Stanford is in the all-black uniforms to receive the opening kickoff, and if it’s always going to work out like that, we should change the school colors permanently. Montgomery receives on the right hash at the one and simply isn’t touched in an Usain Bolt-like sprint to the other end zone. Bolt-like not because Montgomery is fast (obviously, he is), but in that I’ve never seen a kickoff return like it. Usually the returner has to wait for a block, or make someone miss, or angle away from a last defender, but for Montgomery, it was pretty much just straight-ahead running as fast as he could. Montgomery was too fast for and slightly angled away from one Husky linebacker at about the Stanford 40, but judging by how open the running lane was, that must have been a coverage bust for the Huskies. Whoever should have been in that lane took themselves out of the play, and Montgomery’s legs did the rest.
Stanford 7, Washington 0, 14:48 remaining, first quarter
Washington comes out in an effective uptempo offense. They’re often rolling quarterback Keith Price to his right, and creating a run/pass dual threat with the mobile right-hander. James Vaughters had a nice early stop, but the conundrum has confused the Stanford defenders to the tune of the Huskies marching to the Stanford 35 in under three minutes.
But then the Huskies face a fourth and inches (after a seemingly favorable spot for Stanford), and seemingly convert, only for the run to be called back on a hold. Ben Gardner won’t show up in the stat sheet, but he drew the flag and induced Husky punt – shanked to the Stanford 20. Stanford hasn’t yet put its offense on the field, nor has it shown it can stop the Husky offense, but Washington has already spotted Stanford a touchdown and the ball due to their mistakes. Stanford’s too good for opponents to do that. (Plus, now the defensive brain trust gets a chance to reset. I wouldn’t bet against them either.)
Montgomery (why not) takes an end around on Stanford’s first offensive snap, after Hogan fakes a handoff inside. It works perfectly to get Montgomery with the ball on the wide side of the field with tons of grass in front of him. Just a split-second differently, and it could have been his second touchdown on as many touches, and as it is, it goes for 26 yards.
Stanford then benefits from another big call, after Hogan has to eat a would-be third down pass, leading to a punting situation. Instead, though, Washington is called for a personal foul for hands to the face, and Stanford has fresh life at the Husky 38.
The Huskies then have a series in which they have the perfect playcall three straight times. First, they blitz (I think a cornerback) right into Tyler Gaffney, who has no chance and is dropped for a loss of two in the backfield. Then, Stanford goes to its money play – play-action bomb to the tight end. I have never seen this, but Washington’s safety stayed at home on the play – previously seemingly invincible and Hogan was throwing into double coverage. It’s lucky he was too long for Michael Rector. The next play, Hogan again plays with double-coverage fire and this time he gets burned. He’s inaccurate and long, which allows for UW to intercept at their 18, but that’s about equivalent to a punt, and, again, Hogan was throwing into double coverage, so he was sunk from the get-go.
Washington gets one first down on their drive, and again look scary, running at a high tempo, getting the ball to receivers and stud tight end Austin Sefarin-Jenkins on the perimeter but Stanford hangs on. This time, Trent Murphy drops Price for a third-down sack, and the Cardinal send out one Barry J. Sanders for the punt return. Sanders does well with what he’s given, but again, the Huskies’ coverage on the return is atrocious. Sanders has a big hole up the middle and the Cardinal will start from the Husky 36.
This is why the special teams really helps. Stanford goes three and out, but instead of having to punt, they are in position for a Jordan Williamson field goal try. Wait… Stanford is going for it? Is Jordan Williamson okay? Wow. I’m a fan of the call, for the record. It doesn’t work, as Hogan is a little too high, a little too far outside and a little too fast, and the fourth-and-three pass ricochets off Kodi Whitfield’s diving reach.
Again a penalty stalls Washington’s drive, this time a second-down illegal shift, then a third-down chop block and then, on the next third down, illegal touching for a receiver running out and then catching the ball. Hey, if you can’t get there for a sack, draw a flag, and Stanford’s defensive line did that on the chop block call (and the fourth-down hold the first series).
I address this in the “rock, paper, scissors” takeaway below, but Stanford has been stympied by Washington’s defensive calls to this point. This drive, however, they adjust beautifully. First, Kevin Hogan keeps on a naked bootleg (as he did in the clinching play against ASU), to punish the Huskies for selling out to stop the tailback. Then, they bring in Dallas Lloyd and run a zone read for first-down yardage, against punishing UW for overaggressive offensive pursuit. Then there’s a counter pitch and a jailbreak screen – four consecutive counter plays that work because Washington is selling out to defend at the primary point of attack. Stanford will have third and five at UW’s 16 to start the second quarter with a defense that will be on its heels thanks to some inspired playcalling.
Rock, paper, scissors, victory
Washington’s defense smothered Stanford early with perfect play calls and recognition (blitzing a corner into a run, leaving a safety back on the play-action deep, etc.). Stanford is talented enough that it should be able to drive against the Huskies, so can their brain trust pull off an adjustment in relatively short order to get their offense up and running?
Well, we emphatically saw in the last drive quarter. Four straight times, Stanford ran constraint plays to punish the Huskies for crashing too hard to the ball carrier. A naked bootleg keeper, a zone read handoff, a counter pitch and a jailbreak screen all will keep the defensive linemen honest, and presumably should open things up more for power and iso runs up the middle. You can’t cheat this coaching staff for long – that was some truly beautiful offensive playcalling.
Our play and player of the quarter come from the same opening 12 seconds: Ty Mongtomery, for his 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
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