The Huskies improved to 5-0 for the first time since 1992 and firmly entrenched themselves as the Pac-12 favorite — and, as the calendar flips to October, into the conversation for their first College Football Playoff berth.
It took months of planning for the Washington athletic department to pull off a warm tribute for the Huskies’ 1991 national-championship team at halftime Friday night, complete with fireworks, a standing ovation, long-stemmed roses and many a fond memory.
It took 30 minutes of complete domination for the Washington defense to give that ’91 squad the most perfect tribute, its fireworks coming in the form of six first-half sacks and two shut-down quarters against a Stanford team that has bullied the Pac-12 Conference for the past half decade.
Final: No. 10 Washington 44, No. 7 Stanford 6.
Just like old times.
“What a night,” UW coach Chris Petersen said. “That truly was the greatest setting in college football.”
The Huskies improved to 5-0 for the first time since 1992 and firmly placed themselves as the Pac-12 favorite — and, as the calendar flips to October, into the College Football Playoff conversation.
They did so before the largest — and rowdiest — crowd at Husky Stadium in six years, an announced sellout of 72,072, and a nationwide ESPN audience. None of them could have seen this coming. Not like this.
“This is definitely a special moment,” UW defensive tackle Elijah Qualls said. “Today was a different day, man. You felt it when you walked into the stadium. … The crowd was into it. They were loud.”
When it was over, when the Huskies completed their most lopsided win over a top-10 team, UW’s student section poured onto the field, swarming the team around the “W” at midfield, chanting, dancing and posing for selfies with players left and right.
“That was one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of,” quarterback Jake Browning said after escaping the celebratory swarm.
In the most significant victory for the program since the 2000 Rose Bowl season, the Huskies (2-0 Pac-12) finished with eight sacks and shut down Heisman Trophy favorite Christian McCaffrey (12 carries, 49 yards) by beating Stanford (3-1, 2-1) at its own game — with a physical, bruising brand won at the line of scrimmage. It was a nostalgic performance that was the norm for the ’91 defense.
“Loving it,” said Dave Hoffmann, the former UW All-American linebacker from that 1991 team.
The Huskies’ offensive line was just as impressive. Stanford didn’t have a single sack, and Browning was rarely pressured.
Browning, UW’s sophomore quarterback, had his coming-out party on the national stage, leading the Huskies to touchdowns on its first two possessions. Stanford never mustered a fight after that.
The Huskies went right after a Stanford secondary missing both of its starting cornerbacks, with Browning throwing a perfect long ball to Dante Pettis for a 35-yard gain inside the Stanford 10. Three plays later, Browning found Pettis in the back of the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown pass.
Sophomore running back Myles Gaskin had his first 100-yard rushing game of the season, and his 4-yard TD run capped UW’s second possession to make it 13-0. Cameron Van Winkle added a 19-yard field goal in the second quarter to make it 16-0.
Browning then threw his best pass of the night on a 19-yard TD pass to John Ross III — between two defenders — to give the Huskies a 23-0 halftime lead.
“We did a very good job of showing the nation that we can play, too,” Ross said.
UW’s defense closed out the first half with back-to-back sacks, by Psalm Wooching and Greg Gaines. The Huskies had six first-half sacks against a Stanford offensive line that had allowed just four sacks in its first three games.
Defensive end Joe Mathis bulled his way through Stanford’s line for two first-half sacks, and Wooching had three — including a third-quarter fumble-sack inside the UW 10-yard line that wiped out Stanford’s most promising drive to that point.
Stanford whipped UW last year, 31-14, holding the ball for more than 40 minutes and wearing down the overmatched Huskies. That scripted flipped Friday, holding the ball for 12 minutes, 26 seconds in the fourth quarter.
“We have had this game circled since spring time,” Mathis said. “They beat us so bad last year. We wanted them so bad. … We finally got them and we kept our foot on and kept going.”
After Stanford fumbled a punt, Gaskin scored his second touchdown on an 8-yard run to make it 30-0.
Stanford didn’t score until there were 24 seconds left in the third quarter. It hardly mattered.
The Huskies iced the game with a 16-play, 75-yard drive that chewed up nearly 10 minutes off the clock — a drive that ended with true freshman receiver Aaron Fuller, on his birthday, hauling in his first career touchdown catch from Browning.
“Loved it,” Petersen said of the drive. “That was one of the more impressive things of the night.”
That would be a long list. And if the Huskies keep playing like this, it should only get longer … and better.