Final | Huskies 40, Cardinal 22

7:30 p.m. | Husky Stadium | Seattle

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Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. celebrates his 30-yard touchdown pass during the third quarter, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Seattle. 221629

The wins, and fun, are back on Montlake, washing out the bad taste from last season

By now, all remnants of the offensive eyesore put forth by the Huskies last season should be wiped from the memory banks. This is a Washington team that can move the ball with precision and guile, filled with playmakers and guided by a quarterback who even on what appeared early to be a comparative off day — emphasis on comparative and early — still is in complete control.

And Saturday, the Huskies put forward a defensive effort against Stanford that was tough enough and aggressive enough to warm the hearts of Don James aficionados. They harassed Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee all night, effectively nullifying concerns about an inexperienced secondary.

Four games in, we are still in the process of learning exactly who these Huskies of Kalen DeBoer are. But the answers that are slowly emerging, bolstered further by Saturday’s 40-22 win over Stanford that kept them undefeated at 4-0, could hardly be more encouraging.

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—Larry Stone
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No. 18 Huskies overwhelm Stanford in 40-22 rout to stay undefeated

Kalen DeBoer said it in passing, a throwaway line with prophetic effects.

“I still feel like a huge strength of ours is getting after the quarterback,” UW’s first-year head coach mentioned Monday, despite his Huskies producing just seven sacks in their first three games. “We’ll be able to do that as we go through the season, making teams one-dimensional.”

Five days later, the Husky pass rush rewarded that faith.

In a 40-22 win over Stanford in its Pac-12 opener, No. 18 Washington amassed eight pad-popping sacks — its most since a 63-7 win over Montana in 2017. Though UW was without starting cornerbacks Mishael Powell and Jordan Perryman, an unrelenting pass rush proved inescapable. Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee was a 6-foot-6, 230-pound target — absorbing blows behind a consistently collapsing line.

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—Mike Vorel

Final: Huskies 40, Stanford 22

Game delayed by ... drone?

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Giles Jackson takes screen pass 21 yards to the end zone

UW — again — forces and recovers a fumble on a sack of McKee

Odunze's long catch-and-run leads to another field goal

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Stanford cuts into Huskies' lead with TD and 2-point conversion

The scoring play: Tanner McKee hit John Humphreys (after what sure appeared to be offensive pass interference) for a 17-yard touchdown before finding Brycen Tremayne for the two-point conversion.

The drive: 10 plays, 75 yards, 3:51.

The score: Huskies 30, Stanford 15.

The highlight:

Peyton Henry hits his third field goal of the game for 30-7 lead

UW's defense continues to impress, halting Cardinal on fourth-and-1

The drive: 5 plays, 19 yards, 1:16.

The story: UW's defense continues to impress, halting the Cardinal on fourth-and-1 at the Stanford 44-yard line.

Next possession: UW starts at 44.

Time left: 5:27 in 3Q.

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Michael Penix Jr. connects with Rome Odunze for first TD pass

Huskies settle for 47-yard FG, but extend lead to 20-7

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Taulapapa goes over 100 yards at start of second half

UW opens second half with the ball

Halftime observations

UW’s secondary entered Saturday’s game without both of its starting cornerbacks, Mishael Powell and Jordan Perryman.

Pass rush to the rescue.

UW produced six first-half sacks, its most in a game since beating Montana in 2017. Bralen Trice and Alphonzo Tuputala snared two sacks apiece, while a Jeremiah Martin sack-fumble forced a turnover that immediately led to a 34-yard Wayne Taulapapa touchdown.

Speaking of, Taulapapa rushed for 99 yards, 14.1 yards per carry and the aforementioned score in the first half, on pace for a career night. And in a half where UW’s passing game seemed uncharacteristically out of whack, the Huskies’ ability to control the line of scrimmage loomed large. We’ll see if they can continue to do so in the second half.

—Mike Vorel
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Halftime: Huskies 17, Cardinal 7

UW punts back to Stanford before halftime after seven-play drive

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Stanford gets on the board with quick TD drive

Wayne Taulapapa scores from 34 yards out to extend UW's lead

The scoring play: Wayne Taulapapa followed his blocks and ran along the left sideline 34 yards for a score just two plays after UW's defense recovered the fumble.

The drive: 2 plays, 43 yards, 0:30.

The score: Huskies 17, Cardinal 0.

The highlight:

UW defense recovers fumble on sixth sack

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UW punts in first half for first time this season

The drive: Four plays, 21 yards, 2:36.

The story: Michael Penix Jr. completed a 17-yard pass to get the Huskies out from up against their own end zone, but UW's drive stalled shortly after that and they punted in the first half for the first time this season.

Next possession: Stanford starts at own 45.

Time left: 6:32 in 2Q.

UW defense comes up with fifth sack already to force another punt

UW tacks on FG after promising drive stalls in red zone

The scoring play: Peyton Henry hit a 35-yard field goal to extend the Huskies' lead after a promising drive stalled just inside the red zone.

The drive: 13 plays, 69 yards, 5:03.

The score: Huskies 10, Cardinal 0.

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First-quarter observations

A pair of trends continued in the first quarter Saturday.

No. 18 Washington, which entered its Pac-12 opener having scored touchdowns on its opening drives of all three games, did so again — as redshirt freshman running back Will Nixon capped a 58-yard drive with a 3-yard score. In 16 first half drives this season, the Huskies have produced 13 touchdowns, a field goal, an interception and a turnover on downs — an astounding success rate.

On the other side, after Stanford coughed up two red-zone turnovers in its home loss against USC, the Cardinal did the same thing on their opening drive tonight — as a Tanner McKee pass popped off lunging wide receiver Casey Filkins and into the waiting arms of linebacker Cam Bright.

Together, those continuing trends have helped the Huskies take a 7-0 lead.

—Mike Vorel

Cam Bright comes up with red-zone INT

UW appears to stop Stanford on fourth-and-1 but...

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Stanford converts pair of third-and-longs on second drive

ZTF comes up with first sack of the season

UW scores opening-drive touchdown in fourth straight game

The scoring play: Will Nixon punched it in from 3 yards out on what was a very easy starting drive for the Huskies.

The drive: 6 plays, 58 yards, 2:27.

The score: Huskies 7, Cardinals 0.

The highlight:

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Pressure gets to Stanford on first drive as UW forces punt

The drive: Three plays, -3 yards, 1:56.

The story: Following a run on their first play, the Cardinal were harassed by UW pressure on second and third downs as they went three-and-out and punted.

Next possession: UW starts at own 30.

Time left: 12:59 in 1Q.

UW wins coin toss, defers to Stanford

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Looks like Kirkland will start at left guard

Mishael Powell not seen warming up

Jaxson Kirkland is in uniform tonight

UW corners Jordan Perryman and Elijah Jackson going through warmups

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Stanford has wreaked havoc against UW in recent seasons. Can the Huskies stay hungry?

Ryan Grubb has padlocked the metaphorical fridge.

Even now, his Huskies are hungry.

On Monday, two days after Washington produced a decisive 39-28 win over No. 11 Michigan State, the first-year UW offensive coordinator said: “Honestly, when I met with them I said that I felt like we potentially played a team (MSU) where their fridge was full. They weren’t as hungry. We’ve just got to keep the padlock on that fridge and stay frickin’ hungry, man. That’s going to be important.”

OK, to ask the obvious: if Michigan State’s fridge was indeed full, wouldn’t the Spartans be starving? And isn’t that the purpose of the padlock, to ensure UW maintains the same state?

It’s an imperfect metaphor.

But you get the point.

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—Mike Vorel

What to watch for when No. 18 Washington opens Pac-12 play against Stanford, plus Mike Vorel’s prediction

Avoiding the letdown

The last four times Washington has been ranked in the Associated Press top 25 poll, the Huskies immediately lost the following week. Oh, and two of those four losses came against Stanford, in 2019 and 2020. Which isn’t to say Washington won’t roll over Stanford on Saturday. But the Huskies can’t consider this a cupcake game, either. Despite losing 41-28 to No. 7 USC on Sept. 10, Stanford — which is also coming off a bye — actually gained nine more first downs than the Trojans (33-24). The Cardinal rushed for a whopping 221 yards, 4.9 yards per carry and three touchdowns as well. Two of their drives ended in turnovers at the Trojans’ 2-yard line, providing a somewhat deceptive final score. And their quarterback, Tanner McKee, has caught the eye of NFL scouts. So yes, the Huskies are favored to win here — and rightly so. But Stanford deserves, and requires, their full attention.

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—Mike Vorel

How 6 a.m. study sessions prepared UW’s Ja’Lynn Polk for his breakout game against Michigan State

Ja’Lynn Polk put in the work in preseason camp.

He was paid last Saturday.

A 6-foot-2, 199-pound wide receiver, Polk starred against Michigan State — catching six passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns, en route to being named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week. Through three games, the Texas Tech transfer has recorded 12 catches for 245 yards (20.4 yards per reception) and four scores.

6 a.m. study sessions have yielded September success.

“We were in the meeting today and talked about his leadership and his ability to galvanize the guys,” UW associate head coach and wide receivers coach JaMarcus Shephard said on Aug. 12. “Everybody just has a tremendous amount of respect for the guy in our room. He puts in the work. He puts in the time, and he puts pressure on other guys to put in the time. He had guys coming in early, 6 a.m., to his own credit — not because I asked him to do it, not because it was forced on him — so they could study the playbook. He didn’t make them. He just said, ‘Hey, this is available. I’ll be here to help you guys study.’ And a lot of guys showed up for that.

“So I appreciate him just as a human being and who he is. Sometimes people get so caught up in how many catches, touchdowns, yards people have, and don’t have an appreciation for the young men that these guys are. Of all things, I appreciate the man that he is.”

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—Mike Vorel

With diverging Pac-12 and Big Ten paths in conference realignment, what’s best for Washington?

In the waning moments of Washington’s 39-28 win over No. 11 Michigan State on Saturday, George Kliavkoff stood on the northwest sideline inside Husky Stadium, donning a blue blazer and a growing grin. To his right, a chant briefly rose through the student section, intended to rankle their easily identified target:

Big Ten! Big Ten! Big Ten! Big Ten!

Kliavkoff, to his credit, never turned his head.

Still, the Pac-12 commissioner has undoubtedly heard the noise in recent months, as conference realignment looms, ever-present, over college football. USC and UCLA have agreed to leave for the Big Ten in 2024, and Stadium reported this summer that both Washington and Oregon have had discussions with the conference as well. The Big Ten announced its seven-year, $7 billion media rights deal with FOX, CBS and NBC on Aug. 18 — a deal that will eventually distribute between $80 and $100 million annually to its 16 members.

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—Mike Vorel

How offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb has grown into a play-calling wizard at Washington

Ryan Grubb has grown into one of the best offensive coordinators in college football.

Which may have appeared improbable just three years ago.

When current UW coach Kalen DeBoer left Fresno State to become Indiana’s offensive coordinator in 2019, Grubb — then the Bulldogs’ offensive line coach and run game coordinator — was elevated to offensive coordinator and associate head coach. It was the Kingsley, Iowa, native’s first opportunity to call plays since serving as the University of Sioux Falls’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach six years earlier.

And, after DeBoer’s departure, it did not go well.

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—Mike Vorel