Bryce Love rushed for 166 yards, and Stanford (7-3, 6-2 Pac-12) moved ahead of the Huskies (8-2, 5-2) atop the Pac-12 North standings.
STANFORD, Calif. — Stanford’s effective keep-away tactics effectively killed Washington’s College Football Playoff hopes.
Worse yet, the Huskies’ chances of repeating as Pac-12 Conference champs took a mighty blow as well.
Stanford’s offense held onto the ball for 36 minutes and wore down the nation’s top-ranked defense, knocking off the No. 9 Huskies 30-22 Friday night at Stanford Stadium.
“They just played their game better than we played our game,” UW coach Chris Petersen said. “They hold the ball, grind up time, try to limit your possessions, and they did exactly that.”
Bryce Love rushed for 166 yards and three touchdowns, and Stanford (7-3, 6-2 Pac-12) moved ahead of the Huskies (8-2, 5-2) atop the Pac-12 North standings. The Huskies, for the moment, fall into a tie for second place with Washington State in the division, two weeks before the Apple Cup.
The Cougars, with two games remaining, are in the driver’s seat in the division. If they beat Utah and win the Apple Cup, the Cougars win the North. The Huskies’ only chance to get back into the North race is if Stanford loses to California in its Pac-12 finale next week.
A strong start helped the Huskies build a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter. The margin could have been more, and probably should have been more, and the Huskies will rue two costly penalties that helped turn the tide for Stanford.
Leading 14-7, Washington drove to the Stanford 18-yard line midway through the second quarter and faced a third-and-one. A false-start penalty on wide receiver Andre Baccellia pushed the Huskies back 5 yards, and two Myles Gaskin runs could not gain the necessary yards for a first down.
Stanford took over, drove down and got three points on the first of Jet Toner’s three field goals, cutting UW’s lead to 14-10 at halftime.
Things unraveled in a hurry for the Huskies in the second half.
Stanford held the ball for nearly 19 minutes in the second half, and the Cardinal converted on 10 of 18 third downs.
Washington’s offense went three-and-out to start the third quarter. Stanford then went 65 yards on nine plays — eating up 4:28 off the clock — in taking its first lead, 17-14, on Love’s 13-yard touchdown run.
The Huskies appeared to have stopped the Cardinal when Vita Vea sacked K.J. Costello on third-and-long, but Vea pulled down the quarterback by the face mask, extending the Stanford drive. It was a costly penalty.
The Huskies ran just five plays in 96 seconds on their next possession, giving way to a Stanford offense that then held the ball for the next 7:38 while driving 81 yards on 13 plays, capped by Toner’s second field goal to push Stanford’s lead to 20-14.
On Washington’s next possession, Gaskin fumbled for just the second time in his career. Stanford recovered at the UW 31-yard line and added another field goal to make it 23-14.
It got worse. On third down, quarterback Jake Browning was sacked for a loss of 18 yards back to the UW 6. Joel Whitford’s ensuing punt netted just 37 yards and a UW penalty on the punt return gave Stanford possession at the UW 14.
Two plays later, Love scored his third rushing touchdown, from 9 yards, to push the lead to 30-14.
Washington’s defense looked tired and beat up by then. This was the first time in 24 games — going back to the 2015 Heart of Dallas Bowl — that the Huskies’ defense allowed 30 points in a game.
“If you don’t tackle well, then that’s a recipe for disaster,” Petersen said. “We didn’t tackle well enough and our coverage wasn’t like it normally is.”
The Huskies mounted their only positive drive of the second half — going 75 yards on nine plays — and got a 1-yard touchdown run from Gaskin, who dived to the right pylon to get in. Browning’s pass to Dante Pettis converted the two-point play, getting UW to 30-22 down with 4:26 left.
After Toner missed a 47-yard field goal, the Huskies got the ball back at their 29-yard line with 2:35 remaining. A holding penalty on Kaleb McGary negated a Lavon Coleman first-down run, and Browning was sacked on third-and-12 with 1:38 left.
After a mad scramble, Browning was taken down on fourth down at the UW 28, tossing the ball away in frustration with 1:23 left.
Stanford’s offense came back on the field to kneel three times and finish off its upset.
The Huskies have lost their past five games at Stanford.
They now enter the final two weeks of the regular season in uncertain territory — and they need help to get back into the Pac-12 title race.
“We’re going to find out who can rally and who’s going to turn over and die and who’s going to come back fighting harder,” Browning said. “We like to say we’re a team that bounces back harder, but we’ll see.”