When the Washington Huskies upset the Stanford Cardinal last year in Seattle, running back Bishop Sankey was a major reason why. With the Stanford defense harassing Keith Price in the pocket all night long, it was Sankey who led the way for the offense rushing for 144 yards on 20 carries, highlighted by a 61-yard touchdown run to close out the third quarter that cut Stanford’s lead to 13-10. If UW hopes to repeat their winning ways this Saturday in Palo Alto, Sankey has to lead the way once again.
Luckily for Steve Sarkisian and the Huskies, Sankey is proving up to the challenge of being a workhorse running back. In four games this season, Sankey has carried the ball 104 times for 607 yards, averaging a college football-leading 151.75 yards per game with five touchdowns. He has been a steady force for the No. 5 ranked offense in the country even when the passing game gets bogged down like it did last week in the wind and rain against the Arizona Wildcats.
Stanford will bring one of the toughest defensive fronts that Washington is likely to see all season long. They are strong and physical along the defensive line and their linebackers flow sideline to sideline to make plays regularly. So far this season, they rank as the No. 21 rushing defense in the country, giving up 105 yards per game, but you can bet they’re motivated to lower that average against Sankey. It’s not often that a running back gashes the Cardinal D like Sankey did last season and they’ll be motivated to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
But Washington has the confidence of knowing that they can push this defensive front around in the running game. Last season, the offensive line was a mess, which contributed to Keith Price running for his life for most of the season. Against Stanford, however, the UW O-line dug deep and showed that they can play mean and physical football to open up holes for Sankey to run through. They will be motivated to prove that their man-handling ways are no fluke on Saturday.
Both teams have plenty to play for. Stanford has a shot at a BCS National Championship if they can remain undefeated and Washington can finally get into the mix for the Pac 12 title race (legitimately). Each team is looking to go 5-0 to start the season (UW hasn’t been 5-0 since 1992) and stake an early claim for the conference title. For the Huskies to get it done, they will once again need to rely on Bishop Sankey to lead the way.
Join Kris Hughes and Tyler Brett for even more analysis of the Washington/Stanford matchup live on the Google + College Football Pregame Rant this Saturday at 10 am Pacific time live online! We’ll be picking two fans — one from each team — to tell us why their team will win and add to a lively discussion on what we see as each team’s keys to victory. Join us!