University of Washington

Stanford torches Huskies defense, and UW’s playoff hopes go up in smoke

UW’s Petersen: “They played better than we did.”

Washington coach Chris Petersen addresses the media after his team’s loss to Stanford.
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Washington coach Chris Petersen addresses the media after his team’s loss to Stanford.

For a few minutes, it appeared Washington’s run to reach the College Football Playoff was over.

That is, until things got a bit more interesting.

UW was trailing to 30-14 until Myles Gaskin’s 1-yard touchdown run and a two-point conversion trimmed the Stanford lead to 30-22 with 4:22 left.

The Huskies defense got the stop they needed, giving Jake Browning and the offense one more chance. UW’s final drive was hindered by a holding penalty, a sack which set up a 4th and 21 with 1:38 remaining.

On the final play of the drive, Browning could not find an open receiver and took sack. Just like that, UW’s bid for a consecutive CFP semifinal was over in a 30-22 loss to Stanford on Friday at Cardinal Stadium.

“Well, I think at the end of the day, they played better than we did,” Huskies coach Chris Petersen said. “That’s it. They ran the ball better than we did. They didn’t turn the ball over. Way better on third downs.

“They were more explosive than us.”

There’s not been a two-loss team which has reached the semifinal and barring a major shake-up, it does not appear this will be the season for a program with two defeats.

UW (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12), however, do remain in contention for the Pac-12 North and a possible shot at the conference title game.

Everything from the game’s start to its finish was bizarre.

Huskies fans back in the Pacific Northwest and across America missed the first quarter due to Fox Sports 1 showing the end of Camping World Series truck race.

But here’s what Huskies fans would eventually see. They watched the No. 1 defense in the nation repeatedly fall apart on third down, a Heisman Trophy candidate improve his campaign and a quick-fire offense immediately go cold.

Stanford’s plan for dismantling the No. 1 defense in America was to keep UW on the field. The Cardinal (7-3, 6-2 Pac-12) were 10 of 18 while the Huskies were 2 of 8.

Those long drives helped the Cardinal piece together a run of 23 consecutive points.

Stanford’s biggest blows came from running back Bryce Love, a Heisman Trophy candidate. Love, who had a touchdown in the first quarter, rushed for one in the third and another in the fourth. He finished with 166 yards on 30 carries.

His 9-yard run gave the Cardinal a 30-14 lead with 8:48 left.

“As defense, we just kind of evaluate who we are,” Huskies senior linebacker Keishawn Bierria said. “Now it’s time to go back to Seattle and we’re going to be back in there tomorrow and we’re going to be grinding.”

UW’s opening drive resulted in a 7-0 lead off a Gaskin 2-yard touchdown run. The Huskies went 12 plays for 88 yards in less than five minutes.

It set the tone for an evening filled with long drives.

Stanford countered when Love’s 1-yard touchdown run capped a 14-play, 84-yard rive for a 7-7 tie with 14:55 left in the second quarter.

The Huskies responded on the following drive. Gaskin, with some help from left guard Andrew Kirkland and left tackle Luke Wattenberg, found the edge and scored on a 15-yard run to give UW a 14-7 lead with 11:37 remaining.

What’s lost in the defeat is Gaskin rushing for 120 touchdowns and three touchdowns. Gaskin’s night saw him pull into a tie with Bishop Sankey for the most rushing touchdowns in program history with 37.

There was a 10-minute stretch in the second quarter when neither team did anything until Stanford trimmed the lead.

Cardinal kicker Jet Toner’s 38-yard field goal cut the lead to 14-10 with 1:32 left in the first half.

It was the first of there field goals for Toner who, along with Love, would gradually put the game out of reach for the Huskies.

“We just gotta come out hot in the second half,” said Huskies senior center Coleman Shelton. “We can’t come out flat-footed. We gotta do better on that first drive and get a fire going under our team.”

Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark