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Grading the Game: Stanford Cardinal

A win. A win!

Washington v Stanford Photo by David Madison/Getty Images

Washington scored in both halves of a football game this week. Progress. But let’s start with the defense.

Pass Defense - A-

Tanner McKee came into the game playing pretty good football, and Washington made him look as bad as he has all season, finishing with two interceptions and zero passing touchdowns. TE Ben Yurosek is a tough matchup and gave the Huskies a few problems, but didn’t crack a hundred yards. Considering the shake up of the secondary - Bookie and Dom Hampton at safety, Kyler Gordon at nickel, and Mishael Powell at corner - they didn’t skip a beat, holding McKee to 6.1 yards per attempt. Powell shook off a couple rough plays from the Cal game and had a nice open field tackle and pass breakup. The biggest revelation was Hampton at safety - he kept everything in front of him and was a physical tackler, making contributions in run support. The secondary continues to play like one of the nation’s best.

Run Defense - A

Cardinal running backs totaled just 86 yards and one touchdown, which McKee converted on a scramble. Washington has struggled most of the year against the run but something had to give against a Stanford team that wasn’t running it well themselves. The defensive line was active and the safeties were making plays in the run game like they hadn’t earlier in the season. Freshman Voi Tunuufi is a smaller DL but he’s quick and had two sacks.

And the best for last: Carson Bruener. The freshman was incredible and made numerous memorable plays throughout the game. He had eleven solo tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and would probably would have had an interception if Jackson Sirmon hadn’t practically ripped it from his arms. The most important thing is the defense got the turnover, but it just goes to show his instincts as a football player and the type of night he was having. He was everywhere.

Pass Offense - C-

The wide receivers mostly made plays when given a chance - Jalen McMillan did catch the game winning touchdown on a 3rd down fade route after all. But, it still feels like McMillan and Rome Odunze are budding super stars who need to be put in better positions. They had six receptions a piece, which is probably how many fans would like the box score to look after a game, but totaled just 121 yards. Terrell Bynum was only targeted once, and Cade Otton had a quiet game. His fumble could have been costly but he made a heads up play to swat it from the defender’s hands, keeping the ball with Washington. With Troy Fautanu playing left tackle, Washington gave up zero sacks. But, with a clean pocket Dylan Morris still had some misfires which should have been completed passes. There’s no doubt with a better offensive approach and plan he could be better, but for long stretches in games, he looks very pedestrian.

NCAA Football: Washington at Stanford Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Rush Offense - B

A solid rushing performance in which Washington scored zero rushing touchdowns. Sean McGrew and Cam Davis were the only backs that got carries, and as usual most were up the middle. But for once, holes! Massive credit to the offensive line playing down a starter, giving up just two tackles for loss and powering UW’s run game. Both Sean McGrew and Cam Davis averaged over five yards per carry and each had 20+ yard run. The big surprise here was Davis who finally had the game we’ve been waiting for. He showed impressive balance and vision, and looked like the player we all thought he could be coming out of high school. A confidence building game for a player likely to see a lot more carries with Richard Newton being out for the season.

NCAA Football: Washington at Stanford Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Special Teams - A-

Peyton Henry and Race Porter continued their strong seasons. Henry hit all four of his field goals and if he doesn’t help build the first half lead, we might be talking about a different football game. Coverage units can still be a little better.

Coaching - C

A win is a win, and it gives the team momentum heading into Oregon week. The offense is still a mess, but clear progress was made in the run game. Stanford’s run defense isn’t great but that hasn’t stopped Washington in the past from poor rushing performances. That said, the call to hit Jalen McMillan for the game winning touchdown, and the ensuing two point conversion were both creative play calls.

I will admit I jumped in the air screaming when McMillan caught his touchdown. It was fun to win, but there are still question marks surrounding this team and coaching staff. A close win over a below average Stanford doesn’t cover the cracks and I can only hope there is some level of reflection by the coaching staff as to why this team has played five straight one score games. Lake really wants to play complimentary football in terms of a smothering defense, and a ball control offense, yet that approach is bound to lead to close games. If asked, he’ll probably just compare the Pac-12 the NFC West.

But, since it was a win I’ll end on a high note: considering the opponent, this felt like Washington’s best game. They played physical and had more energy and juice in the run game than I’ve seen all season. The defense was stout and suffocating. And ultimately, they won in a stadium they’ve not won at since 2007, when Louis Rankin was the running back.

Beat Oregon.