STANFORD, Calif. — A week ago, USC backup quarterback Matt Fink — who was operating a potentially prolific air raid offense — threw for 163 yards and a touchdown in 12 drives and four quarters inside Husky Stadium.
On Saturday, Stanford backup quarterback Davis Mills — who was operating a statistically underwhelming pro-style offense — threw for 161 yards and a touchdown in his first three drives.
The difference, to put it mildly, was dramatic. The 6-foot-4, 214-pound Mills — a former five-star prospect, much like Jacob Eason — completed 13 of 18 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown in the first half alone. He finished with 21 of 30 completions (70 percent) for 293 yards and a touchdown, and he was not sacked along the way.
On a night the Huskies (and their fans) will want to forget, No. 15 Washington (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) stunningly fell 23-13 to Stanford.
“I think in some ways (they out-physicaled us),” UW head coach Chris Petersen said. “And not just defense. I think just across the board. I think they played more physical than us and did a better job.”
They did a better job from the opening bell to Washington’s final whimper. Early in the second quarter, Mills found sophomore wide receiver Simi Fehoko coasting past cornerback Keith Taylor and safety Cameron Williams down the right sideline for a 42-yard score which, if you were wondering, looked remarkably similar to Michael Pittman Jr.’s 44-yard touchdown the week before.
On fourth-and-2 from midfield, Stanford running back Cameron Scarlett put his pads down and plowed through linebacker Brandon Wellington for a three-yard gain. Three plays later, 269-pound tight end Tucker Fisk demolished 185-pound UW safety Myles Bryant for 16 more bruising yards. Scarlett finished with 151 yards rushing and a touchdown on 33 attempts.
Stanford outgained Washington 308-146 in the first half with an average of 8.3 yards per play. The Cardinal ended with 482 yards of offense.
On the scoreboard, this was a close game … for a while.
On the field, and on the stat sheet, it was a merciless, methodical thrashing.
“I felt like coming into this game we kind of understood that we were a physical team. But they made us second-guess that,” said senior safety Myles Bryant, who finished with eight tackles in defeat. “So we got to get back this week, get back on the practice field and go back to work.”
UW’s struggles were not exclusive to UW’s defense, either. In Washington’s opening offensive drive, the Huskies marched 75 yards on 10 carries. Junior quarterback Eason completed all five of his pass attempts and threw for 56 yards, including a 28-yard looper to Aaron Fuller and a three-yard play-action touchdown to tight end Cade Otton. It was his first career Pac-12 touchdown pass.
The rest of the way, Eason completed 11 of 31 passes for 125 yards and an interception. Petersen said succinctly that the Huskies “just got nothing going. We got into no sort of rhythm.”
But senior center Nick Harris may have been even more succinct.
“I think (Stanford’s defense) made some good adjustments that I don’t think we were particularly prepared for,” senior center Nick Harris said of Stanford’s defense. “They kind of game-planned us a little bit on certain things. I think they executed when they had the chance.”
Harris added that the Cardinal were “just putting us in bad situations, not being able to play how we usually do. They just put us in sticky situations that we weren’t probably ready for.”
So, no, it wasn’t all Eason’s fault. Besides Fuller, who hauled in nine passes for a whopping 171 yards, no other Husky wide receiver recorded a catch in the first three quarters. One catch for nine yards for Terrell Bynum. One catch for one yard for Andre Baccellia. Nothing from Chico McClatcher. Nothing from Puka Nacua (who went a third consecutive game without a target). Junior tight end Hunter Bryant dropped two passes that would have been third down conversions, and Fuller added several drops of his own.
The Huskies were rhythm-less, and the Cardinal were relentless.
“I think it’s everything,” Petersen said, when asked to pinpoint their passing woes. “We’ll look at the tape there. But like I said, I know a couple times we’ve just got to cut our losses. (Eason) threw a couple good balls in there that we didn’t make plays on. We gotta do a better job, there’s no question, in the pass game.”
And, while they were losing, the Huskies lost some more. Specifically, redshirt freshman running back Richard Newton — who led the team with 64 yards and 6.4 yards per carry — left the game in the second half with what appeared to be a significant left leg injury. The bruising 210-pound tailback was carted from the sideline into the road locker room.
Junior tailback Salvon Ahmed — who posted a career-high 153 rushing yards with a touchdown and nine yards per rush in last weekend’s win over USC — inexplicably carried just six times for 28 yards on Saturday.
If there were positives — and, indeed, they’re surprisingly hard to find — they were Fuller’s performance (outside of two or three costly drops) as well as a pair of first quarter goal line stops. Junior nickelback Elijah Molden also finished with nine tackles, two pass breakups and a forced fumble.
But it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t nearly enough. In an astonishingly uneven torching on national television, Stanford’s offense amassed more than 400 total yards for the third consecutive game against UW. The Huskies lost their sixth consecutive game at The Farm, with their last win coming in 2007.
“It’s surprising to us, too,” Petersen said of the final result.
Midway through the third quarter, Scarlett barreled through the UW defensive line for a 4-yard touchdown run. Along the way, he churned through a feeble arm tackle from Williams, who was decisively deposited at the 2-yard line.
As Stanford’s entire offense celebrated in the back of the end zone, Williams put his head down on the turf, lying face down where Scarlett left him. He didn’t want to look.
Husky fans almost certainly felt the same.