STANFORD, Calif — If all you saw was the score, you’d have been shocked upon first sight. A more-than-two-touchdown underdog whipping a nationally-ranked foe that had won its last three games by a combined 72 points.
But if you actually watched the contest, you’d have known the better team won. In fact, the only real shock was that the score was as close as it was.
Saturday night, Stanford played bully to Washington’s geek. In a 23-13 win, the Cardinal pushed the Huskies around, ran over them at will and might have thrown in a wedgie.
Yes, the two teams played on the same field, but certainly not on the same level. Whether it was their egos or bodies, Stanford left the 15th-ranked Dawgs bruised.
“I felt like we didn’t play to our standard, we didn’t come out understanding how important the game was,” Huskies safety Myles Bryant said. “From beginning to end, they just got the best of us.”
It’s hard to think of a worse game for the Huskies (4-2, 1-2 in the Pac-12) in the Chris Petersen era. The two-point loss to Cal last season was up there, but Washington still rebounded to win the conference title. The six-point loss to Arizona State two years ago was bad, too, but the Sun Devils didn’t dominate wire-to-wire the way Stanford (3-3, 2-2) did Saturday.
Plus, there was nothing daunting about the Cardinal coming into this game. Its starting quarterback was out, its offensive line was depleted, and its resume was about as intimidating as a labradoodle.
Before beating lowly Oregon State by three last Saturday, Stanford fell to Oregon by 15, USC by 25, and UCF by 18. It came into the game ranked 115th out of 130 teams in the country in pass defense and last in the Pac-12 in scoring. And yet, somehow, it still treated the Huskies the way frat guys would freshmen pledges.
By night’s end, Stanford had 482 yards to Washington’s 294. If not for goal-line stands by the Huskies on each of Cardinals’ first two drives, the game may have been over by halftime.
Sure, there were a number of dropped balls that thwarted Husky drives. And yeah, there was a miscommunication that allowed Stanford’s Davis Mills to complete a 42-yard touchdown pass to Simi Fehoko early in the second quarter.
More than anything, though, Stanford dominated the Huskies physically. The Cardinal wasn’t just the better team — it was the tougher one, too.
Bryant, one of the best defensive backs in the Pac-12, got trucked by tight end Tucker Fisk in the first half. Huskies linebacker Brandon Wellington was bulldozed by running back Cameron Scarlett on a key fourth down and two.
As was the case was in last month’s loss to Cal, Washington didn’t have an answer for Stanford’s smash-mouth style of football. It was clear Saturday that the Huskies were barking up the wrong Tree.
This was supposed to be one of the easy ones — especially considering the way the UW beat up BYU, USC and Hawaii coming into this. But despite Washington losing its previous five games in Palo Alto, it may not have given its opponent the proper respect.
“We came off a big win from USC, and I think we were kind of looking forward,” Huskies center Nick Harris said. “Sometimes that hurt. I think we didn’t execute the way should have because we were trying to move on. We need to go back to the drawing board.”
Saturday was a failure on both sides of the ball. The Huskies’ offense started with a picturesque drive in which quarterback Jacob Eason completed all five of his passes en route to a touchdown, but ended up finishing just 16 of 36 with 206 yards. And before the fourth quarter, Aaron Fuller — who finished with nine receptions for 171 yards — was the only UW wide receiver with a catch.
Stanford’s offense, meanwhile, got whatever it wanted. Mills was 21 for 30 with 293 yards. Scarlett finished with 151 yards on 33 carries, and all but put the game away with four-yard TD run in the third quarter.
Petersen and his staff never made the proper adjustments, and now their team will be stuck with this feeling for the next seven days.
“They outplayed us in every area,” Petersen said.
There haven’t been many losses for the Huskies since their coach took the job. Over the past five years, Washington has become the class of the Pac-12.
There have been a few stunning defeats over that span, though. But Saturday’s — that was the worst.