Desmond Trufant figured he had the events of Thursday night figured out. Then, after being alerted to a fact, he giggled and asked to confirm the information.
“I was 8 inches shorter?” Trufant said.
Indeed. Down 17-13 and facing a fourth-and-4 at the Washington 34 with two minutes remaining, Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes lofted a pass toward 6-foot-8 tight end Levine Toilolo as 6-0 cornerback Trufant covered him.
Trufant, all 72 inches of him, picked off the pass. It was a microcosm of a night that went to the underdog.
Washington (3-1, 1-0 Pacific-12 Conference) used a throwback defensive performance to smash eighth-ranked Stanford (3-1, 1-1), 17-13, at CenturyLink Field on Thursday night in front of 55,951 mostly black-clad Washington fans in the Pac-12 opener for the Huskies.
When UW coach Steve Sarkisian was hired, it was anticipated he would rev up the offense. On Thursday, under new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, Washington won a battle of stinginess against one of the most physical teams in the conference. Just about no one gave them a chance to do so.
“I’m proud of this one because probably outside of me and the guys in that locker room, I don’t know who else thought we’d win,” Sarkisian said. “Maybe my wife; she might’ve given me a shot.”
A game with all the elegance of a traffic jam pivoted on two bursts. Kasen Williams, who made 10 catches for 129 yards, turned a third-and-2 pass in the flat into a 35-yard touchdown for a 17-13 lead with 4:53 remaining.
The play was a run/pass option for quarterback Keith Price. He flipped out to Williams, who stepped around the first cornerback, then nearly fumbled the ball as he trucked down the sideline. Williams regained control, and Stanford cornerback Ed Reynolds jumped on his back at the 6-yard line.
Williams powered into the end zone to put the Huskies in the lead.
Williams wasn’t concerned about style points.
“All I saw was the ref’s hands go up and I was cool with that,” Williams said.
The other cog was Bishop Sankey, who ran for a career-high 144 yards on 20 carries. Faced with 4th-and-1 from their own 39-yard line at the end of the third quarter, the Huskies lined up to go for it.
Price handed to Sankey, who stuttered then zipped through a surprised Stanford defense for a 61-yard score that rejuvenated Washington and trimmed its deficit to 13-10.
Washington got to that point because of stout defense. Stanford mustered just 65 yards rushing. Prior to Thursday night, the Huskies’ shift to a 3-4 scheme had not been effective against the run, but the breakout performance came on national television.
Stanford hit back with a bruising, blitzing approach on Price, which finally turned into a big play for Stanford when defensive end Trent Murphy sprung his 6-foot-6, 261-pound frame into the air to tip and then corral Price’s sideways pass to Kendyl Taylor in the third quarter.
Murphy rambled for 40 yards to score the game’s first touchdown and put Stanford in front 13-3.
Despite competent defense, Washington trailed at halftime when Stanford’s Jordan Williamson tacked on a 28-yard field goal with 1:10 left in the second quarter for a 6-3 lead.
Willamson kicked a 31-yard field goal with 9:12 left in the first quarter to open the scoring following consecutive three-and-outs from each team.
Washington squared the game on Travis Coons’ 43-yarder with 2:18 left in the first quarter.todd.dybas@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas