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Instant Reaction: Stanford does everything better in upset of UW

UW is out of the playoffs and (likely) out of the PAC 12 race after a disaster in Palo Alto.

NCAA Football: Washington at Stanford
Myles Gaskin was carrying the Huskies on his back on Friday night against the Stanford Cardinal.
John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

It’s November in Minnesota.

For those of you that don’t know, November means hat hair, dogs that refuse to go outside to pee, and dark beer. And football. Every night of the week football.

How fortunate for me that on this Friday night, football meant a date with my beloved Huskies? Well, maybe not all that fortunate.

Bryce Love ran for three TDs and K.J. Costello threw passes to very tall receivers as the Cardinal completely shredded the Huskies in Palo Alto on Friday night.

You have to give the Huskies credit: when they want to fail, they fail spectacularly. It was a complete nosedive for the Huskies in every phase of the game: offense, defense, and special teams. If you are going to disqualify yourself from the playoffs, you may as well do so by justifying every half-cocked talking-head opinion out there about how your team hasn’t played anybody and how they were never that good to begin with.

Maybe they were right.

The Huskies now have two losses and no longer control their own destiny to even win the PAC 12 North. If Stanford beats Cal and then UW beats WSU in the Apple Cup, the Cardinal will win the North and play for the PAC 12 champoionship.

The outcome is certainly a disaster for UW. We’ll have plenty of time this week to absorb the implications for the Dawgs from a postseason perspective. For now, let’s dive into the instant reaction specific to the game.

First Quarter Storylines: “Starting Fast”

UW 7, Stanford 0

If you wanted to watch the game on Fox Sports 1, the theme of the first quarter was “crashing” in professional race drivers who couldn’t keep their cars from crashing into one another. In displays of driving prowess that reminds one of the tractor chicken scene from Footloose, the football game was banished to something called FS2 for most of the first quarter in favor of truck racing.

I hope Larry Scott gets a refund.

In real football action, Husky fans were treated to something that they haven’t seen much of this year: a fast start and an early lead.

Death Row got off to a great start containing Bryce Love in the first drive. On the ensuring UW possession, QB Jake Browning and RB Myles Gaskin sliced and diced the home team with a 12-play drive that canvassed 86 yards for the rare first-possession TD lead.

Stanford answered with a long “dink and dunk” drive of their own that was sustained by a questionable fourth down play where QB K.J. Costello fumbled. A long pass play to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside over the much shorter Myles Bryant left Stanford threatening to breach the end zone when the quarter ended.

And that was about when FS1 decided to put the UW game back on TV.

Second Quarter Storylines: “A Battle of Backs”

UW 14, Stanford 10

Stanford kicked off the second quarter with a short Bryce Love TD run to cap off a 14 play drive that dominated half of the clock in the first quarter. Love had been contained for most of the fourth, but still worked hard and earned the short 1 yard TD run after a couple of tries at it.

UW answered with power run after power run with a pair of great backs in Gaskin and Lavon Coleman to get quickly back on top. Gaskin’s second TD of the game was classic, slippery, hard-to-locate, use-your-blockers-perfectly kind of effort.

By the end of the first half, it was pretty clear what each team was trying to accomplish. The Cardinal were deploying a well-conceived game of keep-away using Love and the rushing attack to set up jump-ball kinds of passes. On the flip side, UW was employing its typical strategy of trying to control opponent big plays and maintaining balance on offense.

Third Quarter Storylines: “The Jump and Love Offense”

UW 14, Stanford 20

Coming off a first half where UW generated nearly 8 yards per play, Stanford came out determined to stiffen up their D in the second half. It was early success as the Cardinal stopped UW on a 3-and-out after the opening kickoff.

When the Cardinal did have the ball, they alternated between whining about targeting non-calls (and pretending that tugs on jerseys is the same thing as facemasking) and having K.J. Costello throw jump-ball passes to his very tall receivers. Bryce Love also found his second wind as the Cardinal mounted enough offense to take the lead in the game.

Stanford outscored UW 10-0 in the quarter by dominating the ball by a 10 minute to 5 minute margin.

Fourth Quarter Storylines: “Responding to Adversity...or Not”

UW 22, Stanford 30

UW fans were starting to show signs of panic after opening the third down by six. The panic turned into full-blown meltdown after Myles Gaskin coughed up a routine handoff, giving Stanford possession on UW’s side of the field. Bryce Love proceeded to then take over the game.

The ensuing FG created a two-possession advantage for the Cardinal and set up Jake Browning for his first true “fourth-quarter comeback” opportunity as a Washington Husky.

NCAA Football: Washington at Stanford
A one-legged Bryce Love reinserted himself into the Heisman race by leading Stanford to a huge upset over Washington.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

That two-possession advantage turned into 23 unanswered Stanford points before UW finally decided to try to mount that comeback.

The Huskies made it interesting. A couple of long passes, a PI, and Gaskin’s third TD run (plus a 2-point conversion) got UW within one possession. But Bryce Love put a kibosh on that with a 35-yard rush on Stanford’s first snap after the Husky TD that flipped the field and effectively ended the football game.

Game Dots

  • One of the big stories of the night was UW’s inability to handle Stanford on 3rd down. The Cardinal were 9th in the conference at 40% coming into the game. They went 10 for 18 against UW on the night.
  • UW fans are fretting about the Husky offense. Their first two series went 12 plays, 88 yards and then 7 plays, 89 yards. Both drives featured strong running and efficient passing. But that was basically all the offense that UW would generate all night until the wild attempt at a comeback in the fourth.
  • Jake Browning had a weird game. He started out on fire completing his first 9 passes for 112 yards. He then went on to complete just 2 of his next 7 for just 12 yards through the end of the third quarter. Then he took that horrible third-down sack in the fourth before cutting loose trying to mount the comeback in the end.
  • The o-line starters were the same as last week: LT Luke Wattenberg, LG Andrew Kirkland, C Coleman Shelton, RG Nick Harris and RT Kaleb McGary. That unit looked pretty good overall, surrendering just two sacks all game (one of which was a pure coverage sack).
  • No matter the outcome, fans of football had to enjoy watching the tit-for-tat game that was Bryce Love vs. Ben Burr-Kirven.
  • A dinged-up Bryce Love did not produce a run of 50+ yards, which snaps his 10-game streak. That was about all he “did wrong” on an otherwise exquisite night. His three TD runs did run his scoring streak to 11 straight games, the best in all of FBS.
  • Enjoy Myles Gaskin, my friends. The prolific Husky RB passed Nip on the all-time rushing TD list and now sits tied with the great Bishop Sankey with 37 for #1 in Husky history.
  • Gaskin also passed the 1,000-yard mark for the third time in his career. It was fitting that he did so on a busted play in the second quarter that Coleman Shelton high-snapped and Gaskin turned into a five-yard gain.
  • Stanford had the best passing night that just about any team in the PAC has had against UW this season, and all of it came off big plays enabled by tall receivers high-pointing footballs over shorter UW defenders. The Dawgs got burned by a few easy slants early in the game and then big time on that 39-yard Arcega-Whiteside reception over Myles Bryant that set up Stanford’s first TD.
  • That 39-yard pass was the longest pass play that UW has surrendered all season. Costello had so much fun with it that he repeated the feat with another 39-yarder in the second quarter. But, hey, UW is still the only team in the FBS to not have given up a 40 yard play all season.
  • While I’m on the subject, let’s just acknowledge that Arcega-Whiteside owned Bryant for most of the night.
  • Azeem Victor was a factor early with several snaps on that first drive and a big third down sack. That was great to see. You can tell he’s still trying to figure out the whole leverage game, but he was on the field quite a bit.
  • Here is some news: UW’s Dante Pettis dropped a pass tonight.
  • UW kicker Tristan Vizcaino has a little bit of a streak going. He’s now registered an impressive special teams tackle in two straight games. BOOM, kicker.
  • Pooch punt alert! Jake Browning brought back a long-lost aspect of the UW offense with a third quarter pooch punt that the Huskies downed on Stanford’s five yard line.
  • Washington had its FBS-leading streak of winning 23 games when holding a lead going into halftime snapped.
  • If you didn’t have access to the first quarter action thanks to truck racing, you missed a pretty entertaining discussion by the announcers about Napoleon Kaufmann’s arms. That was probably the last chuckle I had all night. I may not laugh again until 2018.

Goodnight, Dawg fans. Go easy out there tonight. It was a bad day for everyone.