For the second time in three weeks, a top-10 team in the Pac-12 has fallen. And the strange week of football that CenturyLink Field has seen continued when the students overflowed into the center of the NFL stadium.
“I love our fans. They bring it, man,” said Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian. “They were patient with me on offense. I think? They knew what kind of game we were in. Part of me thinks that our fans probably appreciate these types of games more so than 48-45. There is something gritty about our mentality here. This was a black-and-blue type of game and I think our fans appreciated that.”
Well, it certainly wasn’t a beauty contest. Through the first three quarters the teams had combined for just 250 yards of total offense and 16 first downs. There were 18 total punts and 13 combined three-and-outs. Drops stalled drives for both teams. Penalties negated what few big plays there were. By the end of the game, neither Stanford (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12) nor Washington (3-1, 1-0) did much to advance the stereotype that the Pac-12 is the conference of offenses.
But none of that matters to Sarkisian and Co.
“I was talking to the team last night, the ultimate goal for tonight was to lay down in bed tonight and be 1-0 in Pac-12 play,” he said. “I just wanted to be 1-0 and start off on the right foot. And how we did it and the final score didn’t matter to me. It was more of playing the way we were capable of playing, playing disciplined football. I didn’t know what we would hold them to. I didn’t know any of that stuff. It was hard to tell before the game. What I do know is this game was a heavyweight bout.”
And when push came to shove, the Huskies landed more haymakers.
Steve Sarkisian celebrates Washington's first victory over Stanford since 2007.
Running back Bishop Sankey, running behind a patchwork offensive line, crossed the 100-yard mark for the second consecutive game and finished with 144 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
No carry was bigger than his 61-yard touchdown run at the end of the third quarter. With the Cardinal holding a 13-3 advantage -- Stanford’s lone touchdown coming on a fantastic 40-yard pick-six from linebacker Trent Murphy -- Sarkisian opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the UW 39. It was a gamble that paid off.
The Cardinal sold out to stop the run with three players storming one gap. But it was the wrong gap and Sankey found a hole, broke into the second level and sidestepped a pair of tackles. The huge play swung the momentum in Washington’s favor to start the fourth quarter.
“My first thought was just to get the first down and get positive yards,” Sankey said. “And then the hole opened up so fast. Before I knew it, I stepped out of a tackle and it was off to the races.”
Washington’s go-ahead touchdown came with 4:53 left in the game when Keith Price went to Kasen Williams on a quick hitter. Williams was able to break a tackle and then went streaking down the sidelines for a 35-yard score. Price finished 19 of 37 for 177 yards with an interception and a touchdown. Williams had 10 catches for 129 yards and the score.
This was Washington’s first win over a top-10 team since knocking off No. 3 USC in 2009. The Huskies had been 0-5 since -- including a 41-3 loss at LSU earlier this season.
Conversely, Stanford was coming into the game with a heap of confidence after knocking off the then-No. 2 Trojans two weeks ago. The Cardinal had won four straight and six of the previous seven against the Huskies.
“The bottom line is we didn’t make the plays we needed to make on the offensive side of the ball,” said Stanford head coach David Shaw. “We didn’t keep the defense off the field like we usually do. We kept putting the defense out there too long, and every team in our conference, if you give them enough shots on offense, they’re going to hurt you.”
Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor was held to just 75 yards on 21 carries and the Cardinal were held without an offensive touchdown for the first time since October of 2007. Nunes was 18 of 37 for 170 yards.
“I thought it was not his best effort,” Shaw said. “I think he can play much better. I think we can all do a much better job.”
Nunes had a chance in the final minutes, driving the Cardinal down to the Washington 34. But on fourth-and-4, he was intercepted by Trufant, sealing the win for the Huskies.