The Huskies are looking for their first win in Palo Alto since 2007.
The result was predictable the last time the Huskies traveled to Stanford Stadium. That was two years ago, when a top-10 Stanford team held the ball for more than 40 minutes and beat up a young Washington team, 31-14, that was playing without its starting quarterback, Jake Browning.
At that point, in 2015, Stanford was at its apex during the David Shaw era, using its grind-you-to-the-ground style to win its third Pac-12 championship in four years.
So what happened, then, on a Friday night at Husky Stadium in late September 2016 still resonates as one of the more stunning results for the Huskies in recent memory.
Washington had its coming-out party that night by doing to Stanford what Stanford had for years done to so many in the league, dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and posting eight sacks in a 44-6 pummeling of the No. 7 Cardinal. The win propelled UW into the top five of the national rankings and catapulted them toward their first Pac-12 title in 15 years.
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Such is the backdrop for the Huskies’ return to Palo Alto on Friday night. It’s now the Huskies (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12) coming in with stature, with size and with strength, particularly with its defensive front.
Kickoff is set for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff Friday on Fox Sports 1.
Shaw was asked this week what will be most important for his team against UW.
“It would help if a couple of those guys on (the Huskies’) defense don’t get on the plane,” he quipped.
“Besides that,” he added, “we have to be able to play our style of football. We have to be able to run the football against an outstanding run defense with two big, physical guys (Greg Gaines and Vita Vea) up front for them. But we have to run the football.”
Make no mistake: Stanford is hardly a push-over. The Cardinal (6-3, 5-2) were ranked in the top 25 until their 24-21 loss at Washington State last week, and all three of their losses this season have been on the road.
Stanford is averaging 47 points in three games at home this season.
“We’re seeing true fullbacks on their roster, like four extra tackles coming into the game. They’re running a lot of ‘power,’” said UW linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven, who grew up essentially in Stanford’s backyard in Menlo Park, Calif. “It’s a whole different, 1960s-style game. And that’s what you want when you come play college football.”
As Shaw noted, Stanford’s game plan has to be centered around its Heisman candidate, Bryce Love, the nation’s leading rusher who was held to a season-low 69 yards in Pullman last weekend. Love has been battling an ankle injury of late.
The Huskies, no doubt, will commit extra defenders to the box to try counter Stanford’s rushing attack.
Stanford’s quarterback play has been shaky this season. The Cardinal rank 10th or worse in the Pac-12 in yards per game (181.3), completion percentage (56.9) and QB rating (128.03). Sophomore K.J. Costello will be making his third career start against a UW defense that has allowed just two passing touchdowns in six Pac-12 games.
The Huskies are playing their last road game of the season before closing out the regular season with home games against Utah and Washington State. The last time they were on the road, the Huskies were hit with their only loss of the season, 13-7, at Arizona State.
Washington is seeking its first win at Stanford Stadium since 2007.