With quarterback Jake Browning sidelined, Washington‘s offense was stagnant and it’s defense couldn't stop No. 10 Stanford. The Huskies fell below .500 for the first time under Chris Petersen.

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STANFORD, Calif. — They were without their starting quarterback. Without four regular defenders to start the game. And being on the road against one of the hottest teams in college football, the Huskies were without much hope Saturday night.

Stanford beat down a beat-up Washington team 31-14, putting the 10th-ranked Cardinal in the driver’s seat in the race for the Pac-12 title while sending the Huskies (3-4, 1-3 Pac-12) to their second consecutive defeat.

Afterward, UW coach Chris Peter­sen praised Stanford’s balanced execution.

“Good football team,” he said. “Down the road, we’ll be a good football team. But not tonight.”

With freshman quarterback Jake Browning sidelined by an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder, redshirt freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels made his first start for the Huskies. He came into the game having attempted just three career passes, and he was just 3 for 10 for 17 yards in the first half, often throwing off his back foot as Stanford’s blitzing defenders approached.

Carta-Samuels finished 9 of 21 passing for 118 yards and he ran for one touchdown.

“Not easy. Not easy at all,” UW offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said of the circumstances surrounding Carta-Samuels’ first start. “But that’s how it works. Some guys go down and next guy up. I thought he prepared very well.”

Petersen is optimistic Browning would be able to play this week against Arizona.

The Huskies also were forced to shuffle their defense with four new starters because of injuries and a first-half suspension for safety Brian Clay. UW then lost starting cornerback Kevin King early in the third quarter to an apparent leg injury, though Petersen didn’t expect it to be a long-term situation.

That the game didn’t get completely out of hand is about the best that can be said of the Huskies’ performance. Ultimately, Stanford’s physical style wore down the Huskies, whose short-handed defense was on field for 40 minutes, 5 seconds — just the fifth time in school history UW had allowed an opponent to have possession for more than 40 minutes.

Stanford (6-1, 5-0) never was threatened in the first half, needing just three minutes to take the game’s opening drive 62 yards to build a 7-0 lead. It was 17-0 at halftime.

“It looked pretty ugly,” Smith said of the first half.

With possession to start the second half, the Huskies got a 43-yard return from true freshman Chico McClatcher and then handed the ball off to true freshman Myles Gaskin on five consecutive plays, resulting in runs of 3, 12, 28 and 0 yards, then a 14-yard touchdown run.

That cut Stanford’s lead to 17-7.

Gaskin again was a bright spot for the UW offense. The O’Dea High School product had 108 yards on 18 carries, topping the 100-yard mark for the third consecutive game, the first true freshman in school history to do that.

After Gaskin’s touchdown, the Cardinal came right back with a 50-yard touchdown pass from Kevin Hogan to Christian McCaffrey, pushing the lead to 24-7. McCaffrey added a 7-yard touchdown run late in the third to extend the lead to 31-7. McCaffrey finished with 300 all-purpose yards to bolster his Heisman hopes.

Through three quarters, Carta-Samuels had completed just 5 of 13 passes for 37 yards, flushed from the pocket at times and looking flustered on third-down plays.

Carta-Samuels then orchestrated his best drive of the day, capped by the first touchdown run of his career, from 7 yards out. He sidestepped one defender near the line of scrimmage and then stretched to the goal line. He was 4 for 5 for 81 yards passing on the drive.

That touchdown got UW to 31-14 with 11:36 left.

En route to building a 17-0 halftime lead, Stanford held the ball for almost 22 of the 30 minutes in the first half, gaining 241 yards. The Huskies managed just 58 yards on 18 first-half plays, never crossing midfield.

“When we can’t get anything going offensively in the first half, it just puts too much stress on everybody else,” Petersen said. “It makes it a very, very hard game.”