The Washington Huskies traveled to Palo Alto on Saturday looking for a second-straight upset victory over the No. 5 Stanford Cardinal. Steve Sarkisian had his team ready to play and they pushed the Cardinal to the edge. Ultimately, they fell just short 31-28 but can take away plenty of important lessons from the game as they proved that they are right in the mix with the elite of the Pac 12 conference. Now, their challenge will be trying to maintain their high level of play.
Washington out-played Stanford on many levels of the game on Saturday despite not finishing their upset bid. They outgained the Cardinal 489-279, gained 30 first downs to Stanford’s 14, held Kevin Hogan and the Cardinal offenses to just 4 for 14 on third down conversions and contained the Stanford signal caller to just 137 total yards on the night. Their defense was flying all over the field and the offense was clicking at a great pace, particularly in the second half.
Keith Price showed tremendous leadership and production despite an early thumb injury to his throwing hand, finishing the game with 350 yards passing, completing 33 of 48 passes with two touchdowns. Bishop Sankey continued to run like the best running back in the country, picking up 125 yards on 27 carries and finding the endzone twice. The Huskies’ stars came to play and made a huge impact on this game.
Despite those great efforts, however, Washington never led in the game and were chasing Stanford from the start. They were hurt by mental mistakes, such as 10 penalties on the night for 89 yards as UW continues to be one of the most penalized teams in the country, and were gashed on special teams. Ty Montgomery started the game with a 99-yard kickoff return for Stanford that helped set the tone for Stanford and he kept pressing that advantage, racking up 204 yards in kick returns.
Washington had just one turnover on the night, but it was costly as a Price pass near the endzone was tipped on the line and picked off by A.J. Tarpley, ending a prime scoring opportunity that would have gotten UW within three points mid-way through the fourth quarter. They had an opportunity to finish their rally at the end of the game but had a Price pass completion controversially overturned that resulted in a turnover on downs.
The Huskies came to play with the best in the conference and hung in until the very end. Washington has the tools to compete with the best in the Pac 12 but have to bounce back from a disappointing ending against Stanford. Next week, they get another top-five foe as they welcome the Oregon Ducks to Seattle in a heated rivalry game. They will need to play their best game to defend their home turf against a high-powered Oregon team that has dominated Washington in recent history.
Last season, UW couldn’t maintain their level of play and spiraled to a three-game losing streak after their game against Stanford. This team has the opportunity to continue to be nationally relevant and are not out of the running for the Pac 12 title. How mentally tough this team is in 2013 will be the difference in if they bounce back and continue to be one of the best teams on the West coast.