The Huskies are the only defense in the country that hasn't allowed a single play of 40 yards this season.
No defense in the country has been better than Washington at limiting big plays.
No running back in the country has been better than Stanford’s Bryce Love at creating big plays.
Thus, the No. 9 Huskies’ ability to stay in the College Football Playoff chase will depend in large part on how well they chase down Love on Friday night at Stanford Stadium (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1).
UW sports the No. 1 defense in college football, and the Huskies are the only defense in the country that hasn’t allowed a single play of 40 yards this season.
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Love is the No. 1 rusher in college football, averaging 182.0 yards per game, and he’s had a run of 50 yards or more in each of the past 10 games. No one in college football over the past 20 years has had such a streak, according to Stanford research.
Stanford has created a website — BryceLove20.com — to promote Love’s Heisman Trophy bid. Spread the Heisman Love, they say.
“He’s obviously really fast, but his ability to keep his legs moving is probably underrated,” UW middle linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven said. “He’s a tough kid and a lot of the big runs he’s had this year is not because he’s had a perfect block. He’s made guys miss and run through guys. He’s a pretty special talent.”
Love is averaging 9.64 yards per carry this season.
The Huskies are holding opponents to 2.58 yards per carry, third-best in the country. They have allowed just two running plays of more than 20 yards, tied for fewest in the nation, and none more than 29 yards.
Limiting those “explosive” plays is a big reason for the Huskies’ success.
“We’ve done a good job of doing that,” defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said, “and it makes it harder on offenses to put those long drives together to score. The credit to that goes to the team defense. Everybody’s doing their job.”
Love, a 5-foot-10, 196-pound junior, sat out Stanford’s ugly 15-14 victory at Oregon State two weeks ago with an ankle injury. He returned last weekend in the Cardinal’s 24-21 loss at Washington State, when the Cougars held him to a season-low 69 yards on 16 carries. Love did have a 52-yard TD run, but the Cougars bottled him up otherwise, hitting him for a loss on seven of his carries.
Quarterback K.J. Costello, in his second start of the season, was 9-for-20 for 105 yards with one interception and one rushing TD in Stanford’s first game in the snow since 1936. He’s been named the starter this week, too.
Stanford coach David Shaw took blame for the loss at WSU.
“I feel like I let my team down,” he said, according the San Jose Mercury News. “Those out there that want to take your shots at me, this is the week to do it. Go ahead and take them. I deserve them. That’s fine.”
An eye on the locals
Two former UW recruiting targets have been key contributors for Stanford as true freshmen this season.
Foster Sarell, a five-star recruit out of Graham-Kapowsin High, is listed as the backup right tackle on Stanford’s depth chart this week. He was considered the top offensive lineman in the Class of 2017 and was the Huskies’ top recruiting target last year — so much so that UW coach Chris Petersen used a helicopter for the first time on a recruiting visit to see Sarell play last year.
Connor Wedington, a four-star recruit out of Sumner High and a onetime UW commit, is a reserve wide receiver for Stanford. He has 23 catches for 182 yards this season.