There’s only one conclusion you can take away from the Pac-12′s marquee matchup on Saturady: Washington is legit and Stanford is for real.
Oh, and this conference is really good.
The Huskies went toe-to-toe with the Cardinal for four quarters, but came up short in the end as No. 5 Stanford hung on for a thrilling 31-28 win over No. 15 Washington in Palo Alto. It was the Cardinal’s 13-consecutive victory.
The box score favored UW, at least when it comes to the offensive numbers. The Huskies outgained Stanford, 489 to 279, and out-first-downed them, 30 to 14, but the Cardinal got 290 all-purpose yards from receiver Ty Montgomery, including 204 yards on four kickoff returns — one of them a 99-yarder to open the game — and this was the difference in the game.
Stanford employed its usual strategy from the getgo: Pound its opponent into submission with unbalanced lines and power running. But the Huskies were ready for it — just like they were last season when they upset Stanford, 17-13. The Cardinal never really got untracked offensively but, as good teams do, they executed enough key plays at key moments to prevail.
Case in point was Stanford’s touchdown before the first half ended. The Cardinal had the ball on the UW 39-yard line with 17 seconds to play. The smart money woudl think Stanford would position itself for a field goal. But Kevin Hogan threw a perfect pass to a perfectly covered Montgomery for a touchdown and the Cardinal went into the locker room up 10.
Stanford kept the Huskies at arm’s length until the very end, but Washington chipped away, dug down deep and then nearly pulled off the upset. Hogan was stopped on a 3rd and 1 bootleg with the Cardinal up by three with just under two minutes to play and the Huskies got the ball back.
Washington quarterback Keith Price took over on his own 33 with a chance for glory. His first pass was a remarkable back-shoulder throw against the sideline caught by Kasen Williams at the Stanford 49 yard line. His third and 10 pass over the middle to Austin Seferian-Jenkins was dropped — it would’ve been a first down but the All-American tight end couldn’t find the handle. This set up the key play of the game — a 4th and 10 pass where Price scrambled away from a Ben Gardner rush and found Kevin Smith for a first down. But the referees over-ruled the original call and decided that Smith trapped the ball. Stanford was given the ball back, victory assured.
There are no moral victories, but Washington has to feel good that it took a top five team to the limit. This game could’ve easily belonged to the Huskies and they arguably outplayed Stanford but, in the end, the Cardinal found a way to win.
From a conference standpoint, this was an optimal outcome for the Pac-12. Stanford remained a national title contender while Washington showed it could play with anyone. It also keeps the year’s potential dream matchup alive: Undefeated and explosive Oregon at physical and methodical Stanford on Nov. 7.