James Vaughters goes down two snaps into the third quarter with UW starting to move the ball. Matters only get worse with Vaughters out, as UW goes no huddle, and again it works. Bishop Sankey runs down the right sideline for 29 yards until Shayne Skov shows impressive speed to catch up and force him out of bounds. Then, the hurry up really appears to neautralize Stanford’s pass rush, as Keith Price uncharacteristically has all day against Stanford’s front. He capitalizes, finding Kevin Smith for 29 yards and a score. Four plays, 75 yards, 59 seconds: it’s over before it begins. Hopefully the offense can eat some clock and the defense can figure out how to stem the bleeding, because these last two drives were not pretty.
Stanford 17, Washington 14, 14:01 remaining, third quarter
The Cardinal go to their mainstays to move the ball and re-establish control: Ty Montgomery, Tyler Gaffney, and sloppy Washington play. Montgomery returns the kick to the 33, and after the next snap, a personal foul for hands to the face moves the Card across midfield. Montgomery then makes a man miss after catching a right-side screen for 11. Then, it’s all Gaffney: six, four, three and six yards on consecutive snaps to move the chains and then bring up a third and inches. Who else but Gaffney, who runs for four to give the Card a fresh set of downs at Washington’s 16 with 10 minutes and counting to go in the third. Great of Stanford to adjust and come back to the rush after it wasn’t there in the first half. (Kevin Hogan and Ty Montgomery were our two leading rushers at the half.)
A screen to Gaffney marks his sixth straight play touching the rock, and it goes for 12 for a first and goal at the four. Then comes the fade, which must exist only to give us fans something to complain about. It is incomplete, and not particularly close to Luke Kaumatule. Hogan then takes it the rest of the way, keeping for four yards and the score, with Stanford lined up in a heavy set with nine functional offensive linemen against four defensive linemen from Washington. I like those odds every time, and it’s an option look to the right in which linemen have no one to block.
Have I mentioned that I have loved the offensive adjustments today? In the first quarter, UW sold out at the point of attack, so we threw in misdirection to march the length of the field for a field goal. Now, Washington gave us the run, and so we obliged and drove the length of the field. Outside one perfect throw, Hogan has struggled repeatedly with accuracy, and outside this last drive, Stanford has had little rushing game whatsoever. Yet the Cardinal are on pace to break 40. Congrats again to the offensive coaches.
Now it’s up to the defense to match that effort, admittedly against a unit (namely, UW’s offense) that is probably stronger than the unit Stanford’s offense is facing (namely, UW’s defense). And sure enough, it’s a three and out (followed by another short punt that Barry Sanders fair-catches). Travis Coons is averaging under 39 yards on his six punts. When you consider that none of those were pooch punts, you’d hope for an average close to 10 yards better. So that’s about fifty “invisible” yards that the Huskies wish they had back today, to go along with their now 79 penalty yards.
Stanford, naturally, is whistled for a drive-killing penalty this drive, this time on a Cameron Fleming crackback block. Then, after a nice punt and roll that pushed UW back to its 20, Stanford has to repunt from five yards further back after an illegal motion penalty. Instead, UW catches this one on the fly and returns to the 36, so Stanford just surrendered 31 yards on that drive (15 on the crackback, and then 16 on the punt).
Guess this football thing is harder than it looks, as UW makes consecutive mistakes on their series, with a drop and then Price misfiring low, both times to reasonably open receivers. The pass rush forces a third-down checkdown, and on comes the UW punter to punt to Kodi Whitfield. But wait: it’s a fake! Washington’s punter Travis Coons makes up for the so-so kicks by running for 19 yards on fourth and 11 from his 35 and converting on a gutsy, gutsy call from Steve Sarkasian.
Stanford’s defensive front then erases the fake punt. Josh Mauro blows up a first-down run before Trent Murphy sacks Price on second down. UW drops a would-be conversion on third down, but Stanford hands Washington its biggest gift of the game. James Vaughters hits Price, clearly late, and instead of a fourth and 17 punt from their own side of the field, Washington has a first down on Stanford’s side of the field.
And so it goes again. Washington makes a big play, with Bishop Sankey running for 11. Stanford responds, with Skov sacking Price for a nine-yard loss. But then UW punches back, with Sankey running it in from 15 yards out. Stanford’s defense can’t be in the business of trading big plays with UW’s offense. Highlight the fake punt, of course, but also Vaughters’ late hit, which functionally served as a turnover.
Stanford 24, Washington 21, 2:26 remaining, third quarter
Stanford needs a big play, and yet again, Ty Montgomery delivers. He’s playing at an All-American level right now, as he gets a seam and breaks two ankle tackles, and returns to the Washington 22. Three Tyler Gaffney runs later, all to the right if memory serves, and it’s another Stanford touchdown.
Stanford 31, Washington 21, 0:44 remaining, third quarter
Overheard in the press box: “S--- man, we’re like Oregon. Quick scores. It’s unusual.”
Ty Montgomery has 277 all-purpose yards, including 195 on kickoff returns. Meanwhile, Jordan Williamson quietly boots yet another touchback. Ho hum.
The third quarter ends with Washington driving yet again, this time to near midfield. Just hang on for 15 more minutes, guys. One or two more big plays should do it.
If Montgomery doesn’t break off his two huge kick returns, or haul in Hogan’s bomb right before the half, Stanford is in a world of trouble right now. Instead, they’ve been outgained by 62 yards (327-265), yet lead by ten with 15 minutes to go. Slow and steady pounding the rock built this team, but over the past few seasons, the Cardinal have clearly evolved into a 2.0 version. The original Stanford team probably doesn’t win this game. This year’s vintage, meanwhile, needs one or two more explosive plays to salt away a victory tonight.
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