So, how bad was it?
So bad that in the first half of this 31-14 loss to the 10th-ranked Stanford Cardinal, the Washington Huskies ran only 18 plays.
So bad that only 10 of those plays actually gained yardage.
So bad that only two of those plays achieved first downs.
Stanford, UW coach Chris Petersen said, is a “good football team.”
And: “Down the road, we’ll be a good football team. But not tonight.”
Not even close. The Huskies were without their starting quarterback and without a chance against the powerful Cardinal, and so they served as little more than a speed bump on Saturday night at Stanford Stadium.
And, truth be told, it would have taken something prodigious for the Huskies to win this game even if Jake Browning had been able to play. But after injuring his right throwing shoulder in last week’s loss to Oregon, the true freshman couldn’t go — he suited up and looked uncomfortable trying to throw the ball during warmups — so redshirt freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels made his first career start instead.
It went about how you might expect for a freshman who had attempted only three passes in his college career on the road against the No. 10 team in the country.
Carta-Samuels completed only 9 of his 21 pass attempts for 118 yards, a figure boosted by completions of 24 and 33 yards on a fourth-quarter scoring drive that Carta-Samuels gamely capped with a 7-yard scramble for a touchdown.
“Not easy at all,” UW offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said of the circumstance into which Carta-Samuels was thrown. “But that’s how it works. Some guys go down and (it’s) next guy up, and we’ve got to be ready to roll. Again, I thought he prepared very well. This is a tough outfit he’s playing. Defensively, they create some problems. It is what it is.”
He was better in the second half, Petersen said.
“I was glad we left him in there to keep slinging it,” he said. “He made some good decisions, and we’ll analyze the tape and see what exactly he could have done a little better.”
Predictably, the Huskies mostly relied on tailback Myles Gaskin, and the true freshman was again effective — he finished with 108 yards on 18 carries, and accounted for every last yard of UW’s 5-play, 57-yard touchdown drive to open the second half. Gaskin scored on a 14-yard rush just two plays after the Huskies had crossed midfield for the first time.
But that fit of glory didn’t last long. Stanford, which at that time led 17-7, responded with Kevin Hogan’s 50-yard touchdown pass to versatile tailback Christian McCaffrey, who continued his push for Heisman Trophy candidacy by compiling 300 all-purpose yards — including 109 rushing and 112 receiving — against a tired, beat-up UW defense.
Starting linebackers Travis Feeney and Keishawn Bierria played, but both were banged up and defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said neither practiced much this week. Starting safety Brian Clay served a mandatory one-half suspension for the targeting penalty he drew last week. Defensive end Joe Mathis didn’t play.
Feeney and Bierria, Kwiatkowski said, “tried to do what they could out there, but they weren’t at 100 percent.”
Hogan completed 17 of his 24 pass attempts for 290 yards and two touchdowns, though he did throw an interception to UW safety Budda Baker late in the fourth quarter.
The Huskies (3-4, 1-3 in Pac-12) entered the game leading the Pac-12 in yards-per-play allowed, but against the league’s highest-scoring offense, UW offered little resistance. Stanford marched 62 yards on six plays for a touchdown on the game’s opening possession, and bruised its way for a 15-play, 90-yard touchdown drive two possessions later to take a 14-0 lead.
Stanford (6-1, 5-0 in Pac-12) finished with 478 yards of total offense, an average of 6.6 yards per play.
“This is definitely the best O-line we’ve faced,” sophomore nose tackle Elijah Qualls said. “Fifty-one (Former Puyallup standout Joshua Garnett) was a hell of a pass blocker. He got me stuck on a few. So that’s just a part of my game I’ve got to step up.”
Washington, meanwhile, concluded each of its five first-half possessions with punts. So it rated as a surprise when the Huskies — or Gaskin, mostly — quickly scored a touchdown to start the second half.
But they didn’t score again until 11:36 remained in the fourth quarter — on Carta-Samuels’ aforementioned third-down scramble — and that touchdown only trimmed Stanford’s lead to 31-14.
It seemed a somewhat curious decision for the Huskies to simply settle for the extra-point try in that instance, because a successful two-point conversion could have cut the deficit to two scores.
Or maybe they knew that on this night, it simply wasn’t going to matter.
Junior safety Kevin King left the game with what appeared to be a right knee injury, though defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said it doesn’t appear serious. … Gaskin is the only true freshman in UW history to rush for 100 or more yards in three consecutive games. … Junior safety Brandon Beaver did not make the trip due to a tear of his anterior-cruciate ligament, Petersen said. He will not return this season.