rushing game to the Huskies focusing on Luck at the passing attack.
     
  2. Stanford is a team that should not be overlooked by BCS voters, or remaining teams on their schedule.  This was a true team effort as the offense and defense stepped up to defeat a Washington team that cracked the Top 25 polls for the first time since September of 2009 (when they lost to an unranked Stanford team 34-14).  This was one of the “upset alert” games in the Top 10 this week, but Stanford left little doubt that they were the best team on the field.
     
  3. Washington’s head coach Steve Sarkisian has made great strides with a program that only three years ago was suffering through an 0-12 season under Tyrone Willingham.  This is still a young team with a lot of upside, but they simply ran into a better team on Saturday evening.  The Huskies won’t have a lot of time to dwell on this loss as next week brings a game against an Arizona team that demolished UCLA 48-12 on Thursday night.
     
  4. David Shaw may not be a familiar name to you right now, but he should be.  The head coach at Stanford played wide receiver for the Cardinal under the tutelage of Bill Walsh and Dennis Green.  Shaw was the quarterbacks coach in Oakland and Baltimore (as well as the wide receivers coach with the Ravens) before joining Jim Harbaugh’s staff at the University of San Diego in 2006.  When Harbaugh was hired by Stanford in 2007, he brought Shaw with him, and eventually named him the offensive coordinator (a position he held until Harbaugh was hired by the San Francisco 49ers).  He has experienced success at every level, and it appears he is ready to do the same as the head coach of Stanford.
     
  5. Keith Price will be a player to watch in the Pac-12 Conference over the next two seasons.  He has thrown for 1,713 yards on the season with 22 touchdowns and only five interceptions.  This was obviously not his best performance of the year, but he has also been hampered by a knee injury he suffered earlier in the season.  There was a small reference to this in the game, and the fact that the injury was affecting (who knows to what extent) the play calling by Sarkisian.
 

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By Paul Manzey
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