Through one third of its 2014 season, Stanford’s defense has allowed two offensive touchdowns. As long as that continues, No. 16 Stanford will contend for the Pac-12 North championship and beyond. The moment that changes, though, so will Stanford’s fortunes.
The Cardinal defense, somehow, has gotten better than the outstanding units that preceded it. Washington touched the ball 13 times throughout its 20-13 loss on Saturday, and 12 times it left the field scoreless. The Huskies did mount one impressive drive, moving 75 yards in seven plays, capped by a 25-yard scoring strike from Cyler Miles to Jaydon Mickens. The other dozen possessions amounted to 139 yards on 61 plays – 2.27 yards per snap. No other drive moved further than 37 yards, and eight drives moved 10 yards or less.
Despite that, though, Washington was still in possession of the ball with a chance to tie the game inside the final minute. This is where the Stanford offense comes in. The Cardinal scored 20 points, a 17-yard pass from Kevin Hogan to Ty Montgomery, a 5-yard Hogan run and two Jordan Williamson field goals, but gave Washington its second touchdown in the form of a 32-yard Shaq Thompson fumble return.
The numbers look decent enough, 178 passing yards on 19-of-26 throwing, 186 rushing yards at nearly five yards a pop, 22 first downs. But Stanford turned it over three times, and twice by Hogan. He was intercepted in the third quarter, and most critically fumbled at the Washington 10 early in the fourth quarter. In addition, Stanford was also 3-0f-12 on third down.
That type of production works so long as Stanford’s defense remains an impenetrable cardinal wall.
The end of the game had the Husky Stadium crowd salty after an intentional grounding call turned a potential 3rd-and-10 situation, trailing 20-13, at the Stanford 28 with 42 seconds remaining into a 3rd-and-22 at the Stanford 40 with 32 ticks left. Stanford allowed a four-yard completion on 3rd-and-22, and forced Miles into accepting a five-yard rush on 4th-and-18. That, essentially, was the game.
Stanford (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12) heads to South Bend next week for a juicy game with No. 8 Notre Dame, while Washington (4-1, 0-1 Pac-12) takes next week off and then visits Cal on Oct. 11.